Digital-First Shoppers Top 2022 Retail Technology Trends

In 2022, trends in retail technology materialized or matured in a year that defied predictions.

Confining our scope to just what happened in retail, PYMNTS notes that many, if not most, of these concepts have been ramping up for some time and have applications elsewhere. But there’s no arguing the transformations that took place in a historic year for everything from cryptocurrency to the wider payments landscape.

Here’s a look at the breakouts and breakthroughs that placed 2022 in a category of its own.

  1. Unattended Retail
    The year kicked off with January news that grocery chain Aldi was testing its first cashierless supermarkets, starting in Greenwich, London, after months of successful in-house testing. Amazon got there first in the summer of 2021, but the expansion of unattended retail and self-checkout is proliferating, especially in grocery locations but spreading to retail pharmacy and other areas. As noted in “Today’s Self-Service Shopping Journey: The New Retail Expectation,” a PYMNTS and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions collaboration, 86% of Generation Z consumers “report that the checkout experience in which they were most interested was nontraditional, with 78% and 80% of bridge millennials and millennials, respectively, echoing this sentiment. Half of baby boomers and seniors were interested in nontraditional checkout options.”
  2. Healthcare BNPL
    As even high-income consumers struggled with paycheck-to-paycheck living in 2022, medical debt saw innovation via payments choice and a recasting of old-school payment plans into modern buy now, pay later (BNPL) installments. The study “How Digital Has Changed the Consumer Healthcare Experience and Expectations,” a PYMNTS and CareCredit collaboration, noted that “healthcare’s fastest-growing patient cohort — the 80 million millennial and Generation Z patients — use mobile wallets and buy now, pay later (BNPL) to pay healthcare providers.”
  3. Ad-Supported Streaming
    It was too good to last, at least at the price. After much speculation, Netflix finally unveiled its ad-supported model in August. As PYMNTS reported at the time, “Netflix’s goal is to keep to a balance between catering to the cost-conscious and maintaining a watchable experience… The cheaper plan will present about four minutes of commercials per hour, which is less than many streaming competitors have in their own ad plans.” As we predicted, the ad-free price is $6.99 per month.
  4. AR/VR Try-on Tech
    So-called “magic mirrors” and other early attempts to show shoppers what they look like in outfits via mirrors with built-in digital technology made a splash in 2022, arguably the largest being the Amazon Fashion and Snapchat team-up announced in November. The duo is starting with eyewear, which is a lighter lift than a whole-body rendering. As PYMNTS reported, “the pact will let customers explore, shop and digitally try on thousands of eyewear styles directly on Snapchat and then seamlessly purchase them through the Amazon Fashion store.”
  5. Payments Choice
    This year, the power of payments choice came fully to fruition as retailers large and small saw the conversions — or lack thereof — that are making the difference at checkout. “In Navigating Big Retail’s Digital Shift: The New Payments Strategy Evolution,” a PYMNTS and ACI Worldwide collaboration, found that “89% of executives saw having multiple digital payment options as necessary for consumers — and choice is much more than a ‘nice-to-have’ for shoppers. Consumers may need to shift payment methods according to personal financial circumstances or fluctuating interest rates. As retailers face stiff competition from online stores and other competitors, allowing consumers to choose how they pay is crucial to maintaining their loyalty.”
  6. Super Apps
    As the connected economy showed billions of consumers worldwide the benefits of connected ecosystems that securely exchange data to personalize experiences and consolidate a tangle of smartphone apps, the all-in-one super app concept enjoyed a year of rousing support. As we found in the study “Super Apps for the Super Connected,” a PYMNTS and PayPal collaboration, “96 million consumers across the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Germany say they want to use a super app — a centralized user interface through which they can conduct their online activities. Moreover, 81 million of the consumers who want to use a super app are millennials, bridge millennials and Generation Z consumers — the very same generations who conduct the most life activities online.”
  7. Resale Product Authentication
    As runaway retail theft made headlines throughout the year, we also had an eye on the exploding luxury resale/reCommerce space that has been beset by fakes for years. Amazon announced that its Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) “seized more than 240,000 counterfeit items,” including “imitations of luxury, sports and automotive brands. The seizure prevented the fake products from reaching Amazon customers or being sold elsewhere in the supply chain.” We reported on efforts from Nike to eBay to the major resale brands, including TheRealReal, luxury watch reCommerce marketplace Fashionphile, and used handbag and apparel marketplace Rebag, to combat fakes with a new focus and enthusiasm.
  8. Mobile-Assisted Shopping
    This was the year that smartphones came into their own as handheld shopping assistants, a combination of COVID-era mobile commerce habits and swarms of consumers returning to physical stores, creating a new hyper-efficient union. The PYMNTS report “Digital Economy Payments: November 2022 U.S. Edition — The Rise of Mobile eCommerce,” noted that “the convenience of mobile shopping allows consumers to multitask and access hybrid shopping experiences, like using a mobile app to purchase at multiple stores, check inventories and manage deliveries. Currently, mobile commerce, or mCommerce, is projected to account for 44% of all digital sales by 2025. The shift toward mobile was most apparent in grocery purchasing, where it accounts for 10% of all purchases, up from 6.7% last December.”
  9. Embedded Finance and Payments
    Putting financial options in the commerce flow — meeting consumers where they are with the financing options they need — achieved new importance in 2022 as more companies see the upside of putting financing in relevant flow from retail to car insurance and many other places. Taira Hall, senior vice president of banking, payments and FinTech at FIS Banking, told PMYNTS in our playbook “What’s Your Plan? Payments Strategies for a Strong 2022 Finish”: “In the age of the multi-faceted, cross-channel customer journey, embedded finance delivers financial service experiences at the point of need. For example, when a customer is searching for a property to rent on a digital platform, embedded finance enables the platform to offer ‘booking amount’ financing directly in the digital platform itself or insurance to cover their stay. This makes life easier for the customer and generates a revenue opportunity for the digital platform.”
  10. The Resilience of Online Shopping
    As consumers flocked back to physical stores in 2022, pundits somewhat gleefully pronounced that the eCommerce “bubble” created by the pandemic had burst. But as PYMNTS’ Karen Webster pointed out in her November analysis “The Greatly Exaggerated Demise of Alexa, eCommerce and the Card Networks”: “According to PYMNTS’ 2022 national Black Friday study of 2,439 consumers, more of them shopped online on Black Friday (25.8%) than in the physical store (17%). And the number of consumers who shopped in the physical store decreased 23% year over year. I guess these consumers forgot that online shopping is off the table now since we’ve all gone back to the physical store. Such is the claim of analysts and pundits who point to the consumer’s return to the brick-and-mortar store in 2022 as evidence of their waning appetite for digital shopping. More specifically, they say that the shift to digital during COVID was a temporary blip; now that COVID is in their rearview, consumers have all gone back to their 2019 habits. The permanent shift to digital because of the habits formed over the 2020/2021 timeframe never happened. That’s flat-out wrong.”

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