Today, we want to take a look at the top 7 trends for online retail that will define the future of the sector during 2023.
These trends go from logistic variations to new sales channels, and from payment methods to new online search mechanisms.
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Our goal is to provide your brand with a clear path toward the imminent future of online retail, and help your business remain relevant and profitable.
Let us begin!
The first thing to understand regarding future trends in the online retail industry, is the fact that online retail keeps growing.
Even in the midst of the post-pandemic and wartime crisis, online retail is forecast to grow: Total retail sales worldwide in 2022 are expected to come in at $29 trillion—a 4.7 percent annual increase.
This follows a 12.1 percent surge from 2020 to 2021 when total retail sales increased from $24.7 trillion to $27.7 trillion. 2021's global retail sales figures actually far exceeded market expectations, according to a Statista and Oberlo joint report.
So, regardless of the exact number, all sources and major players in e-commerce retail agree on this: the business is booming.
Under this scenario, the trends are more innovative, less impactful in cost reduction, and more oriented toward new and flashy ways to achieve increased profitability and brand recognition.
Now that we understand the current online retail scenario, we can dive head-on into the most interesting and dominating trends that all major brands are already pushing into the online retail global market.
Before COVID-19 having omnichannel capacities was more like a boost than a must. Now it's the opposite. The pandemic showed us that you need to be available for your potential customers in all possible formats and channels.
This means that having e-commerce with social media selling capabilities, and also a physical sale point, or pick-up point, is fast becoming the ideal scenario.
To be precise, in our post-pandemic world you will notice an increase in services like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store), curbside pickup, and BORIS (buy online, return in-store). Or any other permutations of physical and digital sales and pick-up.
So, if you are online, think about venturing a bit into the physical. And if you are a brick-and-mortar traditional retail, you better jump into the digital as fast as you can. Because if something was proved in 2019, is that the future is unfathomable.
Using social networks and media to sell products or services has become an industry standard.
This is a reality that many small entrepreneurs still need to cope with. Because honestly, selling using Facebook or Instagram is not simple at all.
In fact, social media are so polluted with information, comments, and tons and tons of content, that finding your place as a brand is sometimes a daunting and challenging task.
Yet, it is a task you need to face… and conquer. So, if you have not touched your social media accounts in a while, or if you think they are ‘not meant for selling’ please take a deep breath and look at what Youtube, Meta, and all major brands are regarding social media. It will surprise you!
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions AI/ML are growing trends in all sectors of human activity.
In our online retail universe is no different, both AI and ML are extensively being used and tested in all fields of e-commerce retail.
To put some examples, AI is used to do a lot of things; from predicting possible behavioral changes in our customers to fostering the sales of recurrent products, or even channeling our customers' journey by creating customer-centric search results in the e-commerce native search engines.
This means that an IA could, to put it simply, offer different results for two different persons that visit an online fashion brand e-commerce, based on what the IA has learned - or has been programmed to understand - from previous visitors and from the actions of the current ones.
Thus, showcasing for client A a list of potential results, that better matches his buyer persona, and that doesn’t necessarily match the list of results from client B.
And on the Machine Learning front, pricing optimization, omnichannel marketing prediction, and optimization and logistics prediction are just but a few of the current applications worldwide of ML to improve online retail brands.
Augmented reality is fast becoming a standard format for companies to offer their goods and showcase their products.
The concept is simple: using a smart device you can see how the product fits your body or any given spot in your house, before buying it.
This simple idea allows for a lot of quality-of-life research in the eyes of the consumer. Do you want to buy Ikea furniture but you are not sure how it will look in your living room? AR it into place using your phone and decide.
You can even change the color, design, or style of any given product, and try them out virtually, in ways that were just impossible a few years ago.
Visual search is a way to search for content using images as inputs, instead of text. Currently the most famous of these systems is Google Image Search. So it is something you can pretty much go right now and test. It's a working technology that will keep on growing.
The way it works is that the user has the option to upload an image to a visual search engine or application and find related content. The results are also displayed in photographic format.
Artificial intelligence has managed to generate algorithms that include visual recognition. They have the ability to identify which elements appear in the photo uploaded by the user, compare them with the images indexed in their database, and offer a list of results that match the characteristics that appear in the image.
With this technology as a base, many companies and brands are already experimenting with the possible lead generation and sales, derived from image searches. And if we combine this with the upcoming smart glasses technology…. oh boy we have a powerful marketing tool!
Imagine walking down a street in Paris, seeing a purse or dress that caught your attention, using your smartglasses to search for the image you are seeing in real life, getting to the store, and buying it… all in the blink of an eye.
The latest trend from Asia is live shopping and Livestream e-commerce. This trend consists in showcasing a product or service via live streaming, generally using a social media platform like TikTok or Youtube.
This streaming is done - most of the time - by an influencer. So it is a pretty powerful marketing tool: combining the engagement power of a “social media star” with the remarkable and well-documented ‘impulsive shopping boost’ that live broadcasting has.
And we could spend a year talking about this phenomenon where many, many things come into play: herd mentality marketing techniques, start and influencer power, social media impulsive behavior triggers, and so on and so forth.
Suffice it to say, that Livestream e-commerce or live shopping is a really powerful marketing tool and for sure, a trend we will see increasingly during 2023.
Voice commerce is the possibility for a user to make online purchases using only voice and a compatible smart device, such as a cell phone, speakerphone, or virtual assistant.
Like its counterpart visual search e-commerce, voice commerce allows a user to search for any given result using voice commands and inside a search engine that allows voice search and results.
Perhaps some of the most well-known examples of voice search engines are Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Cortana by Microsoft, and Google Assistant.
So far, companies have begun experimenting with specific voice SEO. Techniques aimed at achieving the almost impossible feat of ranking your brand or product as the single result for any given voice search.
Yes, you read it correctly: the single result. Here lies the main issue regarding voice commerce and the reason why we have left this trend as our last one: you can only get one result per query with voice commerce.
This means that actually ranking in the first position for the keyword or phrase you want, is mandatory. Otherwise, customers won't even know you are there. Of course, this will - in due time - change. Search engines will most likely increase voice results, or find their way around to provide more possible answers - some of them are already experimenting with this - but so far, is a gray area and really complex SEO scenario.
Yet, voice commerce has incredible untapped potential, especially for local commerce. Imagine driving around town, and feeling the need for some spicy burritos. So you talk to your navigation system in your car, and it offers you the nearest and best-ranked Mexican restaurant close to your GPS location. Do you see the potential?
All in all, if you wish to remain relevant in 2023 in the complex and growing field of online retail, we strongly recommend you check out all these trends and join Cross Border Magazine to keep track of all things e-commerce related!
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