Experienced e-commerce merchants are now very carefully analyzing their user data, 2021 sales data, and their marketing metrics in order to identify advantages they can leverage in 2022. Everyone knows that you can’t be successful by just opening an e-commerce store on a stable platform with a solid user experience. Everyone selling in e-commerce already has that. There is a complex combination of factors that lead to success, especially in highly competitive industries. We believe that e-commerce merchants will need to stand out from their competition by focusing on improving their end-to-end experience this year – looking well beyond the products they produce and sell, to the overall customer journey that ultimately results in them clicking “confirm order” after a number of impressions and steps.

Here are the 5 critical areas of the e-commerce user journey where we see merchants investing resources and dollars this year:

1. The First Impression (Marketing Exposure)

The experience of an e-commerce brand obviously starts outside the e-commerce site at the first exposure of your product to the target audience. For many B2C merchants, CPG companies, apparel, fashion, health and wellness products this means having a presence on the digital properties where your target audience is interacting. For merchants creating awareness of their products with great brand awareness this means an immersive experience – rich advertising – needs to be a part of the game plan.

How Are Merchants Doing This?

They are pushing the merchandising experience upstream to ad venues – especially social media – and taking advantage of rich advertising, video, and photography-based experiences that social media sites like TikTok, Facebook and Instagram can offer. Some merchants are even moving the entire buying experience upstream, selling and transacting by utilizing the social commerce capabilities of these sites.

More and more in 2022 and beyond, successful e-commerce merchants will rely on expanding the merchandising experience within merchandising experiences that can be packaged and deployed as advertising. Tactics include:

  • Instagram photo carousels and stories, and the new IGTV video format
  • TikTok Video and other formats including: In-feed ads, top view ads, and brand takeover ads
  • SnapChat ad formats including Story Ads, Collection Ads, Commercials, Filters, and Lenses augmented reality (AR) Experiences
  • YouTube is now a coveted advertising channel for e-commerce startups that need to produce and distribute video content to best demonstrate their products especially in expensive consumer categories that

High production value video, photography, and entertainment factor will all be an important part of using these tactics to attract buyers “upstream.” Production of these experiences can be expensive, so merchants will need to be judicious when contemplating which aspects of their products they are going to showcase this way.

Where Can You Go For Inspiration?

Just open your Instagram or TikTok feed right now and you will see many, many examples – remember it’s important to indicate your interests when you sign up with an account so you can see merchants advertising within the categories you are interested in! Tell Instagram you are interested in outdoors if you want to see immersive ads for outdoor apparel.

2. Quality of the Overall Merchandising

The next area e-commerce merchants will spend time and energy improving in 2022 will be the overall merchandising experience. After two years of pandemic-driven, household-bound, consumer-driven e-commerce growth, retailers and e-commerce merchants are driving even harder to replicate the in-store / in-person merchandising experience with online counterparts that are just as compelling as being there in person and holding a product in your hands or trying it on.

Merchants are going to spend a lot of time perfecting these merchandising functions all of which help to sell products and drive conversion:

  • Accurate color swatches
  • Video demonstrations
  • Virtual try-on
  • 360 product views
  • Accurate descriptions and spec sheets
  • Bullet proof availability detail
  • Verified Ratings and Reviews

And there is more. The most progressive e-commerce merchants are ensuring the highest quality of product merchandising through custom apps (both web and mobile / PWA). Thanks to merchants like Zenni (eyeglasses) and New Balance and other top apparel companies it will soon be an expectation that a consumer will be able to visually see what an item will look like on them or on their “person” without actually having it in hand.

3. Checkout Speed & Overall Site Performance

According to Baymard, 18% of consumers abandon checkout because the process is too slow or complicated. Consumers just do not tolerate slow checkout and / or slow websites anymore. But now it’s not even a matter of perceived slowness, serious merchants are implementing performance monitoring tools to monitor the speed of apps, sites and checkout.

E-commerce merchants are using more and more 3rd party apps to boost functionality and those are all unique integrations. Merchants with large catalogs need to integrate PIMS. Those integrations add performance challenges and need to be monitored and managed. Companies like New Relic (application monitoring) and YOTTAA (e-commerce application acceleration technology) should be considered to help solve these challenges.

One-click checkout solutions like FAST are growing quickly as well; while there isn’t a one-solution-fits-all answer to fixing site performance, there are many options that help merchants diagnose and test where problems reside and how engineers can solve them. Performance and speed will continue to gain more and more attention as merchants examine their online sales in 2022.

4. The Order Communication

It takes more than a “thanks for your order” massage to keep customers happy and have them returning for more. Merchants are continuing to evolve customer communication strategies from the first visit, to a sign up, to a purchase and afterward. The trend now is for merchants to make sure that communications are directly tied to the parts of the order process that consumers really care about:

  • Reasonable abandoned cart reminders
  • Abandoned Cart / Final Chance reminder (especially if price is expiring)
  • Payment(s) received
  • Timing of order
  • Location of shipment
  • Shipment Arrival
  • Shipment Satisfaction
  • Order satisfaction after N time
  • “Need More” reminders
  • “You may also like” recommendations
  • “Next Order (for subscription) reminders)

Top e-commerce merchants continually map out their communication strategies and tweek them for seasonal changes and business environment changes. Given the frequency with which most platforms allow merchants to manage and monitor ongoing customer communications, it’s important to continue to work on the strategy and evolve it to meet your business’ needs.

5. Fulfillment, Packaging, Delivery & Unboxing

Research shows that packaging and the delivery experience are key indicators of overall customer satisfaction.
But how do you know how far to go and how much of an upgrade to the experience will make a difference? We think it’s important to talk to your customers and find out. Chances are, if your package is arriving late in an anonymous package with no indication of what’s inside you are missing an opportunity to make your customers very happy. Think about this: the overall e-commerce experience is lengthy with a lot of small steps. The delivery and packaging experience are essentially the last opportunity to create joy for your customers – so even if there were a few missteps along the way – you can make them happy. Better delivery experiences will leave them with a positive impression!

Clever brands like Allbirds and Andy Blank are also having success with creating a beautiful unboxing experiences, which customers will post on social media or send to friends/family, in turn creating free advertising and advocacy.

Simple steps that help:

  • Unique, branded packaging that surprises and delights and handwritten notes
  • Communicating when the order is arriving
  • Post-delivery satisfaction inquiries
  • Post-delivery offers and suggestions

Luxury brands and higher end retail brands are used to investing in packaging that connects with the emotional side of the customer experience, so consider buying from them and analyzing the full order packaging and delivery experience can give you some great ideas. Apple are of course one of the best at creating premium packaging.

The Bottom Line

Successful e-commerce merchants are going to continue to carefully analyze and improve the aspects of their e-commerce sites that facilitate sales and profits but they are going to do so through the lens of the experience this year and beyond. Look for us to dig deeper into each of these important experience aspects throughout 2022: The Year of E-Commerce Experience!