The biggest ecommerce trends driving online retail in 2023
Ecommerce continues to change rapidly as technology emerges and evolves, resulting in new and different ways of doing business.
Online retailers need to keep up with the latest commercial and marketing trends so they can capture the greatest share of their market possible. But it can be difficult to keep up with and make sense of these new ecommerce trends — not to mention find practical advice and useful information on how to take advantage of them.
Staying updated on ecommerce trends helps online retailers ensure they incorporate every necessary strategy to attract the attention of their clients and increase conversions. This guide will bring you up to speed on all the major ecommerce trends of 2023 — and help you capitalize on them to get ahead of your competitors and succeed this year.
In this post, we’ll explore these 14 trends:
- Why building long-term customer relationships is more important than ever
- How augmented reality and virtual reality make online shopping more engaging
- Why more online shoppers are using voice search
- How personalization uses data insights to create more targeted experiences
- How online retailers are offering more flexible ways to pay
- How headless ecommerce gives online retailers more room to grow
- How video and livestream shopping increase customer engagement
- Why mobile shopping is more popular than ever
- How brands need to optimize their digital strategy for conversion
- How AI helps ecommerce store owners understand their customers
- How chatbots contribute to great customer service
- How sustainability is influencing more buyers
- Why subscriptions are being offered more often
- Why zero-party data is becoming a safer option for retailers
1. Building long-term customer relationships is more important than ever
Growing competition and advertising costs mean that you must make the most of your customer lifetime value (LTV). To do so, you’ll need to build long-term relationships to keep clients within your company’s ecosystem. Increasing customer LTV and retention by just 5% can boost your organization’s earnings by 25%.
Before you proactively work to improve customer retention, you first need to gather feedback about their experiences. Closely monitor analytics data to detect shopping trends and gauge how receptive customers are to your products, marketing campaigns, and outreach efforts. Gather feedback from customers after each purchase. Find out what they’d like you to do better and make the necessary adjustments to optimize their buyer journeys.
Another great way to build long-term relationships is to create a reward or loyalty program. These programs demonstrate that you care about your customers, and they incentivize shoppers to buy more products or services from your brand.
There are several ways to structure your reward program. You can implement a points-based system that allows customers to earn redeemable credits when they make a purchase. Alternatively, you could create a paid membership program that grants customers access to extra perks like free shipping.
Amazon Prime is a great example of a paid membership program, but it can be tough to sell your customer base on a paid subscription unless you deliver lots of value through it. That’s why points-based programs are the best option for most online retailers.
The self-care retailer Blume has an outstanding loyalty program, Blumetopia. They’ve dubbed their points “Blume Bucks.” Customers can earn Blume Bucks in several ways, including following the brand on social media, telling friends about the company, and placing orders.
2. Augmented reality and virtual reality make online shopping more engaging
According to 2022 research from McKinsey & Company, nearly half of the surveyed consumers said they’re interested in using “metaverse” technology — such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) — to shop in the next five years.
AR technology combines real elements with digital ones. It helps elevate the shopping experience by allowing consumers to preview products in a real-world environment.
For instance, a furniture business could incorporate AR technology into its mobile app. While using the app, consumers could position their phone’s camera toward a specific room and see what a sofa, chair, or other item would look like in their home.
Virtual reality is also being used in ecommerce. VR is similar to AR, but there’s a key difference. VR immerses the user in a completely digital environment, with no aspects of the real world visible. Virtual reality technology can be used to create digital showrooms, enabling customers to “browse” through a store as if they were shopping at a brick-and-mortar location. VR is a great way of bringing customers into a digital retail setting.
Conversely, AR technology allows consumers to view products in real-world settings so they can decide whether they want to make a purchase. Augmented reality has become particularly popular among clothing retailers. Using AR, shoppers can “try on” clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories before buying them.
The luxury brand Burberry has incorporated AR technology into its mobile app to boost customer engagement and allow shoppers to preview what products would look like if they wore them.
3. More online shoppers are using voice search
Modern consumers are accustomed to instant gratification — so much so that many no longer want to waste time typing in queries when searching for products. In fact, more than 60% of shoppers prefer to search for products using their voice.
Voice search allows shoppers to find products without lifting a finger. They can effortlessly ask Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon Alexa to conduct a search, add an item to a shopping list, or even place an order. Adding voice search to the shopping experience reduces friction during the purchasing process and makes ordering your products easy for your audience.
That said, voice search isn’t perfect. Voice search technology still struggles to interpret some accents and slang, which means it might occasionally display irrelevant results. Sometimes, voice search tools instruct users to repeat themselves, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.
Despite the potential drawbacks associated with voice search, the technology is constantly improving, and consumers are already on board. With that in mind, you should strive to make your content easier to find with voice search. Specifically, you’ll want to:
- Claim your Google Business Profile.
- Get listed on websites like Yelp and Yellow Pages.
- Acquire reviews from consumers.
- Follow SEO best practices.
Using these tips, you can make your site ready for voice search and follow the lead of top brands like Amazon. Alexa, the company’s digital assistant, is a market leader for voice search, using sophisticated technology that allows users to make purchases, add items to their Amazon shopping list, and much more.’
4. Personalization uses data insights to create more targeted experiences
One of the latest retail trends involves a major push toward offering consumers targeted, customized experiences. If and when third-party cookies get banned, it may be tougher to deliver personalized customer experiences. However, you can embrace this trend by shifting to first-party data gathering and other information collection strategies.
If your brand collects data for the purpose of personalization, your target audience may be more willing to share their valuable information. In 2018, Accenture found that 83% of consumers are willing to share their browsing data to create a more tailored experience, and the growing trend toward greater personalization suggests that number is likely even higher today. Using customer information to personalize your shoppers’ experience can make them more loyal and drawn to your brand.
There are many ways to customize the experience for each customer. For example, you can target them with personalized:
- Promotions and coupons
- Messages (email, text, and social media)
Spartan Race, the international obstacle race organizer, has made personalization an integral component of its marketing mix. The brand delivers location-based emails to prospective customers to drive engagement and boost sales. These emails highlight upcoming events near the recipient and offer discounts for races in their region.
5. Online retailers are offering more flexible ways to pay
While credit card payment processing remains fundamental to ecommerce, online retailers are making their products more accessible by giving consumers more flexible ways to pay.
For instance, some retailers now offer cryptocurrency as a payment option. Although this payment method has been somewhat volatile recently, it still has a passionate base of supporters interested in buying goods with crypto.
Another flexible payment method retailers are adding to the mix is digital wallets. Approximately 39% of shoppers already use their smartphones during their purchasing journeys.
Allowing consumers to make payments with built-in digital wallets makes this process more seamless, as they no longer have to submit payment or shipping information. Instead, they can quickly select the appropriate payment application and have products shipped to their listed address automatically.
Digital wallets aren’t the only new payment method on the block. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) platforms like PayPal, Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay have also become mainstream payment options for online shopping. Combined, these platforms support tens of thousands of retailers by letting customers spread out the costs of big-ticket purchases into affordable payments.
Adidas is one of the many clothing and apparel retailers to adopt the BNPL trend. The company has partnered with Affirm to allow shoppers to finance purchases at the point of sale and pay for products in monthly installments. Offering BNPL encourages larger ticket sizes and increases order volume.
6. Headless ecommerce gives online retailers more room to grow
Headless ecommerce technology separates the back and front ends of an online store. The “head” is the user-facing component of your website. It includes the product catalog and other menus the user interacts with while shopping. The back end is the software that powers payments, checkout processes, ordering, and more.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow the front-end and back-end solutions to communicate with each other and share data. But since they’re decoupled with a headless CMS, you don’t have to choose systems from the same vendor. Instead, you can mix and match platforms based on the needs of your business.
Adopting a headless CMS for ecommerce offers many other advantages, including:
- Increased flexibility on the back end
- Improved SEO
- Better sales and content marketing
- Easier omnichannel selling across desktop, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices
- Connection to all your brands and shops in one place
Nike is one of many brands that has gone headless. The global footwear and apparel giant can manage its various stores and digital assets using headless CMS technology. Going headless has also empowered Nike to take a mobile-first approach to ecommerce, which has put it ahead of the curve and opened up new revenue opportunities.
7. Video and livestream shopping increase customer engagement
According to a 2022 survey, 35% of consumers have made a purchase after watching a livestream shopping event on social media.
Going live and showcasing products with video is more effective than just using images, and it gives marketers an opportunity to demonstrate an item’s features and capabilities. While all video and livestream shopping events tend to perform quite well, short-form content is particularly powerful.
Many social media outlets have livestreaming capabilities, which are growing in popularity. You can use these built-in tools to livestream a product launch, like the QVC television network does. Livestreaming video lets you interact with your audience, answer questions, and increase their purchasing intent.
If you want to increase the potency of your streaming efforts, consider working with a popular or trusted influencer. Find an influencer with an audience that mirrors your own and use their reach to generate buzz about your latest product.
There have been lots of successful livestream events over the years. One of the most impactful was Petco’s Perfect Fit livestream campaign, which the pet supplier broadcasts live on Facebook. During the event, the retailer put on a pet fashion show and encouraged viewers to adopt dogs.
8. Mobile shopping is more popular than ever
The popularity of mobile shopping is at an all-time high, which is why it continues to rank among the top ecommerce trends. In 2022, 21% of mobile device users accessed retail shopping applications several times per day, and 35% interacted with shopping apps multiple times per week.
If you want to connect with all these shoppers, you have to ensure that your site is optimized for mobile. There are lots of ways to make your site more mobile-friendly.
First and foremost, you’ll want to make your site simple to navigate. That means choosing the appropriate screen display settings when designing your platform so important content isn’t cut out of view or squished when consumers access it with mobile devices. Additionally, all menu tabs and buttons must be easy to find and responsive.
Once you’ve optimized your site design to function flawlessly on smart devices, the next step is to add mobile payment capabilities to your platform. Giving consumers the ability to pay for products with their digital wallets can increase sales and reduce friction during checkout.
For an example of a company that’s mastered mobile, look no further than Walmart. The big box retailer’s site is organized, easy to use, and responsive. Walmart has also developed a seamless checkout process with big, bold buttons and clear pricing information so consumers know exactly what fees are included in their transactions.
9. Brands need to optimize their digital strategy for conversion
The conversion rate in ecommerce is low. The average conversion rate for digital retailers is around 2.5–3%. The good news is there are ways to get above the 3% threshold, improve conversion rates, and generate more sales.
To boost conversion rates, you need to optimize your entire digital strategy. As part of these efforts, develop multichannel and omnichannel strategies that allow you to nurture leads across multiple platforms and channels. You have a better chance of making a sale when you can interact with customers along several touchpoints.
You also need to take advantage of performance marketing, which allows you to pay for results — like conversions — instead of less-valuable actions like views or interactions.
Once you’ve added omnichannel and performance marketing to your mix, consider uploading videos and motion-based graphics to social media. Doing so can increase follower engagement and help you build your social presence.
Also, use landing pages and drive consumers toward these digital assets. Make it a point to craft effective calls to action (CTAs) and include the buttons in prominent locations on your landing pages. Once you’ve made these changes, conduct website usability testing to gauge the user-friendliness and accessibility of your site.
If you need inspiration, look at the Airbnb landing pages. These pages have prominent CTA buttons and an easy-to-navigate layout. All of the brand’s content is optimized for mobile, too, which allows it to reach more users — especially those who are on the go.
10. AI helps ecommerce store owners understand their customers
The ecommerce industry has rapidly gravitated toward artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in hopes of better understanding customers and increasing sales. Brands have made adopting AI a priority, and 51% of ecommerce companies say they are actively working on integrating artificial intelligence into their business operations.
AI doesn’t just help brands get into the minds of customers. This revolutionary technology can also support many other ecommerce processes. AI is particularly useful for inventory management, as it can predict future product demand, assist with product reordering, and help prevent stockouts.
Artificial intelligence can also increase retailers’ ability to collect data. They can then use analytics tools to read the data and gain actionable insights about customer habits.
When incorporated into omnichannel marketing strategies, the technology can decrease customer service costs. AI tools can power chatbots and engage in conversation with customers without tying up human capital.
AI-powered search is one of the most innovative ecommerce applications for artificial intelligence technology. The AI platform learns more about users by analyzing their browsing data, then generates relevant search results based on their past behavior.
For instance, the outdoor retailer North Face has incorporated AI technology into its digital store to help customers find the perfect coat. The AI software asks users where they’ll be wearing the coat and what activities they’ll be engaging in. It then uses that information to recommend products that meet the customer’s needs.
11. Chatbots contribute to great customer service
Chatbots give consumers access to near-instant support and can even help connect them to the right department if they need additional assistance.
While some people still want phone-based support, 62% of consumers would prefer to talk to a chatbot than a human agent if the alternative was waiting 15 minutes for a response. Chatbot technology, which uses natural language processing (NLP), is particularly efficient at solving basic problems or answering common questions like “Where is this product?”
Chatbots can function as in-store personal assistants to help find products and expedite the shopping experience. They increase brands’ ability to provide customer service, and they’re getting more personalized. Due to their versatility, chatbots can support every stage of the customer journey, from conversion to retention.
The technology can also be integrated into live chat protocols. For example, the chatbot can respond to initial inquiries, gather and organize information, and learn more about the customer’s problem. They can then route customers to the appropriate live agent when one becomes available.
Ruffwear, a pet gear retailer, uses chatbots to proactively connect with site visitors. The icebreaker the chatbot uses is customized based on the page the consumer is on. For example, if a consumer visits Ruffwear’s Dog Boots Fit Guide page, the chatbot will ask them if they need help choosing a pair of boots for their four-legged friend.
12. Sustainability is influencing more buyers
Buyers are increasingly looking beyond product quality and price when making purchasing decisions. One key factor they consider is sustainability.
According to McKinsey, over 60% of shoppers say they would be willing to pay more for a product that features sustainable packaging. This finding demonstrates consumers’ greater concern for ethically sourced products and environmentally conscious brands.
In response, more online retailers have begun paying attention to how shipping and packaging are handled so they can reduce carbon emissions. Both customers and companies desire to use less packing materials, and they want to go paperless wherever possible to reduce their environmental impact.
For years, the high-profile shoe brand TOMS has prioritized sustainability. The company allocates a portion of proceeds to support sustainability initiatives and to help those in need. Recently, it’s been expanding its sustainability initiatives to reduce its environmental impact. Today TOMS uses recycled materials in its packaging and manufactures its shoes with sustainably sourced cotton and other Earth-friendly materials.
13. Subscriptions are being offered more often
You might have noticed that subscription media services are everywhere now. Many online retailers are adding subscription models to their mix of services to improve customer retention, strengthen cash flow, and distinguish themselves from competitors. The size of the subscription ecommerce market jumped from $72.91 billion in 2021 to $120.04 billion in 2022.
Subscription models are a good option for larger purchases. When customers are already spending a few hundred dollars with a brand, they’re often willing to use a subscription for it. People who might be averse to spending a lot of money with a business are often more likely to sign up for a monthly subscription to make it more affordable.
If you want to capitalize on this ecommerce trend, consider offering subscription tiers instead of a one-size-fits-all service. By offering different tiers, you can appeal to a wider range of customers. Those that are hesitant to subscribe to your service can try the cheaper option, whereas your most loyal customers can access more perks by signing up for a premium account.
Don’t forget to address churn when developing your model. The reality is that many customers sign up for subscriptions but don’t keep them for very long.
You can reduce churn by regularly communicating with your members and consistently providing them with deals, coupons, and discount codes. By doing so, you can remind them of the value they’re getting by keeping their subscriptions active.
The monthly box delivery model is one of the most well-known examples of a subscription service. Target, Dollar Shave Club, and ButcherBox are some very popular subscription box services out there. While each of these businesses provides different types of products, they’re all priced competitively and strive to deliver good value for consumers — which is why they’ve been successful.
14. Zero-party data is becoming a safer option for retailers
Many customers are interested in knowing how their data is used and want the ability to opt out. For this reason, transparency is important to them.
These consumer privacy concerns have led some countries, especially in Europe, to outlaw the use of third-party data. In response, companies have been forced to reconsider their data policies.
Many retailers have preemptively shifted to a zero-party data strategy, which involves collecting data directly from relevant, consenting customers. During the time of collection, customers have the option to opt out, accept all cookies, or select which cookies to allow and which to block.
Sephora is one business that has adapted to the zero-party data trend particularly well. The beauty product provider has a thriving loyalty program, which they use to gather massive amounts of consumer data. Sephora puts this information to work to target customers with tailored product recommendations and curated search results.
Get started with using these ecommerce trends
Incorporating ecommerce trends strategically into your marketing plan can help you be more competitive, acquire new customers, and increase revenue.
When you’re ready to put these ecommerce trends to use, the first step is to prioritize good customer relations in your business. Adobe Commerce is the world’s leading digital commerce solution for merchants and brands. With Commerce, you can build engaging shopping experiences for every type of customer — from B2B and B2C to B2B2C. It’s built for enterprise on a scalable, open-source platform with unparalleled security, premium performance, and a low total cost of ownership.
Companies of all sizes can use Commerce to reach customers wherever they are, across devices and marketplaces. It’s more than a flexible shopping cart system — it’s the building block for business growth.
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