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10 Ecommerce Marketing Trends to Look Out for in 2022

Alfred Lua
Alfred Lua
January 10, 2022
2 min read
10 Ecommerce Marketing Trends to Look Out for in 2022

Ever since I started my tiny notebook business in 2020, I have been keeping an eye on the ecommerce space—so much so that I joined ReferralCandy last year!

Then I worked daily in the ecommerce space for the past year. I started noticing trends that I think will continue and even grow in 2022. As you plan your marketing strategy for the new year, I hope this list of trends will be helpful.

  1. Brands will shift some budget from paid to organic
  2. TikTok and TikTok ads will become more popular
  3. Brands will work with more micro-influencers and differently
  4. More consumers will expect to check out on social
  5. Branded communities will become the norm
  6. In-real-life events will make a comeback
  7. Brands will find new ways to use SMS
  8. Retention and acquisition will get equal attention
  9. Personalization will go far beyond names (through quizzes)
  10. Shipping issues will continue to increase costs

I could be wrong. And I am likely missing some trends. Let me know!

1. Brands will shift some budget from paid to organic

If there’s anything we learned from the whole iOS 14 experience, it is to not rely solely on paid marketing. As a marketer myself, I know brands will never stop investing in paid marketing. Ads are still a great way to reach potential customers at scale.

But I think we will start seeing brands invest more and more in organic channels to diversify their customer acquisition.

Organic social media is getting rightful attention again.

Blogs will help build long-term organic traffic.

Newsletters will enable brands to reach their audience directly.

For example, daily essentials brand Ridge has a popular blog, The Journal, and a newsletter, The Switch, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Every send has a 60+% open rate, and almost nobody unsubscribes. CEO Sean Frank said they will invest much more ($500,000 specifically) in The Switch in 2022 and expand it beyond a newsletter into online and offline events.

Sean Frank Twitter Thread

The entire Twitter thread is worth a read.

2. TikTok and TikTok ads will become more popular

TikTok has more than 1 billion users who use the app at least once a month (a 45% increase from the year before). These people are also spending more time on TikTok than those on YouTube.

Many brands have already ventured into TikTok with mind-blowing results. Crumbl Cookies is an often-quoted example, with 3.3 million followers and 34 million likes. TikTok videos reviewing its cookies have generated millions (likely billions) of views.

Crumbl Cookie TikTok

Having said that, TikTok is also great for small, growing brands, such as the Asian-inspired hard seltzer brand Nectar Hard Seltzer, which built its business with its community on TikTok.

To me, TikTok feels like a slot machine where brands have a higher chance of going viral (as cliche as it might sound) than other platforms. It seems almost silly not to invest at least some budget into TikTok, given the tremendous upside.

Also, as iOS 14 has drastically affected the effectiveness of Facebook and Instagram ads, I believe TikTok ads will be an obvious alternative. TikTok ads could help you reach potential customers on the platform in the short term while you build your following—and hopefully, get that viral hit.

If you are looking to get started on TikTok, we have a guide for you.

3. Brands will work with more micro-influencers and differently

Besides ads, influencer marketing is another option for brands. Micro-influencer marketing to be exact.

Working with micro-influencers isn’t new (I wrote about the rise of micro-influencers in 2017!) But I think it has gradually taken a different form. Sponsoring posts was the most typical form of influencer marketing but people are increasingly tired of such paid posts. We are craving more authentic recommendations rather than blanket advertisements.

And micro-influencers have that authenticity, especially if they focus on certain niches. Also, there are many other ways to collaborate with influencers beyond sponsoring their posts:

  • Gifting free products (“product seeding”)
  • Creating organic content together
  • Launching new products together
  • Teaming up for events
  • Taking over your social media
  • Forming a brand ambassador program
  • And more!

One of the constant challenges with influencer marketing is finding the right influencers to work with. While micro-influencers connect better with their followers, they usually do not reach as many people as bigger influencers or ads. That’s why we are working on a solution to help small businesses find and collaborate with micro-influencers at scale. You can sign up for early access here.

4. More consumers will expect to check out on social

Social commerce is another trend that is several years in the making. Instagram launched Checkout in 2019, and it is still not available in every country yet. But as consumer expectations grow, social media platforms will build more tools for selling on social media. And as it becomes easier to sell (and buy) on social media, consumers’ expectations will again grow.

According to Shopify, “commerce sales generated by social integrations that offer buyers a seamless checkout experience nearly tripled year-over-year” during Black Friday Cyber Monday last year. One reason could be that we are more comfortable shopping on our mobile phones through the pandemic experience. And this is a behavior that will likely stay.

On the other hand, more and more social media platforms are building shopping features. Twitter started experimenting with live shopping this year (following the already-popular livestream ecommerce trend in China). They are even testing tools like Twitter Shopping Manager and Shop Module.

Live Shopping on Twitter

Even if social media platforms don’t offer the full shopping experience yet, there are tools, such as Shopify’s Linkpop, which allows brands to sell via a link on their social bio.

Shopify Linkpop

5. Branded communities will become the norm

Yes, most of the time, we just buy what we want and don’t want to be involved in what the brand does.

But some brands have been able to create a cult following and community around their brand. I saw this firsthand as a community manager at Buffer, which has a massive community. I believe this is another trend accelerated by the pandemic as we seek a sense of belonging and community while being physically isolated from others.

Instant ramen brand Immi, for instance (bad pun intended), has a private Facebook group of more than 4,000 members. Before launching their new product, the Immi team was able to conduct taste tests with enthusiastic fans. The fans even organically posted positive reviews in the community.

Kevin Lee Tweet

If you are new to building communities for your brand, we have a guide on community marketing.

6. In-real-life events will make a comeback

Talking about community building, let’s not forget in-real-life events.

(I forgot about this because many events are still not possible where I’m based but kudos to Becca Peng, former growth manager at Verb Energy, for bringing this up!)

After two years of virtual events, people are eager to get out and meet others. I know I am!

For example, four-square volleyball brand CROSSNET has been paying college athletes and professional athletes to host in-person tournaments and meetups. Events, influencers, and affiliates have become a big part of their marketing in the post-iOS-14 world.


Photo from CROSSNET

7. Brands will find new ways to use SMS

Here’s another observation by Becca, which I agree with:

“SMS will continue to increase in popularity, but to succeed brands will need to see it as complementary and/or supplementary to other [owned] channels. I think we’ll see very creative usages for SMS this year.”

Most brands use SMS for delivery notifications but SMS can be much more than that. For example, Ali Bonar, founder of Oat Haus, has been using SMS as a community-building tool, asking for feedback and starting conversations. Through a one-off campaign, the team received hundreds of replies with actionable feedback.

Ali Bonar Tweet

Screenshots from Ali Bonar’s tweets

One thing I’m less certain about is how brands that sell internationally would use SMS. It’s great for brands that are selling only in the US but as they expand internationally, there might be challenges rolling out a similar experience because of the different telecommunications companies in various countries.

8. Retention and acquisition will get equal attention

Whether retention or acquisition is more important for a brand is an endless debate. My sense is that brands will give both equal attention going forward. Brands that have been focusing on acquisition will invest more in retention, and vice versa.

Rising ad costs have led to higher customer acquisition costs. To deal with them, brands need to get their customers to shop more than once. On the flip side, retention is great but you would also want a constant influx of new customers.

But retention and acquisition don’t have to be two separate strategies. Referral and loyalty programs are an option to get new customers and reward existing customers at the same time.

For example, cleaning products brand Branch Basics has been running a successful referral program. CEO Tim Murphy said, “customers who try us turn into raving fans. Giving them $10 makes it easier for them to share about us and get the word out there.”

Branch Basics Referral Program

9. Personalization will go far beyond names (through quizzes)

A 2018 research by Epsilon found that “80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.” There are many more studies with similar findings.

Using {name} in emails is fancy but personalization means a lot more than that nowadays. As consumers get more and more product options to choose from, personalized product recommendations can help them find the right products to use.

One way to get better at personalization is through quizzes (Octane AI is a popular app option). In 2021, Jones Road Beauty launched a quiz to help customers find the right shade of makeup. That also allows them to recommend more personalized products to their customers.

Jones Road Beauty

Taking this a step further, instead of emailing every customer the same products, brands that know more about their customers will be able to email each customer products that are personalized to them—either based on their quiz answers or past purchases, or both.

There are many other benefits to having quizzes too.

As Cody Plofker, Director of E-Commerce at Jones Road Beauty, shared in his newsletter, “customers [who] go through our quiz have a higher conversion rate, higher AOV, and higher LTV. I haven’t looked, but I would guess they also have a lower refund rate. The quiz is also our best way to acquire emails. There are just so many benefits to it, so now we are going to take the time to make it amazing.”

10. Shipping issues will continue to increase costs

This is not exactly a marketing trend but I believe it would affect how brands sell.

We are in the middle of a global supply chain crisis, and it is likely that this will continue further into 2022. A merchant I personally know saw the shipping cost of his supply increase by four times in the last few months!

There are various ways brands are dealing with this.

  1. One option that was widely used during Black Friday Cyber Monday last year is offering gift cards, especially for products that went out of stock. If fundraising is any indication of a market’s growth, Shopify veterans Kelly Vaughn and Rhian Beutler recently raised $2.1 million to help businesses leverage digital gifting.
  2. Another interesting option came from a reddit post I saw recently: Shipping protection. Instead of bearing the cost of shipping issues themselves, some brands are offering customers shipping insurance for a small fee. Customers get peace of mind while the brands get to offset additional costs from shipping issues. It feels like a win-win.

Regardless of the option you go for, you likely want to allocate some budget towards dealing with shipping issues.

What am I missing?

There are emerging trends that I’m less certain about. For example, with the growth (or hype) in Web3, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), and the Metaverse, we might also see more forward-thinking brands jumping on those bandwagons. Though it might not become the norm in 2022. (Again, I could be wrong!)

Are there any ecommerce marketing trends you are anticipating in 2022 that I missed? Let us know!

Alfred Lua
Alfred Lua

Alfred does marketing on the ReferralCandy team. In his free time, he reads a lot and trains for triathlons.

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