We’re betting that 2022 will be the year of convenience, conversations, and consumer-driven innovations.
If delivering personalized experiences—both online and off—was the name of the game in 2021, convenience will be the key theme of 2022.
Consumers have become good at rolling with the punches over the past few years. They’ve experimented with new ways to shop, from relying on e-commerce to embracing hybrid experiences. Eventually, these experiments led to new habits and expectations.
Convenience is no longer a perk—it’s a deciding factor. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will go with the most convenient option if cost and quality are the same. Now that e-commerce is a part of our daily lives, consumers have more options than ever before.
While we believe consumer demand for convenience will be the driving force behind a new wave of innovation in 2022, it’s not the only theme we’re watching. We’re betting these six trends will make the headlines this year.
1. Consumers will take the lead in driving innovation
Brands have traditionally introduced consumers to new technologies and experiences, but consumers are now pushing the boundaries of innovation. And we expect more innovation to come in response to consumer demands.
Consumers want to do as much as possible in a single place. It seems easy, but it’s much harder to execute than it seems. Driving impactful innovation takes time and buy-in.
Livestreaming isn’t just for gaming anymore
Social commerce boomed in 2021 as consumers turned to their phones to discover new brands and products.
As shoppers continue to turn to online communities to discover new products and share tips, we’re betting video-based commerce will be the next space to experience hyper-growth.
An early adopter of this marketing strategy, vegan skincare brand Youth to the People hosts live shopping sessions on their website. Besides chatting with other attendees, shoppers can book 1:1 sessions with skincare experts to get personalized recommendations, learn more about their skin type, and ask questions about products. The skincare brand texted subscribers inviting them to join, capturing the attention of mobile shoppers. These two-way conversations help the brand build trust and foster product discovery, helping them find and buy products faster.
Virtual reality will help consumers make more informed shopping decisions
Consumers will drive innovations in virtual reality to make their shopping experience more convenient, too.
While shopping in-store lets consumers test or try on products to see what works for them (and avoid the hassle of returning what doesn’t), not being able to do this while shopping online is a common pain point. It’s a challenge for brands, too. Between 20% and 30% of the products consumers order online are returned (compared to 9% of purchases made in brick-and-mortar stores). These returns are expensive for brands, costing an estimated $550 billion.
To remove this friction, skincare brand Dermalogica launched a VR storefront in July. Shoppers can use the brand’s free face mapping tool to analyze their skin, watch educational videos, and find their nearest Dermalogica aesthetician. This virtual destination for expert skincare guidance has helped Dermalogica improve its online shopping experience—and likely its customer relationships, too.
Physical retail will deliver new levels of convenience
Consumers are looking to get more out of their store visits. They’re interested in physical stores becoming “one-stop-shops” that make discovering products, purchasing, and handling post-purchase questions quickly and efficiently.
Recognizing this desire, e-commerce and retail brands are partnering to deliver seamless in-store experiences. Take, for example, Madewell and ThredUp. The fashion brand is a best-seller on the e-commerce consignment platform, so they decided to team up to make it as easy as possible to shop. The two brands opened a dedicated pop-up for pre-owned products so shoppers could purchase, mend, tailor, and recycle items at a single location.
This one-stop-shop approach saves shoppers the trouble of bouncing between websites and running errands once their items arrive. Plus, bringing shoppers into a physical location naturally helps the two brands upsell and encourages repeat purchases.
2. Shoppers will increasingly seek out two-way, human-to-human interactions via mobile channels
Conversations—especially those with humans vs. robots—naturally create a smoother shopping experience.
We all know that feeling of appreciation when a store associate can answer all of our questions or give recommendations when we need help. It saves us the hassle of hunting someone down or trying to find answers via Google while in-store.
Consumers are looking for—and will start expecting—that same level of convenience with conversational commerce this year. Two-way conversations via text messaging help them feel like there’s someone there with them, ready to help when and where they need it (without having to spend hours on hold or double-checking to make sure their customer support email went through).
We’re making two predictions: First, brands and consumers will increasingly interact with one another via two-way conversations (rather than one-sided or batch-and-blast communications). Second, they’ll increasingly be human-powered instead of AI-driven.
These conversations will ultimately speed up the shopping journey. Today, consumers are frustrated by chatbots leading them to dead-ends in conversations—over 50% say they've had trouble with chatbots not knowing how to solve their issue. But getting answers, recommendations, and assistance in real time—from a real human—will create a new level of convenience for consumers. And once your customers have a taste of that, they’ll be more likely to shop with you again. Brands are already having these conversational interactions at every step of the customer journey using Attentive Concierge™.
3. Brands will invest in loyalty, increasing their emphasis on customer retention
The last few years were a customer acquisition gold rush. With the challenges posed by industry-wide privacy changes, we think 2022 will be all about increasing the lifetime value of those new customers.
Surging e-commerce introduced consumers to a wide selection of brands. No longer limited to nearby retail locations or familiar websites, they began discovering new brands by scrolling through social media and searching for products online.
Brands will need to level up their loyalty strategies and personalization efforts—a big part of customer retention—to nurture these new shoppers and make sure they keep coming back.
Consumers aren’t limiting themselves to just one touchpoint or channel—and brands shouldn’t either
This year, brands will take a multi-pronged approach to building loyalty. Rather than siloing their loyalty initiatives, they’ll integrate their program with the rest of their marketing tech stack to always be where their shoppers are.
In practice, brands have already begun integrating their formal loyalty and SMS marketing programs to drive dual opt-ins and adoption. But we think they’ll take it to a whole new level this year, making it easier than ever for consumers to earn rewards no matter where they’re shopping. And whether they’re targeting users with custom recommendations based on their loyalty profile or nudging them to redeem their rewards, we think brands will use their tried-and-true loyalty plays to drive repeat purchases via SMS.
Case in point: Brands like TGI Fridays have already discovered that personalized text messaging is for more than just sharing discounts—it’s a powerful loyalty channel, too. When the restaurant chain refreshed their loyalty program, they integrated it with their SMS marketing channel to drive opt-ins, deepen their customer profiles, and send hyper-personalized offers.
SMS will grow as a key brand marketing channel
Speaking of loyalty, brands need healthy doses of personalization and seamless shopping experiences to keep customers coming back. SMS is a channel that provides both of these, and brands are doubling down on it. We’re at a tipping point—text messaging is about to go mainstream.
In 2022, marketers will expand their SMS marketing programs to focus on building direct relationships with consumers and removing friction from the customer journey. While they’re going to shift their focus, brands won’t put the brakes on their subscriber acquisition strategies (especially in light of cookies and privacy changes).
Text messaging will also become a go-to channel for brand marketing initiatives. The personal, two-way nature of text messaging naturally lends itself to sharing the story behind a brand. Incorporating more educational and inspirational content into SMS programs will be key to building loyalty in the year to come.
4. Our digital and physical worlds will continue to collide, creating new levels of convenience for shoppers
Stores will increasingly become micro-fulfillment centers
Shoppers got comfortable spending time in public spaces last year. In response, marketers quickly pivoted to bridge their online and in-store experiences to meet shoppers where they preferred. A lot of that work focused on building an operational foundation, growing and streamlining their curbside pick-up and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) programs.
Part of that meant turning stores into micro-fulfillment centers to remove friction for shoppers, saving them the hassle of stalking their delivery driver. It also helped brands manage their inventory and cut down on shipping costs. Over the past two years, Michaels has turned their 1,200+ physical stores into micro-fulfillment centers. As a result, they've reduced the number of orders shipped from their central distribution center by about 82%.
Now that the early operational framework is in place, marketers will get creative with how they bridge their online and offline experiences. Michaels has already begun translating their signature in-store workshops into online courses, tapping their customers to teach a wide range of subjects. Others, like sneakers retailer Snipes, have begun asking shoppers whether they’d like to get their receipt via text or email.
Scrolling is the new window shopping
Creating truly convenient hybrid shopping experiences requires more than just adding digital components to in-store interactions, and vice versa. Brands need to establish convenient, recognizable shopping experiences across all of consumers’ favorite channels. To do this, brands must turn their websites and digital channels into virtual storefronts.
We used to window shop to discover new products or brands. Now that we’ve shifted to primarily shopping online, window shopping has been replaced by scrolling. And it’s not just taking place on brands’ websites. Social commerce has grown rapidly as consumers scroll through Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest in their free time.
TikTok has especially helped accelerate this marketing trend. Short videos featuring influencers—and regular users promoting their personal recommendations—have added another human layer to social commerce.
One reason for TikTok’s success as a virtual storefront is its algorithm. The app is famous for showing users incredibly personalized content. Consumers are now accustomed to this level of personalization, opening up new opportunities for marketers to tap into engaged, loyal audiences (and acquire new ones) with helpful and gamified content.
But (as we mentioned earlier) consumers don’t limit themselves to a single channel. Marketers will need to use two-way communication channels to enhance their e-commerce and social presence. We think brands will start relying on SMS as a connector, driving shoppers to virtual experiences, including digital fitting rooms and virtual consultations.
5. Brands will rethink where and how they capture data to deliver more personalized experiences
Cookies are expected to go away by 2023, pushing brands to find new ways to collect data from consumers and act on it.
Customers will expect their data to be with them everywhere they go
Measuring impact isn’t easy when consumers bounce between digital and physical shopping experiences. But they’re starting to expect their data to follow them wherever they’re shopping.
Today, data sometimes gets lost between shoppers’ online and in-store interactions. Brands will need to find new avenues to collect and act on zero- and first-party data both online and offline to connect the dots. Doing so will help them deliver even more personalized experiences, removing friction for shoppers as they browse and shop for items.
Loyalty programs have allowed brands to personalize shoppers’ experiences based on what they’re buying and where. Target’s loyalty program, Target Circle, offers members personalized offers and recommendations based on their online and in-store purchase history. Users can also save offers to their phones and use them online or at the checkout counter.
Rainbow is taking a similar approach. The fashion retailer is rolling out e-receipts to get a better understanding of their customers’ preferences and behaviors. Collecting data on and offline will allow them to further personalize their communications—especially via SMS.
Privacy changes also signal a shift in how brands measure impact
Data is at the heart of everything marketers do. But privacy changes—including iOS updates and the end of third-party cookies—are forcing brands to rethink how they measure impact.
Clicks and influence no longer give brands a complete picture of their marketing performance. And while the reliability of performance analytics is declining, customer acquisition costs are going up. Without a clear idea of their audiences’ behaviors, brands will need to reevaluate the metrics they use to measure impact. Our bet is that ROI and lifetime value (LTV) will be their go-to markers of success.
6. Brands will continue building out their SMS marketing teams, delivering more convenient mobile experiences
In 2021, brands responded to the rapid rise of TikTok by hiring dedicated social media managers to build their channels. In 2022, we think SMS marketers will be their next major investment.
As conversational commerce touches every step of the customer journey, SMS marketing will become an essential part of companies’ tech stacks. Just like email marketing, brands are realizing that SMS marketing is more powerful than its beginnings in transactional communications.
We see brands continuing to invest in dedicated SMS marketing managers or teams to scale their channels and implement more sophisticated strategies. We expect to see an uptick in the number of dedicated SMS marketing roles in 2022 as brands who already have dedicated text message marketers on their team expand their channel. Beyond that, we think brands will bring in a variety of marketers to scale their SMS text messaging program—especially customer support specialists to help shoppers, and lifecycle marketers to double down on subscriber retention and lifetime value. And if brands don’t hire an in-house team, they might work with an agency to grow their SMS program.
Regardless of how they do it, dedicating resources to this channel will allow brands to move away from taking a “batch and blast” approach to implement more sophisticated strategies. As a result, they’ll be able to unlock even more value for their audience (and, in return, their bottom line).
In the coming year, brands will invest in making shopping more convenient for consumers. From two-way conversations that remove friction to personalizing experiences with first-party data, brands will rely on mobile to deliver the experiences shoppers want both online and off.