By Simeon Wynn - Looking at the state of world economic and geo-political affairs at the start of 2023, it’s hard not to approach this year with a decidedly less rosy outlook than perhaps we might have started recent years with. No matter where you look, it feels almost impossible to escape tales of economic woes, falling consumer confidence, and spiralling prices. Need I say more?
Of course, much of this is true, and down to real, world-changing events that have happened in recent months. As I sit here in rural Norfolk, deep in the UK countryside, I can think of at least a few country-specific decisions that have led to inordinately high prices in some areas here and a lack of supply in others.
But, despite all this, there is one thing we should all be smiling about – whatever doom and gloom you may have heard about the e-commerce industry has frankly been greatly exaggerated.
The e-commerce industry is still growing
Yes, that’s right. Across almost all markets and in most major verticals, the e-commerce industry is still booming. On Black Friday 2022, total online sales were up 2.3% when compared to 2021. Shopify also reported over 52 million consumers worldwide purchased from a brand using their technology. Meanwhile, Barclaycard Payments have reported a 3.2% increase in transactions in the UK compared to last year. Across the EU, e-commerce sales are projected to reach over €600 billion in 2023.
There was a worry as we headed into the BFCM period that consumers were getting tired of online discounts and might prefer to look in-store for the best deals. But what did we see? Consumer habits didn’t just temporarily change over the pandemic; they permanently shifted, in a seismic way, to the point that over 80% of consumers now research products online as a first port-of-call, regardless of any deals they may have seen in person.
So what does this mean for e-commerce brands? Well, there is certainly opportunity out there and space for growth, but only for the brands doing it right. The modern consumer is the best-informed, most active, and least-loyal iteration of a consumer we have seen yet. Successful brands know this and will be employing a few key strategies in 2023 to capitalise on the moment.
First and foremost, you must focus on the customer. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for a seamless, convenient shopping experience and won’t accept anything less. With so much uncertainty around living costs, you need to be as honest as you can be about your shipping times, your return policies, and any changes to your operations. Something as simple as not offering a refund on import duties and taxes for cross-border trade can drastically affect sales, something Duty Refunds are poised to help you with.
2023 will also be the year to embrace new technologies. From augmented reality to chatbots to the continued growth of social commerce on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, there is an increasing number of ways to reach your customers directly and make their experience as smooth as possible.
Whatever you do this year, enjoy the challenge, and I wish you every success.
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