As retailers, predicting the future is part of the job description. You need to know what your customers want before they want it. And you have to be able to see trends and spot pitfalls before they happen. Otherwise, you can wind up with heaps of dead inventory, major financial issues, and unhappy customers.
Now that we’re about to head into the busiest time of the year for brands and retailers, it’s time to start planning for peak success. This includes understanding the market dynamics, current trends, and customer expectations that will shape this year’s peak season. Here are our top 5 holiday shopping predictions for 2022.
Holiday Shopping Will Start Sooner
Despite the pandemic, labor shortages, supply chain challenges, and inflation concerns, 2021’s peak season sales for retail—including eCommerce—increased over 14% from the year prior, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But one of the most interesting trends we saw during the past two peak seasons was their early start. By mid-October, businesses were already rolling out “Black Friday” deals, many of which occurred on a weekly basis throughout October and November. And Cyber Monday stretched into an entire week, rather than occupying its traditional, single-day slot on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Given the great success retailers saw by extending Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, this trend will very likely stick around this year as well. More businesses will jump on the early deals bandwagon and customers will get their shopping done earlier to beat the crowds and shipping delays that are so common during the holiday season.
Shoppers Will Keep Using BOPIS
When the pandemic began in 2020, concerns about health and safety compelled many retailers to offer click-and-collect options like buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pickup curbside (BOPAC). Unsurprisingly, even with lockdowns being lifted, these store fulfillment trends haven’t decreased in popularity due to their convenience and cost benefits for consumers. In fact, NRF found that BOPIS improved the customer experience for 70% of surveyed consumers by increasing convenience. And given that 90% of consumers NRF surveyed are more likely to choose a retailer based on convenience, providing BOPIS and BOPAC are essential for improving customer satisfaction and boosting sales this upcoming peak season. You can take this holiday shopping prediction to the bank.
If you still aren’t sold, consider that after a more than 100% increase of click-and-collect order fulfillment during the first year of the pandemic, Statista predicts that click-and-collect retail sales will keep growing at an annual rate of more than 15% until 2024. With results and predictions like these, it’s no wonder that large numbers of retailers and brands are implementing BOPIS strategies.
Shoppers Want Free Shipping
Who doesn’t like free stuff? And more importantly, what customer wants to pay more money to ship a product they’ve already purchased?
The short answer: no one.
As large eCommerce brands like Amazon continue to offer free shipping to their Prime members, consumers are getting more and more attached to the “free shipping” label. As a result, when resellers, wholesalers, boutiques, and omnichannel retailers slap a $10, $20, or even $30 shipping fee onto their order total, customers are likely to abandon their carts.
Heading into the 2022 peak season, it will be important for retailers and eCommerce brands to find ways to lower that shipping cost to zero, even if it requires price hikes for individual products or subscription memberships.
Shoppers Want Free and Easy Returns
If there’s a list of 2022 holiday shopping predictions that are virtually guaranteed to come to fruition, the annual surge of peak season returns should be on it. Every year like clockwork, customers flood stores eager to return or exchange products. Customer service representatives field thousands of phone calls and messages a day, and fulfillment centers and warehouses bog down with the influx of returned orders.
But one thing that isn’t guaranteed is the ease and expense of the returns process. In some cases, it’s effortless and free but, in others, it’s excruciating for everyone involved.
Since the push for convenience is permeating every aspect of the customer experience, businesses will need to make sure their return process falls into the former category this peak season. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing customers soon after the New Year’s fireworks end.
Shoppers Will Embrace Mobile Commerce
Every year, it seems we can’t get any more attached to our smartphones. But as online experiences improve and apps expand their functionality, we’re still finding new ways to use them.
According to Insider Intelligence, retail mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales topped $359 billion in 2021—an increase of 15.2% over 2020—and U.S. m-commerce is expected to nearly double its share of total retail sales between 2020 and 2025. And according to Statista, m-commerce sales as a percentage of total retail eCommerce sales increased from 52.4% in 2016 to nearly 73% in 2021. This trend is sure to continue during the 2022 holiday shopping season.
What does that mean for retailers and eCommerce businesses in 2022? Simply that mobile commerce needs to be at the heart of your peak season strategy. Everything from your marketing to your website, product catalog, and customer support should be accessible and user-friendly on mobile devices.
Holiday shopping in 2022 is gearing up to be an exciting if somewhat familiar season. As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these trends kicked off with the pandemic in 2020 or have been coming down the pipeline for quite some time. However, by working early sales into your game plan and enabling your customers to shop from their mobile devices, receive and return orders for free, and pick up products at the curb, you’ll be well-positioned for a profitable peak season that keeps customers happy and coming back for more next year.
Download our “How-to Guide for Doing BOPIS and Curbside Pickup Right” to ensure you effectively implement and optimize one of this year’s top holiday shopping predictions.