The surge in e-commerce over the last couple of years contributed to a noticeable shift in consumer behavior — there’s no denying that. Instead of being drawn to in-store ambiance with décor and lighting or influenced by physical experiences with products, shoppers now make purchase decisions after engaging with imagery, video and other visual elements online.
Because of this, 2022 will see a rising number of e-commerce retailers and brands working to make stronger customer connections through a variety of digital marketing strategies. This includes a renewed focus on improved personalization and the use of more user-generated content (UGC). These two elements — along with the ability to automate these processes — will be key to creating a truly compelling user experience.
Prepare to Deliver a One-of-a-Kind Online Experience
Shoppers are quick to recognize which messages seen online are formulaic and generic, sent en masse to a brand’s full database of contacts. These messages are oftentimes a waste of time and resources, encouraging shoppers to buy something they may have already purchased, something that doesn’t match their taste whatsoever, or something completely irrelevant to their needs or lifestyle. Instead, consumers want to receive tailored content that's highly specific to their individual tastes and preferences.
For example, someone who just moved to a new city will want to see the in-stock furniture available at their local store. Another shopper who has been browsing for a leather jacket will be interested in outfit suggestions to go along with the same style.
As a result, retailers and brands will spend a great deal of time analyzing data, taking into consideration everything from region, currency and weather, as well as a customer's purchase history and preferences to provide a personalized and one-of-a-kind experience for every segment or user. Brands will use this data to inform creative strategies and customize content that fosters customer engagement. Whether delivering personalized email campaigns, shoppable videos or interactive images, retailers and brands have a real opportunity to optimize the digital landscape with quick-loading and relevant content that demonstrates authenticity and influences purchase decisions.
Get Ready for the Rise in UGC
Likewise, as retailers and brands continue to focus on meeting the needs of the modern customer, there will be a continued rise in UGC, or any material that's posted by online audiences at will, often as reviews on a product page or on social media. UGC is extremely powerful, influencing 79 percent of web users’ purchasing decisions. This number will only continue to grow as consumers prioritize online communities in the digital age.
Retailers and brands understand that UGC paired with branded content and boosted by personalization can be highly influential and result in more conversions. By infusing UGC into their digital marketing strategies, brands can put the customer front and center, building authentic connections with shoppers who feel seen and understood. Brands that will see the greatest success in leveraging UGC will be the ones that ensure content is short, eye-catching and relatable while, most importantly, meeting brand standards.
Streamline and Automate the Visual Media Utilized Across E-Commerce Channels
However, as the e-commerce industry takes advantage of personalization and UGC, the volume of visual assets retailers and brands must maintain will grow tremendously. They will need to manage hundreds of thousands of images, videos and other rich media assets to deliver an optimal end-user experience for all types of browsers, devices and connection speeds.
To manage all of these components, brands and retailers will continue to streamline and automate the utilization of assets across all e-commerce channels. This will require optimization to streamline workflows, including an efficient upload and moderation process, dynamic modifications or transformations, and a secure way to deliver content at scale across channels for optimal performance, no matter the viewing method or device.
Authentic and Optimized Content Will Stand Out in 2022
Personalization and UGC will be two key trends in the new year as e-commerce retailers and brands seek to build more authentic relationships with consumers. Building highly engaging online experiences will be necessary to stand out in the competitive and noisy visual marketplace.
Delivering this type of content successfully will require the technology and tools necessary to easily optimize unique and compelling experiences at scale. It’s critical that retailers and brands prioritize the digital experience, including speed, relevancy and rich content, to consistently meet online shoppers’ demands and drive retention rates in 2022 and beyond.
Gary Ballabio is the vice president of technology partnerships at Cloudinary, a cloud-based service that provides an end-to-end image and video management solution, including uploads, storage, manipulations, optimizations and delivery.
Gary Ballabio is vice president of technology partnerships at Cloudinary, the media experience platform for thousands of retail and e-commerce brands (such as Puma, Bombas, Reformation and Neiman Marcus). Gary’s experience spans sales, product management and engineering. He leads technical and business integrations with Cloudinary's strategic partners.