The past two years have introduced tremendous unprecedented challenges and opportunities for brands. What digital strategies should retail marketing professionals implement in 2022 for scalable success?

In this article, we’ll dive into some unique problem-solving opportunities as well as industry predictions for 2022 to help you dive into the new year with confidence.

Supply Chain Strain

In 2021, brands learned that business being good isn’t always a good thing. Shipping, inventory, and fulfillment are the basic underpinnings of a business that, at the end of the day, must work flawlessly for any of your marketing efforts to see the light of day – and they’ve all been feeling increased strain since around October 2021.

The pandemic catalyzed what some are calling a shipping crisis. With shoppers feeling more frivolous about their discretionary spending budget along with shopping less in stores in 2020, retailers were selling less and had less of a need for their shipping containers. So, they put away their containers to save for later. Then, consumer demand for products surged earlier and more than expected – leaving retailers and container companies drastically unprepared.

Now, it’s incredibly difficult for many businesses to find available space on containers, or even available containers in the first place. With demand for freight high and supply so low, the cost for brands to ship the products their customers buy is going up – and the products are still likely to be delayed.

Rising freight costs are a huge risk to profits. In some cases, freight costs are making up over half the value of the products being shipped. Shipping rates and import costs are increasing each month. Inventory flow is almost impossible to predict, making it difficult for retailers to plan or make decisions with precision.

Consumers are feeling the brunt of the impact with delayed shipping times, which is often a deciding factor in a customer’s purchase decision. It will be crucial for retailers to transparently communicate realistic shipping and inventory expectations with shoppers in 2022.

Consumer Privacy

2021 brought a slew of data privacy changes, from Apple’s iOS 14.5 update to announcements about third-party cookies going away on Chrome. Consumers also have varying levels of wariness about sharing their data with companies, with 23% of US internet users saying they don’t want to share their personal information with companies – no matter the benefit.

In 2022, it will be crucial for companies to adopt a privacy-first mindset that respects the wishes of their customers. Shoppers won’t be afraid to switch to a competitor if they don’t feel like your brand cares about their privacy. Aside from that, the tremendous fines and legal implications that come from not adhering to regulations like the GDPR or CCPA should be enough of a deterrent for brands to understand that data privacy concerns can’t be ignored.

For many brands, 2022 will be about preparing for Google’s impending deprecation of third-party cookies on Chrome, which is expected to happen in late 2023. The key technologies needed for the changes will be deployed by late this year for developer use.

Third-party cookies provide invaluable data about a shopper’s interests, past purchases, frequently visited websites, and more. Any brand that uses data for online advertising and targeting will be impacted by Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome. First-party data solutions will become even more important in 2022.

Brands will also have to adapt to Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, which started requiring users to provide explicit consent to be tracked by apps. If they don’t opt in, the default will be that apps don’t get any data from them.

96% of iPhone users have opted out of sharing their IDFA with apps since the release of iOS 14.5 in April of last year. The update has resulted in higher customer acquisition costs, declining stocks, lower revenue projections, and other negative consequences for many brands.

Changing Consumer Expectations

The pandemic has also changed the way consumers shop and the way brands have to approach business. With these changes in the buying experience, customer expectations have changed, as well.

Even more than pre-pandemic, there’s an expectation of discounts and free shipping, including special discounts for groups like veterans, first responders, teachers, etc. It’s a challenge for brands that have to build something new into their pricing that wasn’t on their radar before.

To keep profitability up, many brands are now in a place of trying to retrain their audience to not expect everything at a discount.

With in-person retail spaces closed due to the pandemic, customers expected quick shipping and turn-around times like they get from Amazon – even when shopping with smaller, independent businesses.

Independent businesses have been in a position of having to find creative ways to offer value in a way that differs from Amazon’s free two-day shipping. In response, many have turned their strategic focus to humanizing the customer experience.

Humanizing the Digital Experience

Even in the digital world, the human factor is important. It’s also a key way small businesses can stand out. For example, sending out handwritten notes to your customers and B2B partners is a great strategy to retain top customers and facilitate a type of human connection that the big retailers like Amazon just can’t replicate.

Social media can also be used to highlight community posts, tag customers, and make them feel included in your brand.

The human factor will get bigger the more disconnected we get in-person – and it will require creative human connection.

Influencer marketing will also continue to be a key strategy heading into 2022. To take it a step further, instead of incentivizing influencers with paid placements, your brand could support the influencer’s favorite charity.

This creates a more genuine relationship that results in more authentic content, alleviates pressure both ways, attaches your brand to a good cause, and humanizes your marketing efforts – all without the added cost of paying an influencer.

Another example is personalized email. Digital can feel a little cold, but it can feel a lot more inclusive – and generously promote loyalty – with emails that sound like they are personal and written by real people.

Consider giving your “VIP” audience special access to get more of a response on your email communications (for example, early access to new content). People want to feel heard and noticed, so things that give a feeling of a personal touch will become more and more impactful. You can also consider recognizing holidays and customer anniversaries in your emails.

Authenticity on Social Media

On the subject of authenticity, recent social and digital trends have made companies change their approach to authentic content creation and marketing online.

Influencer marketing is important. Getting shipments out to social networks ahead of time will help create buzz. Focus on starting small. For example, don’t try to sell to 1,000 people in your target audience – try to sell to the 10 most influential among that group who can influence 100 more, who can influence 100 more, and so on. Micro influencers are helping with this.

Small companies can also humorously highlight their vulnerability because customers can relate to that and it helps them connect to the brand. Consider creating behind-the-scenes content to showcase your authenticity.

TikTok has changed the face of social media whether we want to admit it or not. It’s taught us that people like movement and authenticity – and that content with less sophisticated production resonates better with many customers. Smaller influencers and micro influencers come across as more authentic because they’re more in touch with their audience and more effective at influencing purchasing than the larger influencers.

Profitable Ecommerce Brand Growth in 2022

Are you ready to take charge this year, even with all of the fluctuations in consumer expectations and trends? If you’re eager to achieve your brand’s goals this year and beyond, the proven digital marketing experts at ROI Revolution are here to help. As an elite agency partner with Google, Amazon, Facebook/Meta, and more, we are uniquely positioned to drive full-funnel brand growth and customer acquisition. Reach out today to see how we can help you exceed your goals.