The past two years have shown us that assuming things will change is a safe bet. But as consumers, businesses and markets settle into something like a new routine, what changes will commerce experience in the year ahead? We expect to see some pandemic-era commerce developments continue with some new twists, and we’re watching some emerging commerce trends that may go strong beyond 2022 — all with the goal of creating richer, more engaging customer experiences and stronger bonds between customers and brands.
B2C and B2B Experiences Will Keep Converging and Optimizing
One of the hottest trends will be the continued convergence of B2C and B2B commerce experiences, as both domains work to create more effective commerce ecosystems that meet their customers’ needs. Businesses know that B2B buyers increasingly expect B2C-like product discovery and purchasing options like self-service. We expect B2B brands to continue working toward a more B2C-style experience.
However, we’re also starting to see B2B features appear in the B2C world, and we expect that to gain momentum in 2022 and beyond. For example, the typical configure-price-quote (CPQ) tools that B2B brands have ramped up since the start of the pandemic to support more online, self-serve buying are now influencing the B2C world. CPQ features can simplify complex buying decisions for consumers as well as business buyers; for example, a manufacturer of kitchen cabinets can offer CPQ tools that let consumers customize their order and get a quote without having to interact with a salesperson or go through a multistep online process.
That helps customers customize and complete their orders, reduces abandonment and returns in addition to enhancing the overall customer experience. CPQ in B2C can also enable shoppers to continue making major or complex purchases online. That’s in line with Forrester’s finding that customers want more than half of the new services that companies rolled out during the pandemic to remain in place.
Conversion Optimization Improves with Immersive Technology and Real-Time Personalization
Many companies have worked hard over the past two years to roll out immersive experiences to make up for the shift away from in-person, tactile commerce experiences. In 2022, we expect to see these organizations take stock of their immersive capabilities and adjust them to deliver even better experiences. For example, improving 3D product visualization quality or applying that capability to more products can strengthen trust with customers and give them the confidence to buy the things they want, whether that’s a custom sofa, kitchen cabinets or a pair of jeans.
Another trend that we see coming out of the commerce changes sparked by the pandemic is a new focus on optimizing the new customer journey features to improve the experience and increase conversions. We expect a lot of companies to focus primarily on conversion optimization, using the analytics they’ve collected since they started rolling out their new features and experiences. Precision analytics based on real-time data can help brands move from segmented personalization to getting closer to the ultimate goal of one-to-one personalization, with suggestions that are immediately relevant to the customer.
The desire to optimize the customer journey will extend to the checkout process. We’re seeing more traction among companies that help brands offer quick, single-click checkouts to drive conversions and reduce cart abandonment. Combined with personalization, improved checkout experiences can also enhance brand loyalty.
Supply Chain Adaptations and More Sustainable Commerce Initiatives
Because supply chain disruption has become “the new normal’s new normal,” we’re seeing many companies look for ways to strengthen their supply chain instead of waiting for the current problems to resolve. In this area, we expect to see more growth in marketplaces, the use of dark stores to help solve last-mile challenges and expansion of drop shipping capabilities to help get customers the products they want.
We’re also watching a growing interest among brands in sustainable commerce, whether that’s more awareness of sustainability concerns, adoption of carbon offsets or other “green” approaches. We see more organizations with internal groups that are focused on sustainable capabilities and commerce. That aligns with Forrester’s prediction for 2022 that “leading companies will seize trust to benefit the planet, empower the organizations and individuals they serve, and seize the opportunities presented by new digital models” for addressing sustainability concerns.
Addressing sustainability matters not only for building and maintaining customer relationships, but also potentially for compliance if and when governments implement laws around sustainable business practices. For example, New York State’s proposed Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act would require many major brands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and release climate and social impact disclosures. Brands that start building sustainability programs now will be in a better position to work within any regulations in 2022 or over the next few years.
For 2022 and Beyond: Live Commerce and the Metaverse
Live commerce may not be the hottest trend of 2022, but 18 months from now, it may take center stage. In fact, Coresight Research projects that ecommerce livestreaming will generate $35 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2024.
What makes live commerce so appealing is that it offers brands the ability to enable social commerce and provide customers with a sense of community through peer-to-peer and influencer engagement. Companies no longer need a TV station or a cable channel and big-name celebrities to engage in live commerce. Everyone has a phone, and many influencers can now drive significant customer engagement.
We’re also closely watching what happens with the metaverse. Right now, everyone’s talking about it and the commerce opportunities it might provide. For example, a furniture design company might need several months to build and ship a custom sofa, but they could give customers a 3D digital model as soon as they make their purchase to use in their virtual world. Time will tell whether this trend will take off or crash, but it’s something that brands should be monitoring and thinking about creatively.
Ultimately, the most important trend in 2022 is to build on your brand’s customer experience to enhance it further, whether that’s through improvements in personalization, sustainability commitments, supply chain upgrades, faster checkout, CPQ capabilities or even live commerce. Customer journey optimization, based on your existing experiences and features, is a trend every company can act on now for better CX in 2022 and beyond.
Rich Minns is a commerce and customer experience leader at Capgemini Americas, overseeing architecture, development and infrastructure and helping clients envision solutions for engaging, experience-driven commerce websites. He brings over 20 years of executive experience at Top 500 ecommerce retail companies and has led hundreds of successful commerce launches on numerous different technology platforms.