It has been another crazy year in the pandemic but another undeniably good year for e-commerce.

Many e-commerce merchants across a range of industries and business sectors have continued to grow at a rapid pace. Old line corporations that have started e-commerce businesses have had to expand them rapidly in order to accommodate larger than expected online ordering needs.

The pandemic has continued to accelerate a lot of digital transformation and e-commerce innovation and this acceleration is going to continue. Given everything we’ve all been experiencing since March 2020, it’s no surprise at all.

Within e-commerce marketing and technology, here are the highlights of 2021- some of which we saw coming and some we didn’t:

Stand-Alone Social Commerce

In 2021, we saw rapid adoption of social commerce as a viable, stand-alone e-commerce channel. Just look at your Instagram feed. Do you notice that the number of e-commerce merchants occupying space is growing? Have you noticed that you can buy merchandise directly off of the TikTok platform? Are you noticing more Facebook stores as you browse your feed? Many successful e-commerce merchants are finding social media sites are the perfect gateway to purchasing opportunities for the customers they can target. Even B2B sellers are jumping into the fray. There’s really no surprise here as the major social media platforms have been gearing up for this for years.

The next question is, when are these platforms going to offer unique purchasing and fulfillment solutions in a single package? Of course, Facebook and Instagram stores already offer ¾ of the experience. TikTok has teamed up with Shopify as a part of TikTok Shopping, adding to a robust set of e-commerce-focused marketing tools. Do we think it’s possible for TikTok to offer a packaged solution for merchants to merchandise, sell, take payment and fulfill product on TikTok? The answer is yes.

Social Commerce is going to continue to rise quickly to the point where startups, professional athletes, and even some established retail brands won’t bother with a Square or Shopify store – they’ll take the path of least resistance and work with the tools and fulfillment systems that will soon be available to them through popular social sites.

A Big Year for E-Commerce Mergers and Acquisitions

Despite inflation, tech mergers and acquisitions continued at incredible pace this year. If you were lucky enough to sell your tech company in the e-commerce industry last year, good for you. It was a banner year for M&A activity and prices were high to match the demand.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this activity continues. In the e-commerce technology space, a lot of the unique headless applications have already consolidated. It’s likely that the major e-commerce platforms are still looking for apps and solutions that support their growth and the functionality that their merchants want. Long story short, we believe this activity is going to continue.

If you have a developed a plug-in, app or extension that are popular for Adobe Commerce, Shopify or BigCommerce and you’re looking to exit, 2022 may be your year.

Speaking of these platforms…

The Battle of E-Commerce Platforms Rages on

The battle between the major e-commerce platforms is just beginning.
The question is, will there be any big surprise acquisitions in 2022. Thinking about the major e-commerce platforms including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Adobe Commerce, they all have unique value propositions and strong marketing and positioning behind them. However, there’s also obvious overlap between their target markets and the competition can be fierce in the primary sales cycles.

Of these top e-commerce platforms, we believe that Shopify is poised to make some major announcements in 2022. These announcements will be met with responses by their competitors, but merchants looking for holistic Omni-channel solutions that require B2B and B2C functionality will be happy that Shopify has announced its upcoming plans.

Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento) is going to leverage the powerful stack of marketing and AI tools behind it to grow into the enterprise market.

BigCommerce is going to leverage its broad-based appeal with mid-market and a hefty feature set to win 2nd generation replatformings.

Shopify is going to announce new initiatives and try and take over the world through being all things to all merchants. It will be an interesting year in the platform space (and we haven’t even mentioned 5-6 viable challengers including the headless enablers like Nacelle!)

An Sluggish Year for B2B E-Commerce

2021 was a bit sluggish for B2B e-commerce. Shopify‘s announcements should hasten the pace of innovation for all the platforms and related third-party systems targeting B2B. It’s almost certain that Shopify’s will announce offering B2B functionality, which will spur new releases from its competitors. As such, there will be a lot of activity with merchants that are improving their first generation systems or that are just getting started.

We believe that although 2021 saw a bit of a pullback for B2B e-commerce activity, 2022 is going to be incredibly busy for B2B merchants and the SIs supporting them.

A Race for First-Party Data

The first-party data race has begun. Serious merchants will acquire it and use it in 2022. We all know there’s a race out there to utilize first-party data to make e-commerce experiences great. The days of cookies are ending quickly. The question is: who has the ability to manipulate the data to really control first-party sources.

Leading enterprise platforms are set up the best to enable serious e-commerce merchants to capture and work with 1st party data so that they can then leverage predictive and AI tools to make great shopping experiences. Adobe is set up to be a very powerful offering in this area. Strong AI and data analytics offerings will be a requirement for merchants that want to get out of the blocks quickly using first-party data and leaving cookies behind. Adobe Commerce and its compliment of offerings in Adobe Experience Cloud will be leaders here in 2022 based on their marketing work completed in 2021.

The Bottom Line

2021 was a year of rapid growth and change in the e-commerce world. Buckle up because the pace of adoption and innovation is only going to continue in 2022.