A brick-and-mortar store’s ability to connect with shoppers is a main draw of shopping in person. On the other hand, e-commerce requires an understanding that online shopping differs from physical retailing, calling for proactive steps that mimic in-person experience as much as possible through sight and sound. Since the in-store experience extends beyond merchandise to ambiance, decor, and lighting, let alone the presence of sales associates, it makes sense that retailers are leveraging imagery, video, and other graphical elements to make shopping online similar to buying in store.
Accompanying the surge in e-commerce over the last two years is a noticeable shift in consumer behavior. With an influx of shoppers researching brands online, perhaps even making purchases at retailers they haven’t patronized before, brand loyalty has become harder to maintain. As a result, e-commerce brands are tapping into various strategies to build loyalty, such as through the amplification of user-generated content (UGC), which, besides reflecting brand authenticity, can be a compelling and persuasive sales tactic.
What’s ahead for 2022 and how can retailers best optimize their online channels to engage with shoppers? The answers are exactly what we at Cloudinary love to mull over. Below is a description of the trends that we believe will be a priority for retailers next year.
Let’s start by skipping ahead to the 2022 holiday season. Businesses must start preseason planning in three major steps:
Prepare early for probable shopping influxes ahead of typical seasonal activity. After all, 45% of the respondents in a McKinsey survey said that they started holiday shopping in early October. So, retailers must work throughout the year to ensure that visual assets earmarked for campaigns are created and delivered optimally. Ideally, don’t get too far into Q2 without starting campaign planning for the 2022 holiday season because consumers might start shopping way in advance.
Prepare for the rise in mobile shopping. Impressively, the number of mobile transactions in the U.S. grew at 41.4% in 2020 and 15.2% in 2021. As they shop, consumers are also comparing prices at physical locations before purchasing online.
In addition, retailers should update their e-commerce practices based on consumers’ shopping behavior. With the vast variety of content available online, a great way to catch a shopper’s eye in an instant is through personalization across all touchpoints. This form of humanized marketing makes shoppers feel that you’re talking to them instead of churning out run-of-the-mill ads en masse.
Leverage promotions through microbrowsers. Shoppers are sharing links with family and friends on social networks like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp. Even though those “dark social” channels make tracking and attribution tricky, learning how microbrowsers display URL previews can get you thinking about how to optimize marketing campaigns. Cloudinary has a pulse on this topic, as detailed in Chapter 6 of our 2021 State of Visual Media report.
In 2020 and 2021 we saw a notable rise in businesses across industries expanding and improving their online experiences to address pandemic-related shifts, retail being chief among them. For many organizations, adopting a headless—more open and agile—architecture makes good sense. Though not a perfect fit for all companies, a headless tech stack offers many tangible and immediate benefits, especially for businesses like those in e-commerce that rely heavily on a media-first (read highly visual) approach.
Essentially, e-commerce monoliths are building ecosystems of their own solutions. Even though those solutions, all nonheadless, are under one umbrella, retailers that adopt them can run into snags. New integrations or expansion of the architectural capabilities can take a long time, slowing speed to market and, therefore, reducing competitiveness.
What e-commerce developers need are concise and well-structured APIs that efficiently process media assets and metadata for an appealing user experience. Context is the top requirement, that is, you need well-tested technology integrations for storing your metadata along with the media assets.
Our blog post Is Your Business Ready for a Headless Architecture? is an insightful resource. Do check it out.
Unsurprisingly, the demand for video content has grown rapidly for the last two years since the pandemic hit. For a period of time, we could consume video through our devices from the safety of our homes only. Notably, video on landing pages can increase conversion rates by over 80%. Plus, 90% of customers say that videos help them make purchase decisions. As consumers watch more video, they also engage more online—two realities that are bound to kick retailers into high gear in capitalizing on video to their benefit.
Livestreamed video is also gaining popularity. Research from Vimeo Livestream found that 82% of consumers prefer livestreamed videos to social-media posts from brands. That’s because high-quality, livestreamed video offers the same immersive experience as in-person interactions—easy, fast, and convenient. Also, instead of being a one-and-done tactic for engaging with shoppers, livestreamed footage makes for great content reuse in campaigns, on websites, or on YouTube. So, be sure to extend the shelf life of previously livestreamed video.
More important, be prepared to offer captivating video and fast loading across all channels, including mobile. As performance expert Doug Sillars observed, “To ensure that we are delivering a quality experience to our mobile customers, it is imperative to examine the bitrate of the videos we are serving. The bitrate of the video becomes the cutoff for the network speeds our site will play back smoothly on.”
In summary, brands are continually reacting and adjusting to consumers’ shopping habits, staying on top of emerging trends and making consumers the center of the brands’ 2022 plans by delivering a compelling user experience on all platforms. Toward that end, consider solidifying plans for more preseason e-commerce activities and the possibilities of headless e-commerce technology while leveraging high-quality video content to gain a competitive edge.
The Cloudinary platform offers numerous features that enable you to achieve those goals. Contact us for details.