What to Expect from eCommerce in 2022
By Richard Parkin
Across the last 12 months, we’ve seen some major changes for the Direct Response industry, and eCommerce as a whole, even more so than in other years.
Some of those changes were predictable from a long way out, like mobile’s continued domination of the eCommerce sphere. Some would have been shocking three years ago, but make sense in light of the pandemic – like the completely altered shopping hours we’ve seen across the board.
Some, however, came as a complete surprise. While iOS allowing users to opt out of tracking didn’t come out of nowhere, having been in planning for years, it still came as a shock for many. Similarly, Apple’s alteration for open rate tracking left many marketers stuck, finding that a previously-key metric was now even more accurate than ever.
So, while it’s never going to be possible to anticipate everything that’s going to happen across the next 12 months, the future is a lot more predictable than it may seem.
In this blog, we’ll take a look through some of the major planned changes for eCommerce, talk through a few likely points – and then dive into some predictions that almost certainly won’t come true.
What to Plan for in 2022
Below, I’ve put together some information about what several major tech providers have planned for 2022 – and what that means for your business.
By far the most popular desktop browser, Chrome is also generally a lot more forthcoming about their future plans than some other developers.
Thanks to the Chromium blog (and the 2021 Dev Summit), we’ve got a clear idea of what’s planned for the coming months at Chrome:
Increased Privacy: Chrome developers are currently working towards building a more private internet, giving users a greater ability to control their data – and minimizing the level to which marketers can use it.
Focusing on Core Web Vitals: Reading between the lines for the blog, Chrome’s development team plans to increase their focus on Core Web Vitals: signals for site performance, from loading speed to user accessibility. Now’s the time to ensure that your sites are all delivering excellent core web vital performance.
Better Responsiveness: Building a responsive site isn’t just about making sure everything’s readable on mobile. Chrome is building out new features for developers, allowing them to design more effective responsive options. Specifically, devs will be able to adjust elements based on the size of their parent containers, offering more in-depth customization than previous screen size-based adjustments.
As a note, while it’s unlikely to take place in 2022, there’s one other thing that you need to know about Chrome’s plans for the future. They’ve announced a complete removal of third-party cookies, almost identical to the iOS 15 update.
While Chrome developers initially planned to remove this form of tracking in 2021, regulatory pressure led to them pushing back the changes. Currently, Chrome’s dev team is aiming for a 2023 final launch for the feature, with some initial changes launching in late 2022.
In other words, if you’re still heavily using third-party tracking, now’s the time to start looking at alternative options.
Mobile – Apple & Android
While Apple tends to keep their plans somewhat secret, and with Android’s various branches meaning that their updates aren’t universal, predicting the future for mobile devices is far from simple.
That said, there are still a few points worth considering, largely for app developers.
Both Apple and Google have announced that they’ll be drastically improving their policies for how their app stores handle security, requiring extra checks for anyone processing payments.
This isn’t exactly a new development, but an expansion of existing trends. Over the last few years, customer privacy has been a key concern for companies like Google – this trend isn’t going to stop.
Throughout 2022, Google plans to heavily alter how their ad platform operates, with certain major changes set to make a real difference for the platform.
Critically, Google is preparing to end-of-life their longest-standing ad type, the Expanded Text Ad – while existing ETAs will continue to run, advertisers won’t be able to create new ones as of June 2022.
This change comes as part of Google’s drive towards automation for all advertising. Essentially, rather than being able to create specific text-based ads, advertisers will have to create Responsive Search Ads.
These feature several different headlines and body texts, with Google’s algorithm determining which combination they think will best appeal to a viewer. Of course, this presents some problems. Being unable to decide exactly what ad copy is displayed to a potential customer provides a clear limitation for advertisers – and if you’ve taken a look at your search terms recently, you’ll likely be aware of just how unusual the results of Google’s algorithms can be.
Additionally, the current RSA format removes quite a large amount of useful data: while you’ll be able to view CTR, CPC (etc) data for the ad as a whole, there’s currently no way to see statistics for each of the component pieces. While Google will tell you which pieces performed best, there’s currently no way to understand what that actually means in real-world terms.
Again, this is part of Google’s continuous drive towards ad automation – it’s a change that likely won’t be reversed. Now’s the time to start considering your PPC options.
eCommerce Possibilities for 2022
From the announced plans we’ve seen above, eCommerce trends for 2022 can be broken down into several distinct categories, each of which deserves some attention from eCommerce sellers and Direct Marketing businesses:
Increased Privacy & Security: Just about every eCommerce-related platform is working to improve customer security and privacy. As we’ve seen above, Apple’s removal of third-party tracking is far from the end. If you don’t plan to replace third-party cookies (or to supplement with another option), now’s the time to start planning.
This is far from a platform-driven drive. Consumers are increasingly aware of key privacy concerns, and this is reflected in their buying habits: very few people are going to buy from a site that exclusively uses HTTP. Take advantage of this by implementing trust icons – prove to your customers that they’re shopping securely, and you’ll likely see a tangible improvement for sales.
Optimized Site Performance: Site design has always been important – now it’s becoming even more crucial. Search engines are increasingly prioritizing fast-loading sites built with Core Web Vitals in mind, minimizing opportunities for poorly-built sites.
Similarly, expect search engines to further focus on mobile-first sites. Your websites shouldn’t just work on mobile – they need to work excellently.
Algorithmic Automation: While it’s far from ideal, there’s no doubt that platforms will continue to put more and more emphasis on automation. Google Ads is likely the best example, having removed option after option for manual ad optimization, replacing them with automated options.
Don’t expect this to go anywhere. Plan new ways to handle increasing automation.
Along with the certain and likely changes we’ve discussed, it’s worth considering a few of the most publicized possibilities for eCommerce – specifically, the ones that almost certainly won’t happen. If you’ve read through much industry news, you’ll likely have seen some of these discussed at length, marketed as inevitable changes.
Virtual Reality Sales: Whether it’s 3D films, VR headsets, or any similar technology, there’s a reason VR has always been a niche product – it requires extra effort. eCommerce succeeds because it’s more convenient for the end user.
Do you want to buy a headset, set it up, login to a company’s platform just to see a low-polygon representation of a product? Neither does any average consumer. There’s some vested interest in portraying VR sales as something new, exciting, guaranteed to succeed. In reality, just about every component has existed – and been unsuccessful, for years on end.
NFTs: Consumers don’t want these. After a solid year of every media outlet pitching NFT products, countless advertorials, celebrity endorsements, and similar, only 29% of adults have any interest in these whatsoever.
For comparison, consider 3D TVs again. In 2010, after a similar marketing blitz (and the support of the single highest-grossing film of all time), a full 39% of adults said they planned to buy a 3D TV in the next 12 months. Expect to hear a lot more about NFTs in the future – don’t expect them to matter in the long run.