eCommerce Trends That Will Shape Online Retail in 2022

This coming year, the eCommerce industry will be in flux like it always has been. That’s because eCommerce merchants are now more than ever creating and improving their online brands to meet customers where they are. While it may seem like nothing is certain in the industry, we have identified the biggest trends that will affect businesses as we move into 2022.

Marketers are finding alternatives to third-party data

In 2022, every brand will continue to watch privacy trends and Apple iOS. As a solution to the loss of third-party data, brands are starting to retake ownership of their first-party data.

Coming up is the iOS 13 release, which will effectively allow some tracking for email. This will be a boon for email marketing channels.

Owning customer relationships will be very important in the coming year. The more that brands can have a relationship directly with their customer and not rely on third-party platforms like Facebook and Google the better. In addition, the valuation multiple for brands that own their own customers is much greater than those that sell products through third-party retail. Take, for example, Revolve Group, the apparel brand that went public in 2019. According to the Harvard Business Review, Revolve’s premium valuation was based on the acquisition and retention model they had for customers. In other words, revenue was not as great a factor in valuation as the long-term potential revenue provided by owning their own customers.

These changes will impact small businesses disproportionately compared to medium-sized businesses. The more data owned, the cheaper it is to acquire customers. Because most small businesses are losing up to 50% of their data, to get the same results with ads, those businesses will need to spend twice as much to get to that statistically significant volume of conversions. Alternatively, smaller businesses may focus on organic and partnerships to bring in customers.

Content marketing is making a resurgence

Google made it official in August: Content marketing is now its number one ranking factor. Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide says, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.” The guide cites “blog posts, social media services, email…[and] forums” as examples of the type of content you need to rank atop search results.

With social content and video content becoming ever more impactful, smaller businesses will increasingly turn to content creation platforms and freelancer talent platforms (like Soona and Upwork, respectively) in order to produce cost-effective content and stay competitive with larger brands.

There has been a lot of hype about Artificial Intelligence (AI) content. While it’s already being used throughout the world, it is not perfect. While the heavy load of content creation can be somewhat automated, this coming year, whatever is produced will still need the discernment of a human eye.

Social media and internet use/adoption will experience more growth

As the algorithms used in social media apps (such as TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) grow more sophisticated, businesses will gain a deeper understanding of individuals and the opportunity to give highly targeted offers. We are going to see a lot more personalized and targeted advertising in other formats, such as educating, content, television, etc.

As consumers continue to spend more dollars online, businesses will become ever more aware that their website is their brand. Many businesses will ensure that their websites provide an outstanding experience and are optimized for mobile devices to maximize conversions. We will see many brands that are slower to adopt technology being left behind.

In addition, many more digitally native brands will emerge. They will own their own customers, and will not start with a brick and mortar business, but rather start online and then grow into physical locations.

Digitally native brands have a particular advantage in that they have very low startup costs and shorten the feedback loop. They don’t have to sign big leases or wait months for retail data to come in. They can see real-time what people are doing on their site. Non-digitally native brands will need to address this by continuing to pivot to a more hybrid model or by creating ways to meaningfully engage with customers, especially if their products are traditionally sold at grocery and retail brands.

Influencer marketing is emerging as a channel in its own right

Micro-influencers are still a largely untapped opportunity that offers greater ROI than traditional advertising channels.

However, this channel does not come with its own risks. Big-name influencers can ironically lose credibility with too many sponsored posts. There is also the possibility that the accounts have fake followers. Genuine and profitable social accounts have engagement (likes, shares, comments) rates of over 5 percent. Followers is a vanity metric, but engagement is a sanity metric.

Most brands that find success with influencer marketing will not pay for massive influencers. Instead, they will find micro-influencers who are genuinely passionate about their brand. Those influencers are happy to simply receive products they love in exchange for being vocal ambassadors and advocates. That’s how GymShark and others did it!

Micro-influencers tend to have around 5,000 followers and are easily found through hashtags. As a bonus, the social content produced by micro-influencers can be reused and recycled.

Video and social content is overtaking other marketing channels

TikTok said in September that it now tops 1 Billion monthly active users. That content is all video. Facebook tried to compete with introducing Instagram Reels and still sees 2.91 Billion monthly active users. However, TikTok, owned by ByteDance, is closing in and growing rapidly.


The eCommerce industry is always developing. People and technology are ever-evolving, and as brands wield these two assets, we must constantly look to the future to gain new insights into how our businesses must adapt. One thing is certain: the best time to learn new technologies, strategies, and platforms to improve your business is right now.

Carolyn Lowe is the Founder and CEO of ROI Swift, a digital marketing agency located in Austin, Texas, that helps emerging consumer brands grow profitably.


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