PREDICTIONS 2023 User experience will be everything

With tightening constraints on consumer spending, online retail is going to become increasingly competitive. While inflation and rising costs limit how much price will play a role in this competitive landscape, retailers will turn to tech to deliver ever-more compelling – and possibly immersive – customer experience.

So what is that going to look like in 2023? It is likely to take many shapes and involve more of what we already see, along with perhaps the evolution of technology that is bubbling under right now and which could burst forth in the months ahead.

Omnichannel and Bopis will come into their own

The move to mix channels when shopping will continue to evolve across 2023, with shoppers, squeezed by inflation, looking to shop around to an even greater extent. According to John Lunn, Founder and CEO of Gr4vy:”Consumers will also look for better, lower prices on goods, pushing them to online shopping and shopping around in 2023. We’ll see more of an open market. Consumers will not only be going to one online store or marketplace to shop anymore; instead, they will start thinking, “Can I get this cheaper somewhere else?”

This will inevitably lead to a rise in omnichannel shopping, believes James Khoury, CEO of fulfilment provider, Zendbox: “It’s no longer enough to only have a website; online stores now need to make their goods accessible across a range of selling platforms. Consumers are channel surfing more than ever, often discovering brands on social media before they find their website. People are more price conscious too and will be looking to compare prices for your product, or similar ones, on search engines or comparison sites.”

Khoury continues: “Now might even be the time to look into what will potentially be the next ‘super app’, TikTok. According to VideoWeek, TikTok is beginning to offer an all-in-one solution where consumers can shop and pay for products without ever leaving the app. As part of your omni channel approach, focus efforts on these types of apps in line with your website, social media accounts and, if applicable, your bricks and mortar store.”

But don’t forget Buy online, collect in store (Bopis), adds Lunn. “[This] was a big trend before COVID-19 due to security concerns as consumers had boxes stolen off their front steps. During COVID-19, with everyone home and able to collect packages, we saw this trend taper off. In 2023, we can expect to see BOPIS gain momentum again because rising fuel prices will increase delivery costs, driving retailers to offer discounts if customers pick up items in-store. As an offshoot to this, we’ll see a little trend where retailers even provide cheaper delivery costs for online items that customers agree to have delivered to a store nearby instead of to their homes.”

Mobile-first and social hold the key

While consumers are going to be working those channels like never before, mobile is going to be there mission control for their on and offline shopping, so mobile-first continues to be the main game in town.

According to Statista, by 2024, mobile sales will reach more than £100bn thanks in no small part to Gen Z and the rise of Gen Alpha. It’s more important than ever to adopt a mobile-first approach to retail sales and maximise every ecommerce opportunity.

Social media on mobile is perhaps the most intriguing part of this omni-channel move and it is entirely led by mobile social media use. The opportunity that social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels present to businesses is quite intriguing. 

“As a consumer, I love the idea of being able to discover experiences in a world where search results can seemingly be manipulated by whichever business is best at SEO,” says Krystal Taing, Director Pre-Sales Solutions, Uberall. “As marketers, leveraging social media in a way that authentically represents your brand can enable you to engage new consumers that may have otherwise ignored you in a standard search.”

Zendbox’s Khoury agrees: “It’s no coincidence that this upward trend in mobile sales aligns with the exponential growth of social commerce. TikTok has experienced the largest increase in the percentage of consumers willing to buy from social media. People can discover your brand on social media and then buy from the comfort of their mobile phone. What is more, optimising your social media platforms allows you to take advantage of user generated content (UCG), balancing out any additional marketing spend. Developing a mobile-first strategy should go hand in hand with social selling and will likely be essential in 2023.”

Payments

Taking the money is one of the main pain points with retail, on and offline, and it too is going to see a shake up as it becomes more of a focus for retailers. Improving payments has the ability to create better customer experience, but better payment processing, along with new payment methods can also give retailers efficiency gains.

“Simply having a roster of payment options will encourage more shoppers in 2023,” says Khoury. “One of the biggest reasons shoppers abandon their cart is due to a difficult payment or checkout process. Digital and mobile wallets now account for around half of global ecommerce payment transactions and so implementing this is going to be vital.”

PayPal now has 429 million users worldwide too, making it hugely popular for ecommerce. There is still space for the traditional card payment but as above, offering payment methods that satisfy different user demographics sets eCommerce stores up to bring in more of the available market revenue.

“Perhaps the biggest takeaway for ecommerce in 2023 is choice,” adds Khoury. “Users now expect different payment options, flexible returns, sustainable choices and to be able to shop on various platforms. The worst thing any online retailer can do is stay stagnant. Moving with the times is a must.”

One choice that is growing in popularity is instant payments. Based on bank transfers, where the payment uses the instant payments protocol to simple transfer money, instantly, from the shoppers account to the merchants, is fast, easy to manage and, from a retailer perspective, offers some real efficiency gains. 

According to Juniper Research, the increased time and cost efficiencies, and the improved cashflow management of using instant payments will be primary factors in influencing businesses to adopt. This will contribute to the total value of instant payment transactions rising from $6 trillion this year, to $33 trillion in 2027.

AI, AR and (whisper it) the metaverse are going to dominate

Artificial intelligence is already the power behind most of what we all do online, from predicting what we might want to watch on Netflix, to throwing up ads on YouTube. Its role behind marketing, targeting and other peripheral retail services is only going to grow in 2023 – prompting the emergence of other technologies riding on its data driven coat tails.

One such emergent tech that will develop from this is the use of Augmented Reality (AR). AR is gradually growing out of its infancy and could soon become an indispensable part of a digital marketing strategy. More and more brands have started integrating AR features into their apps and online campaigns. Consumers are trying out AR and experiencing upgraded customer journeys – think about using Google Lens to translate restaurant menus, or trying on make-up and glasses virtually. Whoever scores here in the coming year with the most creative and intuitive implementation, can set new standards and secure a long-term competitive advantage.

According to Florian Hübner, CEO and Founder, Uberall: “Augmented reality is already making its way into online campaigns and setting the first benchmarks in the hybrid customer experience. The beauty chain Douglas, for example, recently launched an AI-powered digital tool for analysing customers’ skin types and offering tailored product suggestions. Personalised customer experiences like these will continue to evolve rapidly in the coming year and beyond, further changing the standards in digital marketing. Success with customers and the competition will be determined by the actual benefits brought by these tools and the creativity with which they are implemented.”

This increasingly immersive technology used to enhance digital customer experience is also drawing us ever-closer to the metaverse. And 2023, while not the year that we all shift to the metaverse per se, will be the year that we get more acquainted with it and will see more brands starting to find a role for it.

And it will start with marketing, believes Hübner: “Social media and technologies such as AI or, more recently, the metaverse, offer creative marketers new playgrounds to come closer to their customers online and offline. For example, the US restaurant chain Chipotle gives its fans the opportunity to roll their own digital burritos on the online gaming platform Roblox and earn a real snack in one of its stores. In the next year and beyond, these environments will become an even stronger focus for the industry to become part of a long-term transformation of digital marketing strategies and take the hybrid customer experience to a new level.”

You have been warned.

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