Through the looking glass: 8 emerging D2C e-commerce trends that will dominate 2022

Dan Morrison
Dan Morrison
microscope on keyboard

Well, we’ve officially made it to 2022, and I’m not sure if congratulations or condolences are in order. Even though it might feel like we’re trudging into year three of Groundhog Day, the pandemic has consistently brought us one thing: innovation. That rings especially true in the world of D2C e-commerce, which has seen the rise of new features like ‘buy now, pay later’. And buy now, pay later is just one in a long list of e-commerce trends that have seemingly popped up in online shops around the world.

So, to take our minds off of the doom and gloom of the pandemic, we sat down with some of our expert partners to hear what they think will be at the forefront of D2C e-commerce innovation this year. 

Data (integration) is king: Cart.com

cart.com image

Mike Svatek, Chief Product Officer at Cart.com shared his thoughts on the wild world of D2C e-commerce in 2022:

“Delivering on all different e-commerce fronts requires a connected, data-driven approach. It’s all very well to say you’re going to provide better end-to-end customer experiences—but to achieve that, brands need end-to-end visibility to help optimize their performance. 

“Drawing operational data from marketing, sales, service, and fulfillment into a single unified analytics suite will prove more important than ever in 2022 as brands seek the tools they need to drive continuous improvement.

“Increasingly, brands will use AI tools to interpret data from across their organization in real time. Machine learning tools can spot anomalies or new trends in one operational area, then use those insights to inform strategic decision making in others. Marketing data can inform inventory management, for example, while customer service metrics can be used to troubleshoot fulfillment.”

Marketplaces and headless e-commerce: Storetasker

storetasker imagery

When we asked Tim Maesk, Director of Growth at Storetasker, what D2C e-commerce trends he expected to see this year, he pointed to the rise of marketplaces, NFTs, and Shopify 2.0:

“2022's going to be a really exciting year for e-commerce. There are three things I'm looking out for: Shopify 2.0, marketplaces, and NFTs.

“The first is the mass adoption of Shopify 2.0 (Dawn) and Hydrogen, which was announced at Shopify Unite 2021. The new features make competitor headless commerce solutions less attractive than they once were, which will shift the ecosystem even more in favor of Shopify. What's more is the way apps are integrated inside Shopify stores is changing—they're now becoming "blocks", which will make them easier to integrate and massively shake-up the rich ecosystem as a whole.

“Marketplaces: We're gonna see a lot more marketplaces. Canal's doing something interesting in the space, The Fascination is also paving a new path for modern marketplaces, and Oberlo and Handshake from Shopify are also incredibly important to keep an eye on.

“Crypto & NFTs: I need to educate myself more on the topic in relation to its implications in e-commerce, but I know it's coming. In 2022, there will be massive improvements in purchasing digital assets, and we'll see some huge players emerge from it. I can totally imagine a business like Superplastic taking advantage of the space.

“It's gonna be a fun ride.”

Back to the (virtual) basics: FounderMade

Foundermade: The destination for brand innovators of tomorrow

FounderMade’s COO, Lauren Everhart, pointed to the fact that there’s still work to be done in figuring out how to thrive—not just survive—in our not-so-new virtual world:

“2022 will be the year that we figure out how to excel at the basics, virtually. We've always known that 1x1 conversations with our customers and a personalized experience were the key to creating real value and a lasting relationship. 

“With 'virtual first' here to stay, this year will force us to align the processes, KPIs, and tools needed to rethink and rebuild the dialogue with our customers to really win in a digital world.”

Less influencing, more native content: Trend.io 

trend.io header

Ramon Berrios, CEO of Trend.io, called out the importance of building out a native content plan rather than relying heavily on influencer content:

“Having a good native content strategy will be more important for brands than having an influencer marketing strategy. A native content strategy will bring a better ROI than influencers because each dollar spent will go further and have a deeper impact. Native content builds community, communities build trust, and that trust turns into $$$. 

“Not only that, but when you produce native content you have total control of the narrative. That turns every piece of content into education for your viewers or followers, which then not only attracts a better customer but one that will stick around for longer. Take a look at what Ghost is doing as an example”

The rise of alternative funding: Swiftarc Ventures

expanded capital funding routes

Sumeet Shah, Venture Partnerships, NYC, Clearco and Venture Principal at Swiftarc Ventures, shared his thoughts about which D2C e-commerce trend would dominate 2022:

“Consumer startups will trend more towards democratized funding. Revenue-based options, equity crowdfunding, etc. will become a stronger source of capital as companies that leaned hard into their communities during the pandemic will diversify their growth capital strategies.

“With this, more pressure will be put on early-stage equity capital providers (venture capital, angels, etc.) to show why they're truly ‘value-add investors’. Is it partnerships with alternative capital providers? Is it key resources dedicated to growing companies efficiently and effectively? It's really a mix of everything.”

Artificial intelligence for real interactions: Ada

direct messaging tools

When speaking about which D2C e-commerce features we can expect to see more of this year, Daisy Nguyen, Product Marketing Manager at Ada, pointed to virtual assistants: 

“According to Forrester, ‘67% of metropolitan Chinese online adults—as well as 26% of US and 21% of UK online adults—already expect to be able to interact with companies via virtual assistants.’”

So, why does this really matter? According to Nguyen:

“Customers increasingly expect to be interacting with brands on digital channels—but brands are currently only offering the bare minimum automation capabilities, such as FAQs or order status tracking. Maintaining the status quo will not be enough for brands to compete in an exploding digital interaction landscape.

“Moving forward, brands will need to push their CX automation efforts into more creative directions to provide more value in automated brand interactions as well as elevate conversations between customers and agents. Similarly, as brands cultivate more channels for digital interactions across the end-to-end customer journey, they should leverage the analytics and prediction capabilities of AI to proactively engage with customers in meaningful ways.

“Brands who advance their automated CX capabilities will not only continue to cut costs, but will also increase revenue by forging stronger relationships with customers, leading to higher conversion rates.”

Brands who advance their automated CX capabilities will not only continue to cut costs, but also increase revenue by forging stronger relationships with customers.

- Daisy Nguyen, Product Marketing Manager at Ada

The death of cheap digital: Chamber Media

privacy and Facebook advertising

Founder of Chamber Media, Travis Chambers, explained why we should expect to see a big shift in the world of digital advertising: 

“Because of pressure on ad targeting privacy, the only way to get ROI through ads will be brand building and better creative through longer form, higher production videos. The era of cheap digital reach will end. 

“Over-the-top channels like Hulu will become more trackable, lucrative, and scalable additions to the marketing mix for leading e-comm brands and will start to bridge an attribution gap between digital and TV. 

“TikTok’s user base will get older and mainstream like Facebook’s did seven years ago. Its ad data will get richer, making for better targeting, tracking, and attribution. That competition will drive down Facebook and YouTube ads CPMs and stabilize ad costs moving forward with less price fluctuations.”

Fast and friendly shipping: Rivo

young woman unboxing package

Talking with Rishi Puran, Director of Global E-commerce for Rivo (Air Canada Cargo), he highlighted a hot topic over the past over the past months—shipping:

“Consumer demands have skyrocketed to the point where customers expect online orders to be delivered fast, for free, and with ease. 84% of online shoppers say shipping is the most important part of their e-commerce experience while 58% say delivery speed is a deciding factor for choosing e-tailers. 

84% of online shoppers say shipping is the most important part of their e-commerce experience. 58% say delivery speed is a deciding factor for choosing e-tailers.

- Rishi Puran, Global Director of E-commerce for Rivo (Air Canada Cargo)

“So, our prediction is that 2022 will be the year to unbox happiness! To help ensure next year is a success, choose a shipping partner who will be as devoted as you are to providing a seamless customer experience end-to-end. From first mile to last smile.”

The recap

While it may feel like we’re decades into this pandemic, it’s not all bad news. In year three of the seemingly endless lockdowns and restrictions, you can expect to see even more innovation in the D2C e-commerce world. 

Whether it’s ironing out kinks in your digital processes or integrating data for a more holistic view of your business, or doubling down on AI, it’s no doubt that D2C e-commerce will be leading the charge yet again in 2022. We’re just glad to be along for the ride. 

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