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Omnichannel Retail Trends for 2022

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Blog header graphic: Omnichannel Retail Trends for 2022 article.

It seems like every interaction is an opportunity for marketing today. From bus banners to digital ads and everything in between, marketing is all around us. So much so, that it can often feel like noise. So how do brands really stand out from the crowd?

In 2022, it’s not enough to just have a marketing presence across channels, brands need to ensure their messaging is consistent, compelling, and connected. This distinction is the key difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing. While these concepts can occasionally be confused, neither of them are particularly new. What is new and evolving is the marketer’s ability to execute their ideas. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into omnichannel marketing and the omnichannel retail trends we’re likely to see in 2022.

What is omnichannel retailing?

Omnichannel retailing refers to the use of various sales channels (physical and digital storefronts) to create a unified, seamless brand experience for consumers on any platform, at any time. When done effectively, users should be able to move freely from one channel to the next, building a relationship that improves the overall buying experience and encourages brand loyalty

Most businesses today use multiple platforms and channels for sales. Brands are spread across websites, social media, print catalogs, and brick-and-mortar stores. Since sales on various channels can essentially act independently of one another, if the digital experience isn’t considered holistically, the channels can present a disjointed or inconsistent experience for the consumer.

Successful omnichannel retailers have figured out how to let customers use any of their channels at any point of the process, for the first time or the 15th, and have a consistent, seamless experience. For example, an effective omnichannel retailer makes it simple for a consumer to see and like something on social media, and then with just a few clicks, immediately be able to order from a website. If a customer wants an item that isn’t in stock locally, it should be easy to order online and have it shipped directly or to a store for pickup (a concept known as buy online pick up in-store, or BOPIS).

As a byproduct of the pandemic, BOPIS, along with all e-commerce shopping activity, has gained significant traction faster than originally predicted. And McKinsey reports that 60-70% of consumers are shopping in an omnichannel way, with social media acting as the new “window shopping.”

Not only are consumers demanding the ability to flow between in-person and online shopping experiences, but optimizing this process is just good for the bottom line. Harvard Business Review notes that “omnichannel is about value addition, not cost reduction.” They continue, “Channel extensions that address gaps in the customer’s journey should be the real purpose of omnichannel selling.”

Retail 2022: Our top five trends

While retailers will continue to have their own unique approach for reaching their audience, it’s the consumers who will inform the initial strategy.  Here are the five biggest omnichannel trends we expect you’ll see this year.

1. A more deliberate approach to data

As the demand for digital privacy is put into action, the cookieless future grows increasingly near. This means marketers will need to find ways to be more deliberate with the precious first-party data they are able to collect. Forrester’s 2021 Global Marketing Survey reports that “32% of marketers cite quality of customer data as the greatest challenge to meeting their marketing goals over the next two years.” So, if consumers are willing to share their information with retailers, they’ll expect a meaningful experience in return. 

To acquire that data and provide the meaningful experience customers are looking for, many brands are seeking ways to ensure shared data is consistent across customer touch points. This could look like a shopping cart carrying over from mobile to desktop. Or perhaps it’s sending targeted social ads to customers based on what they looked at on your website. While this does require customers to be logged in, more and more retailers are creating enticing loyalty programs as a way of delivering a mutually beneficial shopping experience that increases the value for the customer…so they’re more apt to share their data. 

But getting that data is only half the battle. And this is why customer data platforms (CDPs) are among the top technologies marketers are investing in. In fact, in the 2021 Acquia CX report, 50% of marketers state that they have invested in CDP technology in the last 18 months. With data access dwindling — yet still being more important than ever — you can expect marketers to be looking for ways to maximize the information they are able to collect.

2. Personalized vs. personable shopping experiences

In discussing how marketers use data to establish relationships with their customers, we’d be remiss in not mentioning personalization. Personalization continues to be a hot topic in the marketing world — and rightly so. With waning data and even further diminishing customer-attention spans, marketers need to make their messages count. But does “personalized” always mean “personable?”

Just because marketers know a customer’s demographics, like age, gender, and location, doesn’t mean they have enough information to make their messaging personable. And fortunately, some retailers are realizing this. From flower shops to department stores, brands are beginning to ask customers what they want to hear about. Holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day can be particularly triggering for people.

Screenshot of an email from Oliver Bonus allowing subscribers to opt out of Mother's Day marketing emails.  

When brands give their customers the chance to opt out of marketing for these holidays, they gain the opportunity to earn that customer’s loyalty for the long-term. Marketing to people instead of at people isn’t a new concept, but being able to collect this data and do something with it is. Having tools like a CDP and a digital asset management (DAM) system that can work together to deliver the right content based on individual data will mean the difference between being personalized and personable

3. Window shopping on social media

Social media isn’t new. Shopping on social media isn’t new. And neither is influencer marketing. But what’s becoming more expected on these channels are relatable influencers. Diverse ethnicities, a wide representation of genders, a spectrum of body shapes, and varying levels of mobility. While this list isn’t exhaustive, ultimately, what shoppers want is people who look like them. People who share similar experiences when it comes to choosing an outfit or selecting their next travel destination. 

Brands certainly have an opportunity to do more in this area, but as marketers, we know the amount of content being created daily is getting out of control! We can’t physically do it all and put ourselves into the shoes of every customer…but influencers can! 

Partnering with influencers who encapsulate your brand while supporting a subset of your audience is a great way to build trust with consumers. This user-generated content (UGC) also offers a credible solution for tight marketing budgets since brands will have real people modeling their products instead of needing to look for creative ways to design one-size-fits-all photoshoots and marketing campaigns. 

By using the data customers are willing to share (possibly even based on the size and types of products they buy), brands can offer suggestions for partner influencers to follow that fit a specific customer segmentation. A new follower means more exposure for the influencer and more opportunities for customers to see your products in action out in the real world. 

4. Seamless shopping experiences

Omnichannel retail is ultimately putting the customer at the center of the numerous ways they can interact with your brand. Regardless of time, place, channel, or number of engagements, the aim is that the whole of their brand experience leaves them with a positive, memorable impression. And it’s this feeling that’s important because it’s exactly what compels customers to react, purchase a product, or tell their friends about it. This we know. (And this webinar shares more insights and examples) But what does that look like in action?

Ordering a product online but need it today? Buy online, pick up in-store has you covered. Bought something online but don’t want to mail it back? Return it in-store. Being able to take action regardless of the initial touchpoint is what customers are looking for. That’s why it’s so important that all of the back-end technologies are working together to support this experience. 

According to Acquia’s 2021 CX report, 48% of marketers are adopting strategies to unify the digital experience across platforms. And to execute this harmonious digital symphony, it requires coordinated tools. The technologies in a digital experience platform (DXP) bring these events to life, offering a centralized hub from which teams can create, manage, deliver, and optimize content-driven experiences across any and all digital channels.

5. Supply chain collaboration

Supply chains have always been a hot topic among retailers. And they’re a pain point that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. With these economic challenges and increasing sustainability efforts, understanding your supply chain will continue to grow in importance. 

As of October 2021, supply chain levels are making a comeback, but they’ve not quite recovered to pre-pandemic numbers yet. This is a source of frustration for retailers, sure, but it’s a make-or-break moment for consumers. Getting to a site only to find the product is sold out is annoying and making it all the way to your cart just to be told something isn’t available is even more irritating. That’s why many content marketers — 72% according to research we commissioned from Forrester — are using product information management (PIM) tools to coordinate product data to support customer experiences. 

How to embrace omnichannel retail in 2022

While many trends come and go, some just get stronger. We suspect these trends are here to stay throughout the year and will likely evolve in the future. Knowing that the next new thing is just around the corner, brands should remain agile and ready to embrace what comes next. Putting the right technology in place to support and scale throughout this evolution will make the transitions easier. 

To learn more about how a DAM and PIM solution can help your team embrace omnichannel retail, request a demo or check out a free trial of our platform, the Widen Collective®, today. 

Note: This article was originally published in July 2020 and is updated yearly to include new trends.  

Topics: e-commerce

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