In the new year the keys to success for retailers include personalization, maintaining growth, boosting the customer journey and elevating e-gifting capability.
The pandemic has transformed consumers’ shopping expectations so dramatically that savvy merchants are already capitalizing on powerful trends that will spell success in 2022.
Retailers catering to gift buyers will have good momentum leading into the new year, according to a recent Coresight Research study, sponsored by GiftNow, Unpacking Holiday Gifting: Shoppers’ Plans and Retail Opportunities.
The study found consumer sentiment was overwhelmingly positive. More than 70% of shoppers surveyed plan to spend at least $300 in gifts this season, and six in 10 plan to spend at least 40% of their holiday budgets online. Shoppers are also planning to shop earlier and more often — this year, the shopping season started in early October and is going strong well into December.
It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this moment. The pandemic forced retailers to invest in online sales while they were simultaneously dealing with internal factors like staffing challenges and external forces such as shipping and supply chain uncertainties.
But merchants are naturally future-focused and have strong opinions on what comes next. I asked five retail experts to forecast key trends for 2022. Here is what they shared:
Gain and grow customers
One of the most important factors in 2022 will be maintaining vs. managing growth. Coming off a frenetic 2021, many retailers are assessing supply chain, new customer acquisition, and marketplace strategies to maximize profitability. Smartly engaging with the customer — onsite and across channels with exemplary service – and utilizing technology to retain and grow customers in an increasingly competitive environment will be key.
Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group
Offset inflation with digital technology
For retailers, inflation represents a huge hurdle as we emerge from fundamental changes presented by the global pandemic. Retailers also face challenges in responding to new consumer behaviors and shopping preferences. They should not simply pass along rising costs to their shoppers. They should be strategic and seek other opportunities to offset inflationary pressures by looking to technology that streamlines and optimizes their e-commerce processes to maintain revenue growth and customer loyalty.
Steven Winnick, senior analyst, Coresight Research
Personalize the shopping experience
Retailers should focus on elevating their digital platforms and providing more ways to personalize the consumer shopping experience. For instance, HomeChef recently launched a new online gifting platform with a holistic gift card experience for consumers to send personalized e-gift cards and mail physical gift cards. In 2022, retailers should pursue personalization to improve their e-commerce custom gifting options and expand their corporate gifting program to include in-store and online channels.
Eric Dean, senior director of marketing partnerships, Home Chef
Better understand your audiences
We sell to both consumers and chefs, who each have very different wants and needs from e-commerce. Chefs are utilitarian – they want to get in, access the products they need, and get out quickly. In contrast, consumers want to be romanced with user-generated content, ratings, reviews, and recipes. Retailers should create audience-focused content on their website, keeping their buyers’ personas in mind, to ensure their e-commerce experience is deliberate and relevant to each of their audiences.
Chip Overstreet, CEO, Spiceology
Improve the customer journey
2022 will be all about the customer experience. Savvy brands will focus on overlooked parts of the customer journey and work to improve the experience. Gift cards are a great place to start. Is there an opportunity to personalize the experience? To identify a new customer? Are there ways to engage before, during, or after an interaction? How can gift cards be connected to other touchpoints? Making even small changes can be impactful.
Joe Pino, VP strategy and solutions, Clutch
It’s notable how these remarks coalesce around the customer experience. GiftNow predicts that retailers will improve e-gifting capabilities by focusing more deliberately on the gifting journey and capturing the attention of both gifters and recipients along the way.
A recent survey commissioned by GiftNow showed 90 percent of retailers planned upgrades to e-gifting this holiday, with nearly two-thirds planning instant digital delivery and gift personalization to improve the user experience.
Optimizing the experience from gift purchase to gift delivery can create new touchpoints for untapped revenue. Especially with the holiday shopping window pulled forward this year, a seamless experience can boost shopper loyalty at exactly the right time, strengthening the impact of the promotions to follow and encouraging repeat purchases throughout the holidays and beyond.
We’ve also seen retailers leverage e-gifting to solve inventory shortages and shipping delays that have dominated the retail landscape in 2021. Decoupling gifting and gift delivery with thoughtful e-gifting solutions can help retailers stem costly shipping surcharges. More importantly, they can help keep retailers’ “digital doors” open right up until the holiday to better cater to last-minute shoppers and capitalize on last-minute revenue opportunities.
Merchants who rethink e-commerce to provide positive and rewarding experiences throughout this critical sales window can infuse more joy into holiday shopping while turning both gift givers and recipients into lasting loyal customers. Happy selling!