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2022 Predictions: E-commerce everywhere



2022 Predictions: E-commerce everywhere

Next year, e-commerce will be a driving force in how marketers engage with customers. E-commerce strategies will penetrate channels like TV, social media and in-store experience, to a greater extent than marketers could have imagined.

Marketers will adapt their e-commerce strategies to be more personalized, simplify their customer data and marketing stack, incorporate shoppable ads and even retrain their in-store associates to better accommodate digital-first shoppers.

Simplified stack

The future of e-commerce will be driven by personalization. To improve accuracy in messaging, as well as ROI, brands will have to simplify data sources and their e-commerce stack, according to Tracey Ryan O’Connor, Group Vice President at personalization technology company Qubit, which was recently acquired by AI-powered experience platform Coveo.

“Overall, brands have achieved a high return on investment in their personalization spend, but the e-commerce and digital marketing stack has grown very complex, which has led to disparate data sources that threaten the effectiveness of delivering personalized experiences,” said O’Connor. “As a result, brands began efforts to simplify the tech stack and cut down on the number of customer data sources from which they create actionable intelligence in 2021. 

She added, “I believe these efforts will accelerate in 2022 with simplification as the driver for further innovation in personalization leading to convergence with product discovery.”

Getting more personal

As we saw in the most recent holiday shopping push, seasonal events are spreading out over a longer period of time. Cyber Monday has become Cyber Month. And Amazon’s Prime Day summer promotions are really more like “Prime Week.”

In 2022, buyer journeys will continue to get more personalized. Marketers who pay attention to these data signals will gain a competitive edge.


“By merging personalization and product discovery, brand marketers and merchandisers will be able to leverage data from these sources, including the combined view of customers, to ensure they are tailoring each visit and experience at every level and every touch point of the shopping journey,” said O’Connor.

AI optimization

“We’ll see AI-powered personalization evolve to deliver more highly customized experiences in 2022,” O’Connor stated. “This entails machine learning models that consider all customer behaviors as well as various data sources that can be fed, ingested, and leveraged to better understand consumers at scale.” 

She added, “We’ve already moved past the one-size-fits-all AI model, to algorithms that meet the demands of individual customers without having to ‘test and learn’ each time. For example, new AI models can be used to power product carousels that are based on your location, or behavior, or even the weather.”

E-commerce merges with in-store

While the product discovery journey will be individualized through personalization, experiences in-store and online will merge. To understand the shape that this trend will take in the coming year, it’s important to note that e-commerce will be the engine that drives this merge.

“As in-store and online shopping merge, ecommerce will explode in 2022,” said O’Connor. “While shoppers are returning to physical stores, we’re not seeing a decrease in online shopping – in fact, we’re seeing continued growth. In 2021, we saw more people starting their shopping journey online, searching for the products they want at the best price and the actual transaction happening in-store. Even when the pandemic dissipates, online shopping will continue to flourish because this behavior is now ingrained and habitual.”

She explained, “In 2022, brands will be faced with determining how to adapt the blended online/in-store shopping experience to match the leaps and bounds that e-commerce has made over the past two years. This will be particularly important for retail sectors where shoppers still prefer an offline component to the experience, such as fashion or beauty, but in the end, we do not anticipate the online performance to decline because stores have reopened.”

Holistic approach to brick-and-mortar

Expect a holistic approach to physical store experiences that incorporates e-commerce and enables digital shoppers to get what they want out of their visit, said Nikki Baird, Vice President of Retail Innovation at retail technology provider Aptos.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on creating experiential store concepts, almost as a way of trying to compete with the online channel,” said Baird. “Fast-forward to 2022 and we’ll see retailers pursue holistic store experiences that are focused on helping shoppers transition between physical and digital interactions with their brand.”


Baird suggested that one tool retailers might adopt more widely is the “virtual closet.” Shoppers would carry with them a digital representation of all the products they own from that retailer. They could reference this as they shop, as could store associates.

Empowered store associates

“Store associates will get a digital upgrade to contribute to the CX,” said Baird. “With all the investments that retailers made in online engagement during the pandemic, as store traffic rebounds, we’re seeing a lot of retailers begin to evaluate how they can offer a similar level of digital engagement in their stores.”

Sure, retailers want to make sure they don’t drop the ball by offering a seamless transition from digital shopping to in-store experience. The successful retailers in 2022 will make sure not to leave associates out of this equation.

“There’s still a significant percentage of shoppers who visit stores to engage with associates,” Baird said. “In 2022, savvy retailers will look to elevate the role of associates in the overall store experience and leverage mobile technologies to support this.”

IT upgrades

As more physical stores open up, a new era of digitally-enabled shopping will require investment for personalization, optimization and experience.

“Retailers’ financial recovery, combined with the fact that omnichannel shopping behaviors pushed legacy IT systems close to the breaking point during the pandemic, is going to drive investments in foundational modern technology systems in 2022,” said Baird. 

Supply chain challenges in the last year, along with raised consumer expectations, require retailers to provide real-time knowledge of what items are available for purchase and when they can be delivered.

“Retailers are at the point where they know they can’t fake it anymore,” said Baird. “They have to get the basics right – and this includes real-time inventory visibility. If retailers can’t provide real-time inventory visibility, they’ve already lost. There’s no way retailers can keep up with the speed of consumers without it.”


Ads will be more shoppable

Personalization and real-time visibility into inventory will also impact advertising, making ads more shoppable.

“Shoppable ad functionality is now playing a bigger role than ever before, especially as work-from-home shopping habits are colliding with supply chain issues,” said Oz Etzioni, CEO of AI-driven dynamic ad-serving and ad personalization platform Clinch. “The benefits of shoppable commerce extend beyond the consumer as well, providing retailers with invaluable insight into consumer preferences for future campaigns and for the brand overall.”

Channels like email and SMS have long used personalized data like recent purchases and abandoned cart items in order to become more relevant to shoppers and to boost sales. However, these personalized elements will be more integrated in display and TV ads in 2022.

“Both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for marketers deploying shoppable campaigns in 2022 will be in shoppable TV,” said Etzioni. “The key will be utilizing all the tools available to them in making those shoppable ads as relevant as possible. This requires layering in first-party data and personalization that reflects a shopper’s environment, including time-of-day, weather, regional promotions and more. From there, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of their consumers and adapt more quickly with relevant CTAs that allow their customers to make purchasing decisions in real time.”

He adds that with continued supply chain issues challenging product availability, marketers should consider some kind of dynamic creative optimization (DCO) to send the most relevant up-to-date messages to customers.

“Now that product scarcity is growing across the board, retailers have had to rebalance focus from mid- to upper-funnel objectives, and they have had to do it quickly,” Etzioni explained. “For example, a car manufacturer with limited inventory wouldn’t want to fade away in the minds of consumers, so they’ve been shifting towards making sure that their customers are still aware of their presence, but not necessarily drive them towards the dealership.”

Social commerce will diversify

Social media platforms have long been sources of valuable word-of-mouth buzz for brands and products. In 2022, these digital communities will be major sources of shoppable revenue. And this means brands will be looking beyond Facebook to diversify and keep ad costs down.

“Diversifying your social shopping to new channels will be key,” said Rob Van Nuenen, CEO of e-commerce solution provider Channable. “Disruptive social channel Tik Tok will likely generate nearly 2 billion users in 2022, while Instagram and Pinterest are delivering relevant social commerce experiences. With that, social commerce revenues are poised to reach nearly $50 billion, so it is important to create a strategy using these channels.”


Marketers will add value to their social spend by incorporating “social proof” (user-generated comments and reviews) into their social presence and promoting special events and other engagement strategies, according to Rosa Hu, Vice President of Product Marketing for e-commerce marketing platform Yotpo.

TikTok’s recent partnership with Shopify — and its in-app purchasing capabilities — will give brands far better return on ad spend vs. competitors in 2022,” Hu said.

Many of these new e-commerce innovations will be driven by ROI. But to earn that return, marketers will have to become more nimble with their personalization data strategy, DCO execution and social media engagement. In doing so, they’ll build a deeper relationship with customers in 2022 while increasing efficiencies in their marketing budgets.

Read next: 2022 Predictions: Customer Experience & Digital Experience

About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them



8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.


As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.


Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”


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