If we’ve learned one thing over the last two years, it’s that predicting the future is nearly impossible. After all, few of us could have anticipated a need to stock up on face masks and basics such as toilet paper before March 2020. While the specifics are difficult to foretell, there are trends that we can evaluate and intuit what's likely to happen over the next year. Here are a few things that retailers can expect in 2022.
Customer Service Reigns Supreme
We’ll start with one that’s intuitive: customer service will continue to dominate the retail space. Whether it's online or in-store, customers are expecting a consistent experience with your brand. Bringing the same high-quality in-person customer experience online can be tricky. You may connect with customers through chats or forms, but if you take more than 24 hours to respond, chances are they'll have long since moved on to do business with a competitor.
Long Lead Times
We’re already seeing the impact of global supply chain issues in nearly every area of commerce, and things are likely going to get worse before they get better. Shipping delays and shortages of raw materials mean that customers who used to do Christmas shopping in December might have started in October and maybe even earlier. Retailers that anticipate these setbacks and stay agile in their planning and promotion will win out above the competition.
Because of product shortages, customers will be looking for any shortcut to get the items they need. Customer-facing websites will need to be upgraded to reflect real-time product status. Consumers want to know how many are in stock and at which locations. “Right now” is the new customer mindset and the better your brand is at delivering this experience, the better it will fare in this real-time market.
Since individual customer details are becoming more difficult to obtain, you’ll need to cater to a diverse set of personas. The challenge will be to keep them personal enough to aid conversion, while remaining at a high enough level to work for large groups of people. The custom journey will be the new personal shopper. Online shopping experiences are evolving past recommending customers with “similar or like items” to anticipating what they will need next.
Layers of Loyalty
Still craving that customer data? With stricter web controls you need customers to see the value in handing over their personal details. This is where the loyalty program comes in. We’ll see even more programs in effect, offering loyalty points and the associated rewards both in person and online. In return, you'll be able to track the customer’s journey and further refine your interactions.
The Apple Store Effect
Do you remember the first time you walked into an Apple Store and experienced the complete aesthetic? That kind of experience is becoming more common in stores, but we’re going to see it extend to the online world. Retailers will increasingly make sure the digital experience reflects the same brand experience, down to color schemes, fonts and decor, that physical stores do. As a result, the at-home experience will more closely reflect shopping in person.
2022 will likely bring a few surprises, but the landscape is clearly evolving to place more of an emphasis on creating the ideal digital customer journey. With the right mindset, it can also be a great opportunity for retailers.
Jason Rosenbaum is the COO of Crowd Favorite, a multidiscipline digital consulting firm specializing in enterprise-grade digital strategy and elite Open Source development.
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Jason Rosenbaum is the COO of Crowd Favorite. Jason is a forward-thinking executive with strong client-facing, financial, and operational experience. His proven leadership has resulted in improved performance across companies operating both in the U.S. and internationally. With a focus on management consulting and growth strategy, his experience in restructuring small businesses, managing multi-disciplined teams, and expertise in integration activities has led to success in building companies and delivering enterprise services.