Thanks to various factors, ecommerce has taken a prominent role in the average consumer’s life. 

Online shopping jumped by 20% in 2020 over the previous year, and 92% of new online shoppers say they’re here to stay. 

That means as an ecommerce merchant, your market of potential customers is bigger than ever – but in order to tap into the largest potential audience, it’s important to stay on top of trends that can keep you competitive.

Here are some of the biggest ecommerce trends that we’re seeing in 2022:

Prioritizing zero-party data

Many brands once relied on collecting the majority of their audience data via tracking cookies and ad platforms, but increasing privacy rights for consumers are quickly making these methods ineffective. Third-party tracking cookies will be disabled by Google’s Chrome browser next year, and Apple’s iOS 14.5 update made it easy for users to opt out of data tracking. 

As operating systems and brands increasingly escalate their privacy protections, brands must connect with their customers directly to collect what’s known as “zero party data.”

Zero party data is collected with your users’ consent, and there are many ways to ethically obtain it. 

For instance, your registration process might include a series of onboarding questions to collect information about your customer: if you own a shoe store, you might include questions about the customers’ shoe size and favorite brands. 

Conducting polls or quizzes on social media or on your website or app can also help you collect data about your audience as a whole, as well as user-level data that can tie into existing customer profiles. For example, a travel company might create a questionnaire that asks questions about the customer’s favorite types of travel to help them pick their next destination. 

You might also incentivize customers to provide specific information in exchange for a reward, such as asking a customer for their birthday so they can receive a promotion code for a free item on their birthday.

By taking ownership of your customers’ data, your brand won’t be reliant on external platforms or to changing privacy regulations. Set up a strategy to start collecting zero-party data to better understand your customers and provide them with personalized marketing efforts.

Social shopping in a single click

While customers might be accustomed to clicking on your website or mobile app to complete a purchase, these days, social media services are making it easy to buy products without ever leaving the platform. 

For example, customers can use Instagram’s Shop feature to click on any picture that’s tagged with a shopping bag icon, which allows them to go to a product description page. In some cases, they can make the purchase without ever leaving Instagram, while others take you to the retailer’s site to complete the transaction.

TikTok also offers an in-app shopping experience via a partnership with Shopify. The feature lets Shopify merchants put tags directly in their videos that link to purchase pages, so shoppers can buy products they see without ever leaving the platform.

Livestream interaction and purchases

Livestream shopping has been around for years, but the trend is growing rapidly; with growth in the U.S. market projected to reach $25 billion in sales next year. Today, brands can present livestreams on platforms including Instagram, Amazon Live, YouTube, Facebook Live, OOOOO, and many others, offering a QVC-like shopping experience where creators and influencers can demonstrate the products or use them to present a tutorial: such as makeup application or cake decorating. Customers can not only make purchases directly from the platform, but they can also chime in with questions, comments, or emojis, or respond to polls or surveys. This helps drive high engagement in the live shopping experience, and provides brands with a wealth of data to help them understand their customers better.

CSR is in style

Customers are focused on supporting brands that align with their values as individuals.

Sustainability initiatives are core to that. Globally, 85% of consumers say they’ve shifted their purchasing behavior towards being more sustainable in recent years – so as a brand, it’s imperative that you’re transparent about your sustainability objectives and show how you’re meeting your benchmarks. 

For example, brands like Everlane showcase their carbon commitment, and their initiative to eliminate all new plastic from their supply chain. They also pledge to use the most sustainable materials possible, including a combination of natural fibers and recycled synthetics.

It’s also important to showcase your commitment to ethical treatment of workers. Again, Everlane also outlines its Vendor Code of Conduct, which showcases the minimum work standards required of all the suppliers they contract with and their commitment to fair labor practices, and the audit standards they go through when assessing compliance. 

By being transparent in your commitment to social values and sustainability, you’ll be able to win over conscious consumers who might otherwise choose a competitor.

Supporting the circular economy

Alongside sustainability in producing new products, customers want the opportunity to buy gently used products.

Secondhand marketplaces like Poshmark and ThredUp have gained prominence, but some brands are even creating their own secondhand marketplaces on their own shop fronts: Patagonia and REI, among others, invite customers to purchase gently used products at discounted rates or to resell their used products back to the companies. 

If you produce the sort of high-quality products that you know customers would be happy to buy second-hand for a discount, it may be worth setting up your own used marketplace as well. 

AR technology provides a real-world look at your products

As customers consider which products to purchase, brands are finding that incorporating augmented reality (AR) technology can go a long way towards driving engagement and facilitating sales – and significantly lowering return rates.

In fact, Shopify merchants that incorporate AR technology, such as an app that can help you visualize a piece of furniture in your own space, can lower return rates by as much as 40%. 

And Home Depot, which uses AR technology to showcase its products and paint colors, has seen that customers who use the AR feature make purchases at a rate two to three times higher than those that don’t. 

By integrating AR features into your app and website, you’ll be able to give customers an accurate representation of your products and how they’d look in real-world use, helping customers get a close to in-store experience that incentivizes more sales and ensures they’ll know what they’re getting.

Use cross-channel communications to engage your customers

Omnichannel communications that flow effortlessly from one channel to the next are an ideal way to engage with your customers.

Every customer has their own communication preferences. Some may respond most frequently to email marketing, while others may prefer to engage via SMS messaging or app push notifications. 

As a brand, you’ll be able to deepen engagement and drive more sales by taking a personalized approach to communication on a per-customer basis, using customized content and channel marketing campaigns to optimize for each user’s unique preferences.

Marketers using three or more channels in a campaign saw a 287% lift in sales, so it’s well worth putting an omnichannel marketing strategy in place to boost your brand’s revenue. 

Make the returns process easy and painless

The customer experience is paramount – and that includes not just the experience of purchasing products, but also of returning them when necessary.

As many as 40% of online purchases result in a return, and customers actively seek out brands that facilitate easy and free returns. Forrester found that 60% of consumers in the U.S., the U.K., and France will prioritize brands that offer free return shipping. 

In order to capitalize on this demand, it’s important that your brand makes returns not just free, but as simple as possible. By using an automated returns platform like Loop, you can deliver a great customer experience that empowers customers to process their returns instantly – and optimizes for exchanges, which allow brands to keep an average of 40% of returns revenue and maintain an ongoing customer relationship. 

To learn more about Loop, book a demo today.