Harmony Murphy is GM Advertising UK at eBay and NDA’s regular columnist.
We’ve all heard it a hundred times before, but as we approach the two-year milestone since the onset of Covid-19 in the UK, times have been anything but predictable. Whilst the marketing industry had hoped for a healthy dose of normality in 2021, this time last year we were in fact in store for much of the same: from more lockdowns, to ongoing supply chain disruption.
Now that we’re a few weeks into 2022, it’s clear this unpredictability will remain, and brands will have to stay on their toes. With this in mind, here’s my take on three key trends retail marketers should consider if they want to stay at the top of their game this year.
Match the ecommerce experience to expectations
In its early days, commerce used to simply mean consumers buying products from what were essentially online catalogues. But ecommerce has evolved so much since then and has completely revolutionised retail, transforming consumer expectations in the process.
Gone are the days where the ecommerce process was viewed as a purely transactional means to an end. Shoppers are now in the market across an ever-increasing pool of channels — whether they’re going about their day-to-day life, phone in hand, or ordering their groceries from the comfort of their own home via their web browser. They now expect everything they could ever want at the touch of a button and the process along the way to be as simple, relevant, and engaging as possible, at every stage.
With shoppers now having more choice at their fingertips than ever (and this still growing!), no brand can afford to be complacent. In 2022, the winners will be the brands that fully optimise their omnichannel strategies and discover innovative ways to bring the in-store experience to online channels across every touchpoint, for example by presenting shoppers with intuitive and relevant recommendations based on previous purchases.
Ignore conscious consumerism at your peril
With value-driven shopping now safely in the foreground of everyday life, there is a marked uptick in value-driven consumers who choose to buy consciously from brands which share their social and ethical values, whether that be regarding the environment, or diversity and inclusion.
Brands therefore need to ensure that a clear thread of authenticity and purpose runs throughout their organisation — both internally and externally. From the way they package or deliver their products, to the number of people from minority backgrounds sitting on their board of directors, shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning, meaning authenticity is pivotal.
In the year ahead, it’s important that brands take the time necessary to get this right, as making the wrong call often – and rightfully – puts brand loyalty and consumer trust on the line, with potentially detrimental consequences.
Be prepared for the cookie to crumble
If it wasn’t enough that life as we know it was uprooted due to Covid, soon the third-party cookie is set to crumble, shaking the foundations of digital marketing, and irreversibly transforming the industry. And whilst Google announced the delay of its plans until 2023, in the interim, marketers can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Retail brands need to get comfortable with relying on first-party data more than they ever have been before — and fast. Shoppers are now accustomed to the seamless and intuitive shopping experience they receive, so taking steps backwards in any way is simply not an option.
At the heart of getting this right is consumer privacy. With the ball now firmly in the court of the consumer, brands need to ensure they are trusted to handle the data they do receive correctly and, crucially, provide something valuable to the customer in return. Transparency about how and why brands are using their data will be paramount here — helping to build trust and loyalty. But remember, while consumers say time and time again that they want personalisation, getting this right so it doesn’t cross the line into ‘creepy’ will be key.
With shopper behaviour continuing to be in flux, and it being nigh impossible to predict what’s directly around the corner, 2022 is set to be another year where brands need to be poised to flex their campaigns or pivot their strategies at the drop of a hat. As competition in the marketplace continues to heat up, it’ll be the brands that put their customers at the centre of their marketing strategies this year who come out on top.