With the majority of 2022 behind us, it’s time to start thinking about what’s next for 2023 and the eCommerce trends we should be looking out for. With the eCommerce and digital marketing landscape in constant flux, it’s important as an eCommerce CEO that you keep up to stay relevant. The barrier to entry in eCommerce is so low, literally, any joe schmo can start an online store – but the ones who take it seriously are the ones that are going to win.
Most of what we’re going to talk about today likely isn't going to come as a surprise to you. As I did my research, I saw the same concepts coming up over and over, many of which we have already talked about. But, of course, it all bears repeating because what some of us may have dismissed as a flash in the pan is proving to have staying power, especially as the younger generation takes their position as the biggest spenders.
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Shopping Behaviors Change Across Generations
If we want to stay relevant, we’ll have to create shopping experiences that cater to them and their behaviors.
I’m not going to go into all the details of the generations and their characteristics here, but I do recommend you take a bit of a deeper dive on your own. Generation Alpha has access to more information than any generation before them and while the oldest of the generation is just entering their teen years, they’re expected to have quite the influence over our culture, including retail and the workplace. Influenced heavily by their Millennial parents & educators, and the Gen Z creators they follow on social media, Generation Alpha is seen as the most connected and is expected to be the most engaged in the world around them.
While Generation Alpha is one to watch, Millennials are growing up, earning more, and are responsible for the majority of online spending, so catering to them is in the best interest of online retailers.
The Importance of Mobile First
With 71% of retail website traffic and 61% of online purchases coming through mobile devices worldwide, it’s no surprise that a focus on mobile-first shopping will continue to be important for eCommerce businesses.
And while decent mobile website experiences are easily accomplished with responsive website themes, other stats like conversion rate don’t usually translate. Until Shopify themes allow us to create an entirely separate mobile experience, we’ll have to approach our content from a mobile-first perspective or take on a developer to help us. Certain themes do allow for some mobile-specific optimization like choosing separate photos for mobile devices, but it’s not perfect.
So for now you’ll want to make sure you’re considering the mobile experience when you’re making decisions about your website to make sure they’re not only thumb-friendly but that it gets the mobile searcher the info they need as quickly as possible.
Some things to consider are optimizing your site search experience, your home page, and your product pages. I’ll put links in the show notes where you can dive deeper into these.
You’ll also want to consider speed as not only is it important for the user themselves but it’s also a ranking factor in search engine algorithms. In most cases, the biggest culprit to slow websites is large images and bloated code. So make sure you’re optimizing your photos before you upload them to your site and limit your app use where possible. If you find that you’re using a lot of apps to add functionality to your store, for things like mega menus, product filters, and other little things it might be time to upgrade your theme. Most of these basic eCommerce features are included right in the theme eliminating the need for 3rd party apps.
Offering Mobile Payment & Alternative Payment Methods
Another way to optimize your website for mobile users and to cater to the digital age is to offer additional payment options including mobile-first methods and buy now pay later options.
Consumers are impatient and having to whip out their credit card and type in all those numbers, especially on a mobile device can be pretty off-putting and delay a purchase. Sure, the scan your credit card feature on apple devices helps… but it still makes it difficult to make a purchase on the go.
Digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Shop Pay, and even PayPal all create a faster and more seamless checkout experience for consumers. and digital and mobile wallets accounted for half of all global eCommerce transactions in 2021.
One statistic I saw in my research is that the younger generation would rather lose their wallet than their phone. That’s pretty telling all on its own.
Customer Service is a Defining Factor in Overall Satisfaction
It should also come as no surprise that customer service is a huge determining factor in how a consumer perceives a brand and whether or not they’ll shop with them. In fact, 87% of consumers will spend less with or completely leave a brand that doesn’t provide great customer service.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but when we were moving into our new home and looking to put in all new floors, we desperately wanted to support a local mom-and-pop shop – but they made it almost impossible.
In some cases, their associates rubbed us the wrong way while others didn’t have the resources or network to help us get the product installed and left us to fend for ourselves. After inquiring with 5 or 6 local places, ultimately we ended up going with a big national company because they had systems and processes in place to get it done and we had lost so much time while trying to make it work with the little guys, we were coming down to the wire.
With so many options on the Internet, consumers aren’t willing to put up with subpar service when they can just go somewhere else instead. And eCommerce is a 24/7 business, so sticking with standard customer service hours doesn’t help those late-night shoppers.
But as a small business, employing 24/7 customer service agents doesn’t make a ton of sense, and outsourcing this has the potential to backfire. So what do you do instead? Enter the chatbot.
While many consumers will get annoyed by scripted responses that don’t answer their questions – how many times have you screamed agent into the phone or typed it into a chat box – that doesn’t mean chatbots don’t have their place in eCommerce customer service.
Answering frequently asked questions about sizing, shipments, return policies, and even directing customers to existing website content can be the difference between getting that late-night sale or not. It can also save your customer service agents tons of time and ultimately your money.
Pair chatbots with live chat for more complex issues that need human intervention and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. The Gorgias customer service platform is a great tool to implement this, and using the two technologies together allows you to easily sort and prioritize tickets based on the initial chatbot conversation.
Omni Channel is More than Just eCommerce & Brick-and-Mortar
When you hear the word omnichannel most people immediately think that means an eCommerce website and a brick-and-mortar store. And while that is still the case, the definition goes well beyond that in our modern digital age.
A consumer's journey doesn’t start or end just on a brand’s website or even in its stores. Digital platforms such as social media pages, marketplaces, and even tools like Google Shopping are all a stop on a customer’s path to purchase.
If you do have a brick-and-mortar presence optimizing that omnichannel experience is going to be of the utmost importance. If you’re not already using an integrated POS and eCommerce solution that connects your customer’s data and your inventory, you’re gonna be missing out.
Real-time inventory updates allow consumers to check on inventory before they drive to the store or opt to buy online, pick up in-store. And centralized customer data puts more power in the hands of your in-store associates. This is especially true for smaller boutique stores that create deeper relationships with their customers.
But as I mentioned, omnichannel doesn’t just mean eCommerce and brick-and-mortar anymore. Nearly 75% of consumers and 73% of online shoppers report using various channels before purchasing.
They’re hitting your social pages, watching influencers talk about your products, and even doing research about your products on their phones while they’re shopping in stores.
Whether your business is solely eCommerce, has a brick-and-mortar store, or sells wholesale to other retailers, consumers are bouncing around different digital properties to get the information they need before they make a purchase.
Social Commerce is Only Growing
What seemed to be a novel concept just a few years ago, it’s becoming more of the norm with even larger companies trying to get in on the action.
Word on the street is that Gen Z uses TikTok more than Google to find products and one report found that 48% of consumers are now likely to buy from TikTok. I’m sure you’ve seen a TikTok made me buy it video at least once, right?
Global sales through social media have been estimated at 992 billion dollars in 2022 and are expected to reach 2.9 trillion in 2026.
This medium isn’t going anywhere and social platforms are doing their part through shoppable catalogs, posts, and ads right on their platforms.
Influencers & Content Creators
With social commerce continuing to grow and the influence of content creators on the younger generation, brands that want to sell to this age of consumer are going to want to get in on the action.
Millennial CEOs are even becoming influencers and content creators for their own brands instead of outsourcing it.
If you’re like me and not quite cool enough to be that for your brand and need the reach of established content creators there are a ton of tools out there to help you connect with them.
Gatsby lets you identify micro-influencers from your own customer base, Trend connects you to content creators to get the content you need to market your business, and Shopify has the Shopify Collab platform to connect you with influencers.
If you’re ready to start working with content creators but aren’t sure how to get started or manage expectations along the way check out episode 103 of the podcast where I talk to Harley Jordan. She breaks it all down from the influencer's perspective. She’s also launched her own agency this year connecting brands with hand-picked vetted influencers & content creators.
The Future is Here with 3D & AR Technology
One of the biggest draws for consumers when it comes to influencers and content creators is seeing real people use your products. This is especially important when you’re taking away the in-person shopping experience of being able to touch and feel the product you’re thinking about buying.
The next best thing? 3D & augmented reality technology. While it used to be complicated and expensive to benefit from these, even just a few years ago, advances in technology have made it a lot easier and less expensive.
You’ll find tools made for product try-on which is great for jewelry and makeup, to those that can project an image of that lamp you were checking out into your living room, and even give the shopper a mockup of what a personalized product will look like before purchasing.
Product Videos are a Must-Have
Even if you’re not quite ready to dive into this advanced technology, or your products don’t necessarily lend themselves to AR technology, invest in video. It’s the next best thing and thanks to the rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels, it doesn’t have to be super polished or cost a ton to produce. And that’s true even if it’s on your website.
If you sell apparel and accessories and are choosing the video route, please make sure you have actually people using and wearing the items – not just standing next to them and talking like Macy’s does. That’s just a waste of resources. Make sure to brush up on your video-selling skills by watching some home shopping – remember to describe the items to the consumer in a way that would let them experience as they would if they were in person. Use all the senses.
Voice Search & Commerce
Speaking of technology, voice search & commerce is also on the rise and is expected to become a really important part of the online shopping experience. With an estimated 60% of US households owning a smart speaker consumers are looking for information via voice instead of text.
While there is still a lot to come in terms of actually shopping by voice, the immediate focus for most brands will be in terms of the content they create on their websites. If you’ve been hanging with me for a while you’ve heard me say how important it is to create content for people instead of search engines and to use the language they’re already using when searching for a product like yours or trying to solve the problem your product solves.
Optimize SEO for Voice Searches
The same is true for voice search and even more so because people are more likely to speak in longer sentences and ask full questions when they’re speaking vs. when they’re typing.
Continue to focus on long-tail keywords and answer the who, what, why, when, and hows related to your product and its category. Use tools like Answer the Public to identify the questions people are asking on the Internet and let that drive your SEO content strategy.
In terms of actual voice shopping, it’s currently relatively small in the scheme of things, and not quite as accessible to small businesses – but as the technology improves and the younger generation grows up it’s only a matter of time before it starts taking over.
Data Privacy & Personalization
With all the advances in technology, the expectations of consumers have increased, especially when it comes to a personalized shopping experience… but so has their concern over data privacy.
As we’ve talked about a ton over the last year, your ability to provide a personalized shopping experience with the lack of available data is going to come down to the zero and first-party data you collect from your customers.
Product recommendations quizzes are still your best bet for zero-party data and leaning on AI tools to deliver product recommendations at scale based on your first-party data is going to be the path to personalization in the digital privacy era.
Personalization isn’t limited to just eCommerce either. If you have a brick-and-mortar store in addition to your eCommerce site, having a 360-degree view of your customers puts a lot of power into the hands of your in-person associates. Think of how much better you can serve someone in your store when you can see their full purchase history over their lifetime of being your customer and being able to make product recommendations on the fly based on the information you already have about them.
And then last but certainly not least on today’s non-exhaustive list of things to expect in 2023 is sustainability.
I know having sustainability on the list is in stark contrast to a recent biz bite episode, at least on the surface. While I mentioned that it isn’t necessarily enough to get a person to buy and it’s not a message you should lead your marketing with, it’s still going to be an important factor, especially if you’re selling to younger generations as it will hold more weight than it does to today’s boomers and gen X’ers.
So What’s Next for You in Particular?
Well, that depends. One of the things I love and hate about eCommerce is that it’s always evolving. As technology changes, as consumer behavior changes, as our culture, our society, and even the world’s economic climate changes, eCommerce changes too.
And because your business isn’t the same as Sally’s business, the direction you go in or the things you focus on are going to be different.
In the case of preparing your business for the new year, start with the low-hanging fruit such as implementing alternative payment methods, make sure you’ve optimized your website for mobile, start taking advantage of automated customer service, and of course take advantage of new technologies to create a more personalized experience for your customers.
Then decide what makes the most sense for you in terms of influencer marketing and social shopping. You still don’t have to do all the things, but it doesn’t hurt to step out of your comfort zone and put some effort into trying new things.
If AR makes sense for your products, start exploring those apps because it’s likely to give a nice boost to your conversion and decrease returns.
Once you’ve got those in place then you can start diving more into what voice search means for your brand and how you can build sustainability efforts into your brand whether that’s a change in your packaging or even the materials of your products.
And if you need help figuring out exactly what direction to take your business book a 1:1 strategy call with me where I can help you sort it all out. I look forward to learning more about you and your business.