The Shopify Plus team recently released their 139 page piece: “The Future of Commerce Trend Report 2022” – a data-backed look at the direction our industry is going. They split the piece into three buckets, the future of A) eCommerce, B) Retail, and C) Shipping & Logistics.
You can download it from Shopify’s website here!
A few members of the Shopify team, alongside a merchant of theirs (Doe Lashes, represented by their 24 year old founder & CEO: Jason Wong), gave a great webinar on February 15th that summarized the points of the report, with some very interesting color.
We’re giving you the overview of that webinar here to make your life a bit easier. But feel free to check out the webinar and read their report!
We all know that webinars and industry reports alike can have a fair amount of relatively basic or intuitive information shared. This webinar was no different, but that should not take away from the valuable pieces we extracted! Very worth the hour-long presentation.
Plus, Shopify has a great design, brand, and content team building good experiences for merchants and industry partakers.
They gathered the data that informed all their insights through a mix of interviews, relationships with analyst companies looking at the sector, and data going through their own platform.
The team spotlighted three different brands as a part of the webinar, 2 via well-edited, premade videos, and then one live panel member who weighed in on topics and answered Q&A at the end.
We’ll spell out the core takeaways below, but the Q&A session with the founder of Doe Lashes was particularly engaging – you can always skip down to that part (if you’re excited)!
Before diving in… the biggest takeaway that we can probably all empathize with is this: shoppers are now focusing on and buying from brands that they resonate with: beliefs, values, voice, and personality. People are being intentional with how they shop, and with that comes challenges and opportunities.
That means understanding (or defining) what your values are, displaying them publicly, and figuring out how to communicate them to your prospective customers. Sustainability is a huge factor, as is lifestyle. Figure out what makes your audience tick and make sure you’re aligned!
Future of eCommerce
The story here was relatively straightforward.
eCommerce brands are focusing on long-term relationship building with their customer base. This is becoming increasingly important given a few factors.
Data privacy and good-bye to cookies. Because privacy is a larger concern and technology is adapting to support consumer preferences to remain anonymous, it’s harder to do tracking, attribution, and optimization using some methods.
Higher cost of acquisition – namely through advertising costs. Due to both tracking, competition, and cost trends, it’s more expensive than ever to generate new leads and buyers from ad spend.
Messaging reach is shrinking. Brands are unable to reach with as wide of a net as they used to. In combination with the above trends, the ability to get in front of more relevant audiences has dropped 15-20%.
So what to do?
Recommendation #1: Invest in your Brand!
Don’t forgo normal advertising! But the Shopify team recommends focusing 60% of resources on brand-building campaigns that last at least 6 months: to generate the brand-awareness and alignment that is becoming so important to win over consumers.
We thought it was funny to say, but we’ll repeat it: don’t forget to monitor your website and social media analytics during these campaigns!
Recommendation #2: Diversify your channels!
This is easier said than done of course, but the high level point was emphasized as an important tactic to employ moving forward.
The newer methods are interesting and have potential to engage different audiences: voice shopping, “live” shopping, augmented reality, Messaging apps, communities, etc.
Spotlight on eCommerce brand: Doe Lashes
This section was very fun. We learned the story behind this cosmetics and accessories brand. Jason, the founder, claims he didn’t know anything about lashes, but his partner struggled with it personally and he was inspired to help solve this problem for all lash-wearing humans!
A few topics were discussed.
Personalization through data, but using consent-provided data.
Jason and the Doe Lashes team believes in ethical data capture, and eschews the idea of list-purchasing.
His primary methods of capturing customer data on his website with consent – and in an engaging way – are two fold. One, by offering email capture pop-ups (with offers or subscription probes).
The second is by using online quizzes to collect explicit input about the shoppers – not only their preferences but also their core attributes as a category of human.
What type of eyelashes do you have? What color eyes? Do you have double eyelids? And so on. This is gold.
They use Octane AI to power their website quiz, and that software feeds data directly into Klaviyo for email optimization and personalization.
“Live” Shopping is on Jason Wong’s radar, he is excited to start bringing this experience to his store. The trends in China have been ahead of the United States for certain technological advancements and shopper adoption within eCommerce – but the US is catching up!
Additionally, he thinks the use of augmented reality (AR) is a fun and engaging addition to their site. Given the personal nature of eyelashes, he believes seeing a picture of your face with lashes on them provides shoppers with the experience they need to make quality purchase decisions.
Warby Parker launched this a couple years back on their mobile app and it’s been a wonderful addition to the buying experience for glasses-wearers – (I too am a “four-eyes” and quite enjoyed that process!)
Importance of Content per Channel: Tik Tok vs others.
Doe Lashes has done an incredible job using Tik Tok as a channel. Jason emphasizes the pains in getting started: they didn’t have followers for months, largely because they were duplicating content from other social media (like Instagram) over to Tik Tok.
The big lesson came when the team realized the difference between the different social channels, and capitalized on it appropriately and accurately.
- Users don’t want to leave the app. Low conversion rates to purchase, but high engagement, discovery, and awareness-building.
- The type of content that resonates best is raw, shot on iPhone, and transparent: Posting behind the scenes, honest content about the brand. This is where you can dig into the pains, struggles, and difficulties – as well as try-on’s and organic “human” moments.
- Voice is extremely important to connect with the audience. Find a social media manager for Tik Tok that is experienced in this channel specifically, ideally someone who is already an influencer who generates content and knows the in’s and out’s of the application.
- Instagram works as a beautiful storefront to display products, well-design brand images, products in use, and customer generated content.
- The instagram posts are more manicured and tend to convert much higher than a social media channel like Tik Tok or Twitter.
- Not mentioned on the webinar – but otherwise well understood – Facebook (or Meta) is still a higher conversion social channel for generating conversions.
- Twitter acts as your company’s announcement board, providing notices to the public for quick updates.
- Conversations and engagement happens on Twitter in some industries, but less with eCommerce brands than with other types of businesses.
- While Pinterest has many uses for product awareness and exploration, advertising, and likely some strong conversions for certain sub-sectors, this webinar referred to this channel as more of a mood board.
Future of Retail
This section was a bit shorter and leaned on a great video overview of the Australian swimwear brand Tigerlily
Core to this section, the Shopify team shared that to stay relevant, retailers must create omnichannel experiences.
Lines have been blurred between online & in person purchasing – not only do 53% of interviewees say they are likely to look at products in-store and buy online, but brands are experiencing that first hand.
Recommendation #1: Use your brick and mortar store as a showroom
The idea here is fairly intuitive, and in some ways can happen naturally: shoppers come into your store physically, see the products, engage and try-on and get a feel for the brand and experience – but then buy later online.
Ways to improve this process:
- Focus on a stellar in-store experience. More ways to engage with the products in creative ways.
- Deprioritize holding more inventory on hand in the store, and store that inventory in warehouses to ship.
- Train in-store employees to provide easy “buy now online” offers before the customer walks out, or send unique links to their email or phone for easy conversion after the fact.
Recommendation #2: Unify the omnichannel tracking and distribution under a single platform
Work to improve your customers’ experiences with data.
- 1. Track product performance across channels
- 2. Sync product info, and transaction mechanisms, across channels
- 3. Use brick & mortar locations as fulfillment centers
By using one tool, brands can reduce friction and maintain a seamless experience for shoppers – plus maintain better data about engagement, success, and optimization opportunities.
Tigerlily uses their store as a beautiful, engaging display of products and makes the transition from viewing in-store to buying on line seamless.
They switched platforms in November – despite the risks of going into the holiday season with new technology. But it was worth it to have the best experience for customers and the best data usability.
Future of Shipping & Logistics
The reality is that the current difficulties in shipping and logistics – with delays, costs, vulnerabilities, and other weaknesses in supply chains – are here to stay for a while longer. So how do we adapt?
Besides planning ahead and accurately forecasting demand to order the right amount of inventory in advance, brands are starting to focus on the sustainability components of this arm of the business as an area for both optimization and for being values-driven.
While shoppers now prefer to align with brands whose values they align with – sustainability being a big one – brands also are modernizing and progressing in the longevity-view of our planet without the need for shopper purchases as the only incentive. Many brands are distancing themselves from partners who won’t help them meet their sustainability goals.
The Shopify team provided two recommendations for handling the realities of shipping & logistics in 2022.j
Recommendation #1: Digitize & integrate technologies to anticipate disruptions and demand
Invest in cloud based solutions that stay ahead of issues. Sync all data about every node in your supply chain into one view.
- A) This allows you to have visibility into what’s going on and where bottlenecks occur – and thus can plan around them.
- B) The unified data will be much easier to plug into AI and ML systems that can do more predictive analysis. These systems can go a long way in bringing intelligence to the decision making process across the logistics of an eCommerce business.
Jason Wong of Doe Lashes provides a few ideas for newer brands that want to start off being sustainable, despite not having the budget for it up front.
- Look for brands you admire that are similar to your offering in some way, and copy what they are doing. Don’t reinvent the wheel up front. Imitation is a form of flattery!
- For example: Doe Lashes started with sustainable yellow envelopes before doing sustainable custom, bulk-ordered packaging.
- Aim to be carbon neutral. At checkout, you can offer different options to customers that list the carbon footprint – thus allowing the customer to intentionally select a preference on environmental impact, and pay for that.
- Expand inventory into multiple warehouses, decreasing travel times and, thus, the emissions associated with shipping longer distances.
- Audit your processes and the nodes across your supply chain for inefficiencies and poor performance.
Plus they mention to watch out for “Greenwashing”, and not to get confused with that messaging.
(In case you need a quick definition: “Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice that involves unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service attributes. … It undermines companies that actually utilize sustainable practices and makes it harder for conscious consumers to make eco-friendly decisions with their wallets”)
Recommendation #2: Make it easy for consumers to understand how they can be sustainable.
This one is pretty straightforward in concept, but getting tactics on how to do it takes some work.
The highlight here was on the eCommerce brand “A Good Company”, where the video dug into the sustainable efforts of this European accessory store.
One compelling point A Good Company’s founder makes is to urge consumers not to get used to Amazon Prime, where you order just one thing that gets shipped to you. There is a cost in shipping only one thing and the climate is the one that’s paying.
This company shares all the details about design, process, and sources, etc, so their customers can be informed about the materials and sustainable processes.
They also try to educate on the climate impact of orders – for example, if you order and want it delivered tomorrow, the cost in emissions is (for example) 10 kilos. However, if you wait a few days, then we can bulk up orders and it will be (for example) only 1 kilo instead.
He, too, suggests more warehouse hubs to reduce travel emissions for each delivery.
How does Doe Lashes do Community Building?
Jason Wong says that the word “Community” is very popular in the direct to consumer (D2C) world – especially in the last few years. And he’s right. Even B2B companies are enamored with the idea of building a community.
But it starts with defining it. Originally it had to do with the geographic proximity of a group. And later, online, it shifted to a group who shared interests in something or another. Jason says that a community is defined by having a common interest that allows offline conversations.
Doe Lashes realized their audience was younger, and went to meet them where they were at: on Tik Tok and Discord.
Discord especially has become the true community, where the Doe Lashes team provides updates and gets feedback on product development, company building, brand updates, and more. They get real involvement and participation!
Loyal community members will send alerts if there is a problem with the website, and even give ideas for campaigns to run.
You can’t force a community: you need to find people with a common interest or love first. That means creating a brand and product set that is worth loving!
Discussing more on the conversion rates and feedback loops from traffic sources
All social media platforms are not the same, so treat them appropriately for their use case – and set expectations properly for what benefits you’ll derive.
Instagram has higher conversion rates for Doe Lashes – Jason and his team know this and act accordingly.
Tik Tok is a higher funnel, brand building and community fostering play. This is where product and brand discovery happens, so they optimize for those goals.
Jason Wong shared that he simply wouldn’t be a trusted voice if he did the videos for Doe Lashes on Tik Tok. Thus, he had to find an influencer and content creator with a great voice that would be trusted by their customer base.
Finding an influencer doesn’t have to be hard. Search hashtags, topics, and utilize software that helps to match brands with influencers.
How to go about getting a “Quiz” on your brand’s website?
The attendees of this Shopify webinar seemed very interested in the Doe Lashes “quiz” on their site.
Jason opened up, saying they used Octane AI to build their quiz – which has great functionality. But he recommends getting started at low cost with Type Form or a similar tool.
The purpose of this quiz is to engage customers, collect the right type of information – self confirmed, and provide recommendations that are directly tailored to that person. Personalization is important in these more intimate industries: lashes, cosmetics, and purchases that touch the skin or body are more likely to succeed with quizzes like this.
Notably, these are not post-purchase surveys, which also are valuable themselves to run campaigns around – getting feedback and collecting useful information.
How does Doe Lashes incentivize their customers to leave reviews and post photos of their products in use after purchasing?
Doe Lashes succeeds in getting social involvement and reviews from their customers post-purchase.
To incentivize this behavior, they recommend:
- Using coupons and offers – this is the lowest hanging fruit
- Introducing a reward program. Doe Lashes uses Smile, which gives points for leaving reviews that ultimately provide in-store credits.
- Having a product that is stellar and differentiated actually creates a social incentive in itself. Like sharing a brand new song you heard that was amazing, you want the social clout of discovering “the most comfortable lash brand”.
- You can also feature customers on your brand’s social media page – touching the emotional status incentive of humans wanting to be seen and recognized.
What other tactics are recommended – outside of paid ads – to drive discoverability?
This is a huge question – and the answers by Jason Wong were terrific.
There were a few main categories here.
1) Get customers to post for you, and incentivize them to do so.
By offering discounts or coupons or even just promoting that shopper on your public brand’s social media presence, your team can get existing happy customers to post to their friend groups and following, spreading your products and brand to other like-minded individuals.
Some tools exist to view your customers’ social media followings. You can then talk to the most popular customers first as potential influencers – starting organic and even expanding to a paid relationship depending on ROI.
Doe Lashes uses the “Fawn Club” – which is a group of loyal customers who post on instagram and in exchange get free products from the brand. There are creative ways to go about this!
2) Get your CEO, Founders, or leadership to talk about your brand… a lot.
By being present all over the place, there are more opportunities to get picked up by business publications or lifestyle publications. These can snowball into a lot of new traffic.
One example mentioned how a founder was booked to speak on 90 podcasts as part of a bigger effort and it worked out beautifully. Just telling the story of the company’s founding and mission created lots of fans, traffic, and new customers.
3) Be cooperative and collaborative with other brands that have complementary products or offerings.
Tools like Carro or Co Op allow you to cross-sell your products on other websites, after a shopper has made a purchase. This creates product and brand visibility to new potential customers, but without cannibalizing or stealing traffic from another store.
Software enables you to share audiences and ultimately create a more collaborative environment with eCommerce brands who are looking to help each other grow. Needless to say you can exclude direct competitors from these cross-postings!
You can also do a big cross-brand giveaway, building a big joint-list of email addresses and run a shared campaign. This is fun, interesting, new, and can generate a big cohort of net new traffic.
In summary, the webinar was a great hour spent learning and absorbing some relatively basic and intuitive trends, but with very interesting and powerful specifics, details, and tactics.
The 3 featured brands are doing great things! They create a lens of what 2022 (and beyond) should look like for eCommerce companies dealing with the online, in-store, and logistics arms of running a business.
And if you’d like to talk about the trends in eCommerce with an eye towards technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), our team at Jarvis ML would love to chat. You can learn more here.