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There are very few shoppers in the developed world who have failed to notice the gigantic shift towards eCommerce and its acceleration due to the Covid 19 pandemic. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK online sales rose to a record high of 33.9% as a share of all retail spending in 2020 compared with 2019.

The disruption of the past two years has forced us to nurture our online shopping tendencies as we’ve endured lockdowns and high street temporary closures. Almost three quarters of consumers admit to developing a greater dependence on online shopping since the start of the pandemic. Before March 2020, Brits completed around five (5.13) shops per month online, but this rose to 6.35 trips per month between May and June 2021 – an eCommerce increase of 24%. During the same period, in-store shopping decreased by 15 per cent, further evidence of a tangible gear change in habits.

Consumer access to mobile technology is helping to catapult this shift. Mobile devices now account for the majority of consumer sales. A staggering 84% of people across the globe own a smartphone, and are increasingly willing to use it as a trusted channel for making purchases. Further, people who would not have considered buying online pre-pandemic are now regularly doing so – largely baby boomers and older audiences – and are planning on sticking with it due to the convenience and reinforced trust gained from direct personal experience.

So let’s look ahead to 2022 and beyond, and consider the key trends most likely to impact the eCommerce world – and how retail marketers will look to exploit them to drive online sales.

Trend #1: Mobile-first market

From a marketing perspective, mobile-enabled shopping is going to continue to be heavily encouraged by brands who want to close sales in fewer steps. They can send customers an email, nudge or notification that allows them to make a purchase at the touch of a screen, incentivised with a discount or sale and reinforced via targeted paid ads. Soon, voice-activated searches will be fully operational across mobile devices, creating a further opportunity for marketers to extend their presence, and encouraging shoppers to make even more purchases from their phones.

Trend #2: A need for speed

Successful, often larger, eCommerce retailers understand that, such is the extent of availability and choice in the online arena, the key to sealing the sale is often speed. Research has shown that 39% of shoppers want next day delivery while 31% demand same day. In 2022, we’ll see heightened competition from brands desperate to use speed as their unique selling proposition. And as more of the big retailers embrace speedier fulfillment, the smaller firms may feel they have little choice than to follow suit, often at their own expense.

Size and scale often puts retailers at an advantage when it comes to creating slick and speedy logistics and delivery propositions. Fortunately for smaller eCommerce players, however, new fulfillment technology providers are out there to support their growth and ensure a level playing field on which they can compete with the retail giants.

Trend #3: A need for even more speed

As we’ve seen across both high street retail and hospitality in the past two years, so-called dark stores and kitchens have proved an effective Covid-related business pivot, and will increase in popularity in the year ahead. We’re going to see fulfilment centres adapting to this concept to offer yet more speed in the race to support these new clients. Two hour or even 60-minute deliveries will be enabled so that customers can order and receive popular items in core urban locations. We’re seeing this take off in several European markets, such as Madrid and Barcelona, and we’re also expecting a surge in last-mile delivery companies that can offer these services in additional locations where there are ordering hot-spots.

Trend #4: Tech-powered shopping experiences

This year, further change on the high street is inevitable, and we’re expecting major retailers to follow in the footsteps of stalwarts such as Next, who have weathered the storm admirably. As one of only a few retailers still opening new stores, albeit largely on out of town retail parks, Next utilises its facilities as showrooms, giving customers the tactile experience of buying furniture, clothes and soft furnishings. What we’ll see increasingly in 2022 is an extension to the showroom concept, with retailers marrying up their in-store and online offerings more closely. Click and collect is performing well for many retailers, but we also expect to see technology incorporated into the shopping experience in store, for example, helping customers visualise furniture, white goods and other items in their own homes.

Behind-the-scenes improvements will drive the next eCommerce surge

The eCommerce revolution is alive and kicking and we’re likely to be set for another record breaking year of growth, both in the UK and across mainland Europe. In fact, at the current growth rates, the biggest barrier to eCommerce dominance will be operational shortcomings behind-the-scenes – where retailers are over-relying on legacy IT systems, or they’re locked into contracts with lumbering and slow traditional fulfilment providers.

However, these problems are not insurmountable. Many firms in this space are investing heavily in technology and human expertise to resolve any outstanding issues and meet the growing consumer demand. Ultimately, the message for all retailers in 2022 is clear. The businesses that embrace eCommerce, and understand what is required operationally to satisfy evolving consumer needs will be the ones to flourish in 2022, while those clinging on to times gone by are likely to endure another bumpy ride.

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