Make 2022 your company’s best year yet. To help U.S. and global retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands focus their efforts and thrive this year, let’s see how the retail industry is changing and which practices can help to drive growth.

How the retail and CPG workforce will look in 2022

Around the world, back-to-the-office plans remain in flux due to the rapid rise of the Omicron variant. Leading American businesses across sectors, including retail, have put their return to the office on indefinite hold.1 Evans, Pete. Businesses big and small slam the brakes on back-to-the-office plans amid rapid Omicron spread. CBC News. December 17, 2021. , 2 Kelly, Jack. Return-To-Office Plans Are Doomed To Fail As Omicron Spreads And The Demand For Remote Work Persists. Forbes. December 17, 2021. In mid-December, the U.K. government advised that people should work from home if they can. 3 Omicron: Should I be working from home now? BBC News. December 14, 2021.

In general, CPG factory workers in most markets have been exempt from stay-at-home orders during the pandemic due to strong demand for grocery and pharmacy essentials. Among CPG giants, Unilever has embraced a remote work model and CEO Alan Jope said his office workers will never return to their desks five days a week. Instead, Unilever uses a “hybrid mode” of working between homes and offices.4 olly, Jasper. Unilever workers will never return to desks full-time, says boss. The Guardian. January 13, 2021.

“We anticipate never going back to five days a week in the office.
That seems very old-fashioned now.”

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever5 Jolly, Jasper. Unilever workers will never return to desks full-time, says boss. The Guardian. January 13, 2021.

The Great Resignation has led to above-average quit rates in retail and manufacturing. Boston Consulting Group reports retail’s quit rate soared by more than 25% compared to before the pandemic.6 Danziger, Pam. Help Wanted. The Robin Report. December 20, 2021. In response, retailers like Target and Walmart are offering more generous pay and benefits like paying for employees’ college tuition to attract and retain employees.7 Lucas, Amelia and Melissa Repko. Labor shortage gives retail and restaurant workers the upper hand—for now. CNBC. August 11, 2021. These retailers and others seek to make a retail career path more satisfying by improving the employee experience.

Flexible contract workers can also boost their agility and help companies scale faster. That’s why nearly 70% of Canadian employers expect to hire more freelance or contract workers in the next two years, and 64% think freelance or gig workers will substantially replace full-time workers within the next five years.8 Employers to hire more contract workers as economy emerges from pandemic: Poll. July 2, 2021.

Retail and CPG teams and their trading partners will be more collaborative and flexible in 2022. Digital tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and retail-specific platforms help to connect teams, align communications, and serve shoppers better. For instance, Procter & Gamble uses remote, cloud-based communications and collaboration platforms to share consumers’ insights and supply chain data.9 Tapping Into Technology To Care For Customers & Each Other. PG.com. April 7, 2020.

Will retail trade shows go ahead in 2022?

As of January 3, NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show is still scheduled to take place in New York from January 16–18. However, the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) canceled its 2022 Private Label Trade Show, scheduled for late January in Chicago, citing “the impact of COVID-19 on the safe movement of exhibitors and visitors” attending the event.10 Browne, Michael. PLMA cancels January trade show. Supermarket News. December 13, 2021.

When the pandemic forced the postponement of in-person trade shows and events in 2020, the retail industry migrated online. Especially in early 2022, retailers and brands may shift to online events for health and safety, time savings, and cost effective ways to network.

Will online product discovery still reign supreme?

RangeMe Overview

Absolutely. Digital product discovery will remain a vital marketing lifeline by efficiently connecting retail buyers and consumers with innovative products. Popular destinations for online product discovery include retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.11 Gift Discovery, DoorDash, Apple & Peloton, Amazon TV Ads [unlocked]. Stratebly. November 15, 2021. Ebay, Etsy, and Shopify can also help brands of all sizes get their products in front of online shoppers and retail buyers.

Retail companies’ strong desire for efficient, online B2B product discovery during the pandemic has fuelled RangeMe’s global expansion beyond the U.S. to the U.K., Benelux region, Australia, New Zealand and the greater APAC region.

What brand owners need to be doing differently in 2022

Product sellers can stand out among retail buyers and consumers with these business best practices.

Think digital first
As the pandemic drove more consumers and rivals online, more brands boosted their digital presence and sales efforts. E-marketplaces accounted for 62% of global online retail sales, outpacing any other channel in e-commerce.12 Juul, Matt. How Brands Are Winning on Amazon in 2021 [Webinar Recap]. Feedvisor. April 2, 2021. Also, 44% of sellers on Amazon reported better-than-expected business performance in 2020 because of the convenience of online shopping during the pandemic.13 Mercer, Greg. Three Successful Ways Amazon Sellers Pivoted During Covid-19. Forbes. November 23, 2021.

Pounce on timely trends

NielsenIQ says necessity will be the strongest consumer driving force of 2022.14 Shoup, Mary Ellen. NielsenIQ: Consumers bring on ‘the great grocery edit’ of 2022. Food Navigator. November 23, 2021. If more people stay home in early 2022, brands can emphasize timely products, like convenient family meal options, home office, and fitness products. Social listening and real-time data insights can help brands capture more sales by promptly matching consumer needs with product solutions.

Sell locally … and globally
Now that more consumers support local businesses (80% said they were likely to “shop small during the 2021 holiday season), more brands are building relationships in their communities. Retail buyers also welcome opportunities to shorten the supply chain and build regional networks with local brands. E-commerce also helps brands boost awareness and loyalty across borders to grow their top line.

Double down on digital ads
Investing in digital advertising on platforms where their target customers already spend their time can help brands resonate with their desired consumers. As e-commerce booms, global digital ad spend was estimated to exceed $389 billion in 2021.15 Make Your Brand Stand Out From the Crowd with Smart Digital Marketing Strategies. Entrepreneur. July 29, 2021. Digital ads can be powerful sales tools, as 55% of shoppers said they notice ads on a search results page, and 49% of shoppers aged 27–40 say they always or often buy the first product listed on an Amazon search engine results page.16 92% of Consumers Are More Likely to Buy Products From Amazon According to Feedvisor’s Consumer Report. Yahoo. November 2, 2021.  

Prepare to pivot
As the global retail industry reels from supply chain disruption, more brands are considering sourcing from multiple raw material suppliers. Building a roster of multiple suppliers can help brand owners mitigate risks and protect business continuity in the event of new supply chain bottlenecks.

What retail buyers need to incorporate into their buying practices 

To maximize process efficiency and find innovative, in-demand products, retail buyers can use these business best practices.

Embrace virtual B2B networking
During the pandemic, many trade shows, networking events, and product meetings have taken place online. In October, more than 3,700 retail buyers and brands from 68 countries discovered products through virtual meetings at ECRM’s 2021 Global Market: Fall Experience. Buyers engaged in more than 2,200 supplier meetings, covering categories like food, beverage, baby, pet, beauty, and health care.17 ECRM’s Global Market: Fall Experience Exceeds Expectations with 3,700+ Participants. Yahoo! Finance. December 1, 2021.

Deliver diversity to physical and digital shelves
Younger consumers are now more diverse than ever, as Millennials and Gen Z consumers account for 60% of the total U.S. minority population. Now products need to adapt to diverse consumers’ needs, and retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Best Buy actively seek supplier diversity. On January 10 and 11, Walmart Canada, in collaboration with ECRM and RangeMe, is hosting an online Beauty Supplier Summit as a virtual venue for product sourcing to support inclusive beauty.

Prioritize sustainability
As global headlines warn of droughts, wildfires, and floods, more consumers are mindful of the urgent threat of climate change. Among U.S. online shoppers, 50% of Millennials, 38% of Gen Z and 36% of Gen X say sustainability is very important, influencing their CPG decisions, including beauty product selections.18 Lipsman, Andrew. A sustainability strategy will be a need-to-have for retailers. eMarketer. December 6, 2021.

Build a supply chain consumers trust
More people now shop with their values, as conscious consumerism grows in retail influence. A recent survey found 21% of shoppers are interested in learning about a brand’s founder and ethics, and “gravitating toward the humanity behind a product.”19 Sharma, Jeena. The CPG trends to watch in 2022, per Pop Up Grocer. Retail Brew. December 13, 2021. In response, more retail buyers now ask brands for certifications (like Women-Owned businesses, sustainable practices, and organic products) to efficiently verify the credentials and suitability of potential brand partners.

In 2022, expect more retail processes—from team communication to product sourcing and selling—to move online to maximize efficiency and agility. Brands and retailers need to collaborate more closely to remain responsive to consumers’ evolving needs, and to improve their top line, time savings, and the customer experience.20 Trends Shaping the B2B Retail Industry in 2022. Linchpin SEO. November 21, 2021.

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