The Digital Commerce 360 staff is ringing in 2022 after another year of disruption in retail. Here are our favorite ecommerce stories of the year, as selected by our editors.

While 2021 didn’t bring as many surprises as 2020 did, it certainly was still a year of disruption for the retail industry. With continued stimulus checks and vaccines rolling out broadly in the U.S., consumer spending levels, both online and in-store, remained elevated. Consumers continued buying in “hot” pandemic categories online, like food and furniture, while also resuming spend in other categories, such as apparel and travel-related products. With continued consumer spending, supply chains became further stretched, causing delays and frequent out-of-stock inventory issues, threatening the 2021 holiday season.

Digital Commerce 360 editors have been covering the industry from all angles  by interviewing retailers and analyzing data trends throughout the year. Here are the Digital Commerce 360 staff’s picks of our favorite stories in 2020.

Industry news analysis

  • Amazon faces unprecedented perils even as its profit hit new heights
    Amazon accounted for more than 40% of U.S. online retail sales last year, is turning in blockbuster profits every quarter and expanding aggressively into brick-and-mortar retail and home delivery of online orders. What could go wrong? Plenty. Amazon critics given leading roles in the Biden Administration threaten antitrust action that could curb the e-retailer’s growth. 
  • The barely bearable burden of online sales tax
    A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision is forcing online retailers to collect and remit sales tax to more than 12,000 jurisdictions across the country. With Congress unlikely to provide relief, e-retailers have little choice but to weigh what it costs them to manage compliance internally versus the fees vendors charge to do it for them. 
  • Web accessibility lawsuits grow and retailers are the main targets
    More than 66% of Top 500 online retailers were named in an ADA web or app-accessibility cases from 2017 through 2019, according to UsableNet. Of those sued, more than 40% faced more than one lawsuit.

COVID-19 impact

Marketing

  • Why there’s value in values marketing
    Consumers increasingly want retailers and brands to use their platforms for good—by committing to sustainability, donating products to worthy causes or pledging to ensure management or products lines represent people of color. As a result, more retailers are communicating their priorities. And some merchants say their efforts are paying off. 
  • Marketers pivot holiday messaging strategy with challenging supply chain 
    Shoppers began the hunt for holiday deals earlier in the season, a carryover from pandemic-fueled shipping and inventory woes in 2020. Retailers also prepared in advance, anticipating delays and interruptions. And the clear message to shoppers: buy early or risk going without. 
  • Social media influencers with small followings can deliver a big impact
    Systems that identify bloggers by their specialties and location can help brands build cost-effective social media influencer campaigns. The role of influencers in digital marketing could become more important as online retargeting is increasingly restricted by the privacy policies of big tech platforms. 
  • Tapping into influencer marketing
    A celebrity endorsement or a recommendation from a respected person can persuade shoppers to pull out their pocketbooks. And merchants can tap into that power with influencer marketing campaigns. However, some retailers aren’t yet comfortable investing in the marketing channel where results can be murky and hard to measure. 

Customer experience

  • Online retailers revamp loyalty programs with data and personalized rewards
    Retailers are modernizing traditional points-based memberships with innovative rewards and tools that entice shoppers to join. And savvy merchants are using the customer data goldmine they get from these plans to inform their marketing strategies and drive revenue.
  • The Shopper Speaks: Fortune favors the internet 
    The holiday shopping season favors online retailers, given stock, supply chain and hiring challenges, based on online and store visits from senior consumer insights analyst Lauren Freedman. 
  • The Shopper Speaks: Is your customer service in need of a tune-up? 
    19% of online shoppers had a positive story to share while 21% had a negative customer service experience with an online seller over the holidays. This is a wake-up call for retailers that “getting it right” really does matter, writes Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst at Digital Commerce 360. 

Retailer spotlights

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