As eCommerce grapples with continued challenges with the supply chain, inflation, and rising customer demands for convenience, fast delivery, and omnichannel experiences, what lies on the horizon? American consumers continue to spend, racking up a record $9.12 billion in online shopping on Black Friday (November 25, 2022), up 2.3% YoY, according to Adobe Analytics data. During the recent holiday season (October 1 to December 31, 2022), retailers brought in $283 billion dollars in total revenue.
While inflation has influenced many shoppers to switch to lower-priced brands to stretch their budgets, the eCommerce market has continued on an upward trend. The pandemic lockdowns created a sharp spike in eCommerce sales that has mellowed a bit with the return of in-store shopping. The overall lesson, though, is that blended, omnichannel experiences are more important than ever and eCommerce retailers need to ensure that they deliver a seamless experience.
The total customer experience is what shoppers judge eCommerce brands by—giving their loyalty and repeat business to those who do it well, while not hesitating to switch brands for a better experience.
As 2023 rolls on, here are eleven eCommerce trends that we predict will shape the industry in the next 12 months and beyond:
- Stabilization amid change. None of us can predict unexpected changes, but we do believe that as inflation is reined in and as the snarls in the supply chain that plagued retailers last year ease, eCommerce businesses will experience stabilization amid continual change. This will mean a bit more breathing room for retailers to catch up on their digital transformation, implement automation, re-strategize for the future, and provide a more consistent, predictable customer experience.
- Social shopping. While social media shopping has been dominant in China for several years, it’s just emerging in the United States. Social commerce shoppers browse apps like TikTok and can buy products directly from their feeds. Retailers that offer shopping via social media platforms, and not just their eCommerce sites, will gain an advantage over late adopters. Like every channel, social shopping has to be incorporated into the omnichannel experience to succeed.
- Omnichannel. Omnichannel is certainly not new, but it continues to be a strategy that retailers must improve upon. This year, retailers will deepen integrations of data, channels, backend systems, apps, supply chain software, and partner systems to create connected experiences that reduce customer effort and deliver delightful experiences.
- Mobile-first. Mobile devices garnered a nearly 45% share of the holiday retail spend and it continues to rise in usage. Retailers need to ensure that their digital assets provide a mobile-friendly experience that features ease-of-use, one-click or less effort, voice integration, and one-click payment options. Investing in mobile first strategies and priorities will meet customer expectations in the coming year and lay the foundation for a soon-to-be predominantly mobile eCommerce environment.
- SMS marketing. Ecommerce platforms are beginning to harness the capacity to offer SMS marketing via messaging and text. Customer service has been venturing into SMS as a support channel for some time, but it’s new territory for digital marketing strategies. We foresee that brands will connect via SMS with personalized product recommendations, eCommerce sales events, and curated shopping experiences. They will also continue to add SMS as options for real-time order status and shipping notifications.
- Micro-fulfillment centers. The pandemic inspired multiple fulfillment options, with store fulfillment becoming a popular choice among customers. Ship-to-store and curbside pickup have turned stores into micro-fulfillment centers. We expect retailers to adopt micro-fulfillment centers as part of their core strategy to keep inventory closer to customers, defray warehouse and last mile costs, and keep their promises for same-day delivery. Partnerships with eCommerce fulfillment partners will also rise as retailers work to shift to a distributed strategy.
- Recommerce (resale). “Americans spend an average of 27 minutes per day on recommerce marketplaces, which is just shy of the 30 minutes per day spent on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Additionally, 63% of shoppers always or often checked secondhand buying options before purchasing items brand new,” reported OfferUp. They also reported that this market grew 15% during 2021, at a faster pace than traditional retail, partly driven by consumers’ growing interest in sustainability issues. Ecommerce brands will leverage the opportunity that the resale market offers, particularly to offload excess inventory.
- Tailored delivery, not fastest delivery. Customers often choose to purchase based on the estimated shipping and delivery times at checkout. However, brands that are truly listening to their customers will offer tailored delivery, rather than just fastest delivery. Giving shoppers a choice of delivery day (which Amazon currently does to some degree) enables them to choose a delivery date that fits their schedule. A Pitney Bowes BOXpoll shows that 62% of consumers say that an accurate estimated delivery date is more important than fast shipping.
- Gain true inventory visibility. Retailers continue to struggle with gaining full inventory visibility. Whether from lack of integrations, legacy systems, or order management solutions that are inadequate, we predict that retailers will invest in obtaining true visibility—mostly because not having it will be a liability to eCommerce growth and impede customer retention. Modern inventory visibility platforms will become the linchpin to delivering an omnichannel experience.
- Shipping and delivery transparency before checkout. Customers will abandon their carts if they encounter higher shipping rates or slower delivery date information at checkout. Retailers that provide shipping and delivery information before checkout, including any widespread delays, give shoppers the information they need to know before they get to checkout—and this builds trust and brand loyalty. This year, retailers will become more transparent with their shipping and delivery data, and communicate more effectively with shoppers.
- Buy now, pay later (BNPL). Already popular among younger credit card debt wary generations, BNPL will continue to be a strong payment option and differentiator for customers’ buying decisions. Online retailers will add BNPL payment services to their payment options to compete for more market share and make online sales easier and more convenient for inflation-cautious shoppers.
Overall, the future of eCommerce will continue to trend towards seamless, one-click, mobile and social media-enabled shopping, multiple fulfillment options, and curated experiences for online shoppers. Retail sales will continue to expand as online stores and brick-and-mortar stores deliver blended, omnichannel experiences that make shopping agnostic of location or device. No matter what changes 2023 brings, digital commerce businesses that continue to build and refine customer experiences that meet shoppers’ evolving expectations will gain new customers and retain loyal ones for years to come.