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By Lisette Huyskamp, Chief Marketing Officer, Productsup

The commerce industry has experienced significant technology advancements and innovation over the past year – and momentum continues to grow. But what should the industry keep an eye on in the next several months?

The rise of the metaverse and NFTs

Facebook rebranded as Meta in 2021, and its moves toward building a metaverse future has already gained traction. Many people misconceive the metaverse to be a virtual reality playspace; however, the metaverse will go beyond that to blend augmented reality into the experience as well. For example, consumers can engage with the metaverse through special AR glasses. But how is this monetised and translated into the commerce space?

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are an example of “currency” in the metaverse, which will likely be mainstream by the end of 2022. These tokens offer infinite possibilities in the virtual world and for online or offline transactions. The largest NFT trading marketplace, Opensea, traded a staggering $3 billion in volume in August 2021 alone. With NFT platforms showing such promise, it is no wonder that huge brands are starting to jump on board.

For example, Adidas announced its first collaboration with “Bored Apes Yacht Club”, a digital collectible space and “online social club”. This news caused a significant snowball effect with other retailers and brands like Nike, Rolex, and Asics quickly following suit. Samsung Electronics has also dipped its toes into digital reality opening the virtual doors to their very own immersive metaverse experience. This teleports consumers into the flagship store in the heart of New York City’s meatpacking district where you can pick up your NFTs.

Advancements in the metaverse will provide different shopping experiences, much like Adidas and other brands are already starting to offer. Consumers could either go to offline stores and buy their digital Asics trainers for their meta-job or stay at home and take the same shopping trip virtually. The possibilities are endless.

Whether the commerce environment remains traditional, shifts entirely virtual, or moves into augmented reality, retailers will always put items in front of customers in a way that appeals to them – triggering sales and strengthening brands. But integrating the commerce ecosystem into the metaverse requires a radical rethink of product information value chains (PIVCs) to ensure companies provide a unified customer experience.

Livestream shopping will replace home-shopping

In 2021, the most surprising trend was the reboot of TV shopping – albeit now entirely digital and renamed ‘livestream shopping’. This commerce strategy allows brands to promote and sell their products through live streamed events, and is often done in collaboration with influencers. It is becoming increasingly popular with Gen Z, Gen Alpha and millennials, as it provides an interactive and immersive experience that allows consumers to ask questions and socialise during the time of the stream.

As more entrants plunge into the world of ‘livestream shopping’ and reap the benefits, it is no surprise this side of social commerce is taking off. Most recently, Pinterest TV and Instagram’s Live Shopping events both launched as new channels that enable a seamless experience with in-app purchases for billions of active users instantaneously.

The blurring of online and offline commerce

To avoid the impact from the pandemic-induced lockdowns, offline high street retailers had to invest in digitalisation and shift to a new online-offline hybrid business model.

Offline brands have moved online by introducing click & collect, or putting new systems in place which allow customers to experience products in-person and purchase them online later. On the other hand, huge online brands like Amazon have started moving offline, creating their first physical clothing stores. Fitness brands Gymshark and Peloton have also affirmed their offline presence by opening up their first physical stores on the highstreet.

The success of online-offline hybrid business models is reflected in the cosmetic brand Rituals, which saw a huge 25% growth in 2021. Despite 500 pandemic-induced store closures across Europe and varying restrictions for social distancing, Rituals had to rethink how it does business. This meant investing more in online experiences. As a result, Rituals has seen even more sales than before the pandemic and is leaning even further into its online-offline hybrid model. The company is investing in its €10m show-case store ‘House of Rituals’ and is looking to expand into Asia in the not-so-distant future.

The trend towards a seamless omnichannel experience and the blurring of online and offline commerce will continue as the year progresses. Brick-and-mortar and ecommerce are no longer two separate entities, and brands that are quick to adapt to this hybrid business model will be better positioned to succeed.

Sustainable shopping will become mainstream

Sustainability was previously only sought out by a minority of shoppers and was made inaccessible to the majority as products sourced, manufactured, transported, and sold did not meet any objective sustainable criteria. This all started to change as the 2021 European E-commerce Report demanded sustainability to be high on all e-shoppers’ agenda in every country.

The key drivers behind the substantial growth of sustainable shopping are the buyers that understand the links between environmental issues, unsustainable manufacturing, and supply chains. Coupled with complete transparency of supply chains, sourcing, ingredients, packaging, and delivery options due to the shift to social and mobile commerce, unsustainable shopping has nowhere to hide.

If companies like H&M want to operate in a sustainable way and not contribute to fast fashion landfills, they need better visibility of their supply chains, but they also need to ensure the right products are ordered and delivered. A key part of sustainable fashion is reducing the number of returns. Providing more accurate product information that is rich with images, videos, size comparisons, and more ensures customers order the right products, and ultimately reduces returns.

More than 70 leading retailers have committed themselves to following the BRC Climate Action Roadmap. This aims to bring the CO2 emissions of the industry and its supply chains down to net zero by 2040. Businesses are also starting to identify and integrate their sustainability into the crucial moments just before a purchase. An example of this success is on the John Lewis website, as there has been a 650% increase in searches for ‘sustainable’ homeware.

In the not-so-distant future, there will be a gradual movement towards a metric that measures, judges, and scores sustainability. These systems will automatically transfer into legislation. Green marketing campaign agencies have already surfaced that push the true sustainability of their product and supply chain, making them more attractive to consumers. Sustainable shopping and its hugely important value system will continue to cement its presence in the progression of ecommerce.

Social commerce will take over in 2022

The social commerce space has exploded, but why has this been so popular with consumers?

TikTok recently joined the party in 2021 and other social media giants followed closely behind. The platforms have been successful because they provide a seamless consumer experience whilst allowing in-app purchases. With the increasing complexity of the social commerce space, how can vendors hit all of the channels at the right time, find the right consumer, and then place the perfect product in front of them? Managing these new channels has become impossible in the face of commerce anarchy, and to maintain customer loyalty and a competitive edge, retailers must rethink their commerce strategies.

To succeed in 2022, brands, retailers, marketplaces, and service providers will have to invest in effective product-to-consumer (P2C) management. This helps products reach customers across the complex social commerce maze and helps maintain market position and create sustainable success. A recent report shows 99% of senior decision-makers are interested in implementing a P2C management approach, proving this is what companies need to drive business forward in 2022.

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