The changes driven by the pandemic have forced businesses to pivot online and now almost two years in, the demand for digital shows no signs of waning. Whether it’s capabilities such as purchasing directly from a social platform, easy mobile payments, or ordering online with seamless in-store pickup, consumers clearly want digital technology to take their shopping experience to another level. So, that being said, what are the consumer-driven trends which will impact our online experience in 2022?

1. Social commerce

In 2022, social commerce will go from an experiment to mainstream. Market research by Forrester shows that social commerce is building steam and is on track to become a significant sales channel for B2C brands. More people are buying online. Even consumers who preferred the brick-and-mortar experience adopted the convenience of online shopping during the pandemic and they won’t be reverting. Forrester also notes that a majority of Asia Pacific consumers use social media to discover (85%), research (83%) and buy (76%) products, proving to be an important sales channel for marketers. As a result, 55% of local marketers are looking to increase their social media marketing budget this year2.

The social networks - Facebook, Instagram, Snap and TikTok - are investing significant resources in launching new social shopping features. Snap is leading the charge in AR technology to power virtual trying-on, Instagram launched its Shops, which are essentially digital storefronts, and TikTok recently rolled out a suite of new shopping tools to place its stake in the ground when it comes to the battle for the commerce buck. The fact that these platforms already own the eyeballs of so many of the world’s consumers means that they pose a formidable threat to the existing eCommerce platforms when it comes to product discovery, product purchase and customer service.

One thing that’s important to note is that social commerce is more about the experience and less about the direct return on ad spend.

Tune Talk, a mobile virtual network operator in Malaysia, recognised the importance of using data to relate to their audience on social media. Employing Emplifi’s Social esb电竞数据投注电脑版 Cloud solutions, it created content that resonated widely across the social sphere. This improved the brand's engagement significantly, increasing comments (817%), content shares (703%) and love reactions (341%).

Social platforms have always led the way in introducing new content experiences, social commerce is no different. The creative, engaging aspect of social media can help to deliver stronger brand experiences, such as through the implementation of live video shopping or augmented reality (AR), while driving sales.

2. Live commerce

Live commerce will leave other forms of commerce lagging. Brands in Asia are most likely to go live compared to their counterparts. Data shows that the proportion of brands in Asia that went live on Facebook in Q3 2021 was 12%, the highest compared to other regions.

ECommerce as we have known it has always been a static experience - a product image, some text, and a buy button. Live commerce, especially in a post COVID world, brings the in-store experience to the digital world, where the human touch impacts performance. Live stream shopping experiences enable brands to connect in a raw and authentic way with their audiences. It’s real-time, conversational, and best of all, it drives up to eight times higher conversion rates than regular eCommerce, according to data from Go Instore, the video-powered retailer.

Influencers will also be a key part of the success of live commerce for brands. Audiences love the kind of authentic, raw style of content shared by influencers and the pandemic drove it to the next level.

Aside from presenting influencers in their most real and relatable moments, live streaming is powerful because it lets audiences interact in real-time, with on-screen questions and comments, all the while pushing them further and further down the funnel.

3. Connected social CX

Brands are learning that digital experiences need to be connected. The customer journey is no longer linear and the touchpoints that lead one customer to a brand’s doorstep may not be the same ones another customer goes through to reach the same result. In today’s digital world the buying decision is about the culmination of the entire customer experience. However, an experience gap exists between the experience a customer has with a brand and the experience the brand perceives it is giving the customer.

Many of the touchpoints on the customer journey are digital and the majority of those are happening on social media. Therefore, I predict that moving into 2022 we will see brands focusing more energy on understanding that experience gap and trying to close it.

The most effective, and efficient, way to do this is to utilise best-in-class CX tools with integrated social capabilities. By sharpening their toolset across the customer journey, from social marketing to customer care and social commerce, brands will give themselves the competitive edge they need in this cut-throat consumer race. On the flip side, the brands that neglect to address the customer experience gap will struggle to stay relevant and build lasting, meaningful relationships with their customers.

With consumer demand for online experiences propelling brands and businesses to digitalise their offering, the brands that can meet and engage with their customers where they are, will thrive in the coming decade. Consumers are online and for the vast majority, they are on social media. They want to be able to not only research and discover products on social media, but to interact with them, ask questions, leverage AR to try them on, and they want to be able to purchase too, in a seamless, intuitive way. The brands that get that will see their revenue go from strength to strength in 2022.

The writer is Varun Sharma, vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan, Emplifi.

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