You’ve placed orders for the holiday season’s hottest products, scheduled marketing messages for your customer database and made a plan to staff your stores for peak season. You’re off to a great start. But don’t forget to plan for essential packing and shipping needs for final-mile delivery before the busiest time of year. 

The year-end surge may feel the same year after year, but notable shifts can put a fresh twist on the headaches you’re bound to face. Not sure what to look for? We took a look at the top e-commerce trends expected to impact how peak season 2022 plays out. Not surprisingly, how retailers approach order fulfillment, last-mile logistics and returns is important in shaping consumers’ expectations. Giving careful consideration to these trends before peak season kicks off will round out your plan of attack and carry your business successfully into the new year and turn those headaches into opportunities.

Trend #1: Holiday shopping will start earlier

Gone are the days of holiday shopping beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving. Black Friday has gotten progressively earlier every year, with retailers opening their doors — and websites — with special deals even before the turkeys are stuffed. 

Some stores have already gotten a jump on pulling shoppers in for the second half of the year. Amazon’s Prime Day sold 300 million products in July 2022. This happened the same week as Target’s Deal Days, creating a Christmas in July effect that experts anticipate will expand in subsequent years.

Meanwhile, traditional peak-season holiday promotions will start in October again this year. The 2021 holiday season also saw many e-commerce companies offer extended Black Friday sales that ran from Friday through at least the Monday after Thanksgiving, if not longer. Retailers geared many of those 2021 promotions toward giving shoppers more options for buying gifts earlier to alleviate pressure on a congested supply chain and concerns about on-time shipping.

Retailers should already be working with their shipping carriers in preparation for peak season last-mile logistics. If holiday shopping starts early, then holiday shipping does too. 

Creating a peak-season game plan early will ensure you can keep up with consumer demand and get ahead of potential delays. If you don’t already have fulfillment support for final-mile delivery, it’s time to look for some. Crowdsourced delivery with Roadie can scale and flex with demand and reach your customers easily.

Trend #2: Social selling will widen customer nets

Mobile commerce is the buying and selling of goods through wireless handheld devices like phones and tablets. And social selling has accelerated mobile commerce as more brands publish products on their social channels for customers to purchase without leaving the platform. Salesforce says this approach positions mobile commerce to grow three times more than traditional e-commerce, potentially becoming an $80 billion industry by 2025.

In addition to creating a smoother buying process and increasing merchants’ conversion rates, social selling gives retailers the potential to widen their customer nets. As shoppers become more comfortable purchasing through social channels, their likes and shares will become visible to friends who may purchase as well — potentially from different geographic areas. 

With this in mind, retailers must have a plan for reaching consumers no matter where they live. Crowdsourced delivery is an ideal solution, offering an always-on fulfillment option that can make same-day or next-day final-mile delivery possible even for customers outside the target geographic market. And as a last-mile logistics solution, crowdsourced delivery platforms can help with inventory repositioning, helping to redistribute stock of in-demand items faster than traditional warehousing and shipping processes.  

Trend #3: Shipping options will play into cart abandonment

With mobile and social commerce increasing, mobile platforms have a higher cart-abandonment rate compared to traditional desktop e-commerce. According to Shopify, 70% of desktop shoppers will abandon their carts for a variety of reasons, but that number rises to 81% for tablet users and 86% for smartphone users. 

Shipping concerns discovered prior to checkout, like high fees or too-long delivery times, are among the many reasons customers leave carts behind. Shopify reports that added delivery fees, taxes and other costs frustrate customers into abandoning their carts. Meanwhile, Convey found that delivery times of one week or less and the ability to control the delivery day are reasons consumers move forward with a purchase. And McKinsey data indicates that consumers not only appreciate but expect free one- to two-day shipping for their purchases. 

If your fulfillment options aren’t set up to provide ultrafast shipping, crowdsourced delivery with Roadie can make that a reality — and help to eliminate cart abandonment in the process. A flexible and scalable network of drivers and vehicles makes it easy for retailers to provide fast, efficient final-mile delivery within 100 miles – whether that’s same-day or next-day delivery. 

Trend #4: Return convenience will be as important as delivery convenience

Consumers’ expectations around being able to return products easily intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the crisis, many retailers relaxed return policies. When shoppers couldn’t see and touch items in stores, they ordered multiple sizes and colors online and returned what they didn’t want.

According to the National Retail Federation, customers return nearly 21% of online purchases, which accounted for $218 billion worth of merchandise in 2021. One e-commerce survey also found that 84% of consumers would return to a retailer with a positive returns experience. 

With convenient returns now firmly ingrained in the consumer consciousness, shoppers often consider return policies before buying — and retailers must, too. This gets especially tricky for more far-flung customers who don’t have brick-and-mortar stores nearby where they can return online purchases. 

Crowdsourced delivery can help solve this problem, effectively turning the last mile into the first mile. Roadie’s network offers retailers same-day returns when items need to go from consumers back to stores or warehouses. This includes at-home return pickup, often a more convenient method for customers than finding a return-processing location.

Last-mile success puts a bow on holiday shopping 

From starting the shopping process early to returning unneeded items long after the gift wrap has been thrown away, consumers have made their peak season e-commerce expectations clear through their shopping habits. 

Offering customers the choice of same-day and next-day delivery, and being ready to make good on that promise with each order, is critical to meeting and even exceeding your customers’ expectations during the holidays and all year round. Check out our seven-step peak season roadmap for all the strategies you need to create positive shopping experiences and keep customers coming back season after season.

Your roadmap to peak season success: 7 steps for delighting customers when demand spikes