By Lex Deak, Co-Founder and CEO of Basket
2023 has been a big year for the online shopping industry. We saw retailers keep up with new and popular ways to shop and discover products, consumers spending confidently in some areas like luxury, travel, and fashion, and then pulling back or focusing on bargain-hunting in others.
While we do have a couple of months left of 2023 – and this year has demonstrated that things can change overnight – here are some assumptions of what will be important for the ecommerce and retail industry in the year ahead.
Despite recent news, I still believe the economic environment is set to improve in 2024.
The retailers that are set to win will be those who are doing something new, and investing in innovation, technology, and talent. Whilst some retailers ‘stayed still’ in the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, now is the time to jump-start plans for the year ahead and try to embrace new thinking and practices.
Innovation and technology will provide exciting opportunities to tap into new customers and fresh growth, allow retailers to get the mix of stores and online touch points right, and ensure shopping is easy, seamless, and up-to-date.
- Your ecommerce experience will need to be ‘omnichannel-led’, seamless and ‘sticky’
Convenience and ease are increasingly important to consumers. Your omnichannel capabilities need to exist and be ready for 2024.
McKinsey & Company have said “Offering a compelling omnichannel experience used to be the bleeding edge of retail. Now it’s a requirement for survival.”
Whilst retailers continue to combine complex digital touch points with experimental in-store and other offline experiences, integrated and effective branded communications will be crucial. How and when are you speaking to consumers? Is your comms and marketing tapping into new audiences? How does your customer experience and expectation compare to competitors? How are you seamlessly embedding yourself into your consumer’s daily routine?
Technology partnerships will give you that competitive edge. It doesn’t have to be a complex solution and the best partnerships can simply slot into what you already have, that might already be working well.
In 2024, social listening won’t be effective on its own, so technology partners can enhance the positive experiences that are already occurring and keep on top of trends as they are happening in real-time.
- The demand for personalised shopping experiences is still increasing
I know it’s quite literally been years of talking about the impending cookieless future, but recent research shows us that consumer demand for personalisation has actually increased, so many retailers can’t afford a dip in data or personalised marketing at the end of 2024.
Our own data at Basket shows us it can take consumers a couple of days to a couple of weeks to decide on a purchase, so how you communicate and interact with them in the lead-up will be crucial, as well as purchase-to-product fulfilment.
Personalised communication at the right time will also be crucial, as consumers are frequently adding impulse buys to their online orders. Research is finding that despite financial pressures, consumers will still be impulse buying, with great deals and discounts helping to push them over the line. One recent survey showed, 60% of consumers stated they were “somewhat or very likely” to buy new products while browsing online last minute, driven by last-minute needs (55%) and the desire to “treat themselves” (45%).
- “We are in the middle of a customer-led, technology-enabled revolution in retail”
commented IDC analyst Leslie Hand, who I couldn’t agree more with. Innovating from the inside out will be important, as there are always new brands entering the industry that are introducing new and exciting ways to sell to consumers and can attract the best talent. Not hugely surprisingly – but technology is your best bet.
Retailers with the right tech infrastructure and seamless operations will reap the rewards.
Whilst embracing the new is important, it needs to make sense and work together. Consumers enjoy shopping with retailers in different ways every time they make a purchase, so the more diverse your offering is, the stronger the position they will be in. Research has proven the big wins are investing in strong back-end systems and IT services to achieve quick product fulfilment. With the news of Amazon delivering orders using drones by the end of next year, and watch and wishlist technology becoming increasingly popular, all these touchpoints will need to work seamlessly together for a smooth experience.
To get the above right, talent will be key in making all this possible.
The industry demands continued investment in people and talent, so retailers must entice and build diverse team members with competitive remuneration, exciting career progression paths, training, hybrid working, healthy cultures and placing mental health as a priority. This will be essential in attracting the best talent, keeping your workforce motivated, and shoppers happy and your competitive advantage. Again, technology will play an important part in creating creative and collaborative work cultures.