Online retail in 2023: Key learnings from last year

As 2023 begins, we’ll take a look at all the major shifts we witnessed over the last year. This blog post will serve as an extensive summary of all the eCommerce pointers that will help inform and enhance your online selling strategy for 2023.

While there are conflicting reports and data regarding what to focus on this year, we will cover what we believe to be the essentials you should look out for. Please note, this is not an all-inclusive list. 

We hope to give you an insightful take on what workable changes you can make to your online business to succeed in 2023.

What we learned in 2022

Discovering your target audience

Shopping trends are not only driven by advertising, but also by the generational culture surrounding it. The oldest millennials in the US would be 28 by now. The oldest Gen Z member would be 24. This means that these are the generations that grew up at the height of a mass-consumerized and hyper-advertised culture. Shopping online is almost second nature to this generation, and the pandemic has done nothing but accelerate their tendencies. 

Why is this important? In deciding who to market to and target with your retail products online, it has proven to be well worth catering to the tech-savvy, more consumerized younger generation of millennials and Gen Z, who are open to trying new things and willing to explore different product ideas.

On the other hand, the average boomer population would be more skeptical about testing innovative payment methods and are more trusting of a physical store as opposed to online.

The post-pandemic function of online and physical stores

2022 was somewhat experimental in terms of what shopping in a post-pandemic world looks like. Physical and online stores are relegated to serve separate and specific functions.   

Brick-and-mortar stores are a go-to for shoppers to browse through aisles and showcased items with no specific products in mind. Some shoppers drop by electronic stores just to try out different gadgets and get a sense of the look, feel, and function.

Online shopping is where you find intentional buyers. These are customers with more or less made-up minds, as far as what product they want to buy.

Simply put, physical stores have become an explorative and experimental avenue whereas online stores are where the real deals take place. 

Personalization in every detail, even packaging

Personalized packaging leaves a lasting impression on your customers. From specially crafted notes to handwritten “thank you” cards, it goes a long way in making shoppers feel seen, special, and exclusive. 

Putting a little more thought and effort into the way you package the product for different customers can go a long way in establishing the buyer’s longevity.

This isn’t only about sustainable packaging either. Customers in 2022 do tend to value a personal touch. Be mindful to reward long-term purchasing members and show your appreciation, through more than just the product. 

Rethinking customer data, privacy, and preference

As we mentioned in a previous blog, securing your customer’s data is a top priority. Moving forward from 2022, you’d have to rethink what crucial customer data is highly relevant for you to not only retain customers but also improve your services to them. Balancing sales with personalization can be tricky, but is also essential to ensure you don’t have more sensitive and private data on your hands than you can adeptly handle. 

Sometimes it is smarter to let the shoppers finalize a deal before requesting ways to contact them. As we’ve mentioned before, customers might not always be willing to part with their data to just any random store. Establishing trust first-hand is key. 

Make sure that you don’t force customers to provide their email addresses and contact information. Also, let them decide whether or not they’d prefer to receive marketing emails and calls from your end. Letting them make the choice and leaving their options wide open is a great way to build trust. 

Mobile shopping to dominate online sales

Mobile optimization is key to retaining online shoppers on your website. More than 70% of sales online take place on a smartphone. So if you’re building your virtual storefront for mobile shoppers, you’re already future-ready. 

Also, note that the current segment of mobile shoppers is already close to 80% of any online retail market. The numbers are only likely to grow in the future, with the high-powered convenience that mobile shopping offers. 

Video platforms for maximized marketing

Video marketing is as effective as ever, especially with your average shopper sending more time on reel-heavy social media platforms. Shoppable videos are a new format in this medium, allowing online retailers to showcase a range of products with links that redirect the viewer to the specific page from where they can make the purchase.

A lot of the fashion and clothing industry thrives off of heavily promoted videos circulating on mainstream visual entertainment platforms such as TikTok, Youtube, Instagram, and more. They not only drive up brand mention but also funnel in leads through instantly available links that redirect customers willing to shop instantly. 

Bringing speed and urgency to your checkout

You are staying a step ahead in online retail forces you to keep your options open. This means learning to be flexible when it comes to the number of payment options you provide. Unlike in the past, you are likely to encounter a wide range of diverse audiences on your online store. Catering to each with their preferred payment method is a better way to win customers over than any other. This is one of the key changes you might have to make in preparation for 2023.

Multiple options and payment methods aren’t the only things that attract shoppers to your website. They are also impressed by faster processing speeds and quick transactions. Buffering website pages and slow loading times lead to more customers choosing to opt out of buying and shopping altogether.

AI-powered search tools for the future

Great strides are happening in the world of AI-powered algorithms and machine learning technology. AI can make significant changes to growing businesses by helping them identify buyer intent behind search queries. Figuring out which stage the customer is in their journey helps you tailor a suitable marketing strategy to address their needs. 

Visual search is a promising AI-enabled feature that allows shoppers to browse products based on images. It could potentially be game-changing, especially given how few online stores use it. 

CRM tools to deal with a fast-changing customer base

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: there is no shortage of online stores in any industry, especially retail. Brands have come to realize early on that no business can survive without a solid customer outreach and relationship management strategy.

As we’ve reiterated several times previously, the future of retail is customer-centric. Catering to them better includes complicated tasks such as following up through email, enquiring about abandoned carts, helping them out when they have a bad experience, etc. 

All of which is to say, if you want to be in online retail for the long term, it’s smart to invest in a scalable CRM tool that matches your needs and helps you positively manage customers. 

AI chatbots for high convenience and time-saving

Personalized chatbots are a major asset for online retail players, especially when they can take over addressing some of the more commonplace customer issues. This saves up a great deal of staff time that can be better utilized elsewhere.  The goal is to make each interaction and experience specific and meaningful to the customer.

The better you’re able to retain and relate to your customers, without having to overspend on staff time, the more resources you’re able to invest in scaling your business.

Go voice-powered

Voice-based search and shopping technology used to be mediocre at best. It didn’t offer the same convenience as swiping through a screen or scrolling through a feed. However, recent technology backed by AI is beginning to step things up for users. Not only are they smarter, but customers rely on them heavily when shopping for specific, essential, and memorable products. 

They are more prevalent for re-ordering, and this is precisely why adding a voice search option to your online retail store can be helpful. Retail is the industry where you expect to have a repeated volume of purchases every month. Regular customers aren’t an anomaly here, but the norm.

PWAs to power intuitive shopping

Converting your website into an alternatively used progressive web app is a great idea, especially when you’re selling online. A virtual store is ideally suited for retail, lending itself easily to fit into the schematics of an infinitely scrolling feed. 

A PWA saves you the hassle of extensively building a native app for your online store. In today’s fast-changing world, it’s hard to keep pace with changing needs and demands. Investing great portions of your budget into a native feature that might become outdated a few months down the line is not the smartest way to go. PWA is a better choice for online sellers precisely for this reason.

Go Headless for a Head-start

We’ve mentioned in a previous blog how headless eCommerce works. By decoupling your platform from the front end, you get to separate the two most important elements: function and appearance. Marketers get to work and re-work your campaign strategy, brand image, and s much more however they feel fit while developers can focus on making your actual platform better, faster, and optimized, without any outside interference. PWAs that work on headless eCommerce platforms are exactly the kind of future we envision for online retailers planning to go big with their business.

Redefining customer experience in online shopping

Many brands are just coming to terms with different avenues of shopping and customer experience. 3D virtual tours, and video marketing, are all mediums to enhance the user’s journey. However, a key part of any business strategy has to be personalization. Each customer that comes into contact with your various sales touchpoints is going through phases of a buyer journey – one that starts with curiosity, intent, and cycles through to end at the purchase stage. 

To successfully speed up this process and get your customers shifting through each stage, you need to identify where they are at in their buyer journey. Are they merely curious, casually browsing, or actively expressing interest to buy? Hints regarding this can be found by collecting data – lots of it. This is why data collection, data stitching, personalization, customer journey, etc, are some of the buzzwords you’re bound to hear over the coming year. Personalizing experience and prioritizing how the customer feels over what the product does is an innovative step away from traditional marketing. And online businesses, especially growing ones, need to be ready for it.

Hybrid shopping – multi-optional booking, delivery, and pick-up

The pandemic has accelerated the emergence of hybrid shopping models where customers mix up their options – ordering online and picking up by the curb, or even ordering from the store, and getting it delivered home. Businesses have had to adapt to changing demands during the pandemic, and have largely changed their mode of operations to keep up after.

You might find that in-store return policies are more convenient, both for customers and your own business. Doorstep pick-up for rejected products is a hassle that no business wants to invest in. It can be exhausting, and a huge cost drains your budget. 

The pandemic has also forced the emergence of contactless payment options that are innovative, smart, super convenient, and faster than regular cash alternatives. These are more in vogue among millennials and Gen Z customers who would rather prefer the comfort of browsing, booking, and paying, directly from their devices.

Data tools to empower brands

We see more businesses attempting to enter DTC and B2C spaces, based on the need to interact and develop a relationship with their customers.

The traditional view of customers has been a one-dimensional and static segmentation. New and real-time data changes all that. With live updates streaming every day, brands get to know their customers better and are in a better position to evaluate them on a personalized basis. 

Online retail can benefit more from marketing and data strategies that seek to focus on the customer as much as they do on the products they’re selling. Finding ways to identify and then meet demand seems to be the more apt way to approach fast-scaling business goals. 

UX design at the core of every successful eCommerce platform

Here’s an often overlooked or less discussed subject: the need for excellent UX design. You might think that your online store is about offering up a simple product. But the real key to succeeding in it is making it a memorable and effortless process. From the moment they drop into your virtual storefront to check out your online shelf, to the point of sale, your customers are exposed to your UX design. 

Making it feel instinctive, user-oriented, and heavily optimized can be extremely rewarding in terms of converting shoppers into sales. A lot of stores usually fail in giving their visitors definitive actions. Your UX needs a specific end goal that you’re driving your customer towards. If you confuse them, they’ll end up leaving.

Adapting to social media selling

Meta platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are already geared towards not only promoting eCommerce but also actively supporting easy checkout functions. You can now set up shop, the market in real-time, and land deals that stream in revenue all from the same platform. As the new year dawns on us, it is about time that online retailers start thinking in terms of scaling through every platform they have at their disposal, from socials to web-based apps.

The Takeaway-

In deciding how to market your products online, and garner more sales, note that trends don’t emerge in a vacuum. If you’ve closely been keeping track of how buyers often decide on a purchase, there’s a slew of factors that influence their choice. The most important measure of shopper decisions is the culture around online commerce.

There is a generationally embedded attitude that dominates the way your customers view your product. Cultural outlooks hugely influence which brands they trust and which ones they don’t. We live in a time where you have huge access to measuring the zeitgeist, what’s trending and what recedes into obscurity. The internet and social media platforms can be extremely insightful spaces for understanding buyer choices. The sum of what we’ve said so far is that you need to be vigilant about your audience. Interact more with your customers and identify where you’ve struck a niche, in products or people.

With that being said, we look forward to your thoughts on the key eCommerce learnings for the year. Feel free to reach out to us if there’s anything you’d like to share.

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