It’s an exciting time to be in ecommerce. The industry is worth $5.5 trillion globally and there are increasing opportunities to find and engage with new audiences.
But there's no denying it, 2023 looks set to pose challenges for ambitious DTC brands looking to grow. So if you own or work for an ecommerce business, it's time to get ready for what the year has to bring.
To help you out, we’ve interviewed 10 experts to get their thoughts and predictions on ecommerce trends for the year ahead. We’ll look at key themes and actionable tips to help you succeed in 2023.
Let’s get into it. 👇
Key ecommerce trends and predictions for 2023: TLDR
Here's a summary of the trends our experts predict for the ecommerce industry. ✨
- Retention is key - There’s no getting away from the rising cost of living. Consumers have less money to spend, so it’s important for brands to build connections and trust with their customers. Retention strategies are going to play a huge part in this.
- Take advantage of ecommerce marketplaces - More and more online retailers are transforming themselves into online marketplaces. Think Decathlon, B&Q, MediaMarkt, Manor, Conrad and Carrefour. For growing ecommerce brands, this opens up more opportunities to sell on new platforms and to reach new audiences.
- Deepen understanding of your customers - In the last few years, we’ve seen a considerable slowdown in new marketing channels and increasing competition. Rising acquisition costs have made it harder to sway online shoppers to buy with us. That’s why you’re going to need a deeper understanding of your customers.
- Focus on your brand and creative - Data, segmentation and targeting used to be super important for ads before IOS14, but the latest update means you can’t rely on that anymore. Your creative needs to work harder to capture and hold someone’s attention.
10 experts and their predictions for ecommerce in 2023
Ready to delve in further? We’ve assembled a selection of ecommerce experts from across the industry, each with their own unique specialisms - from DTC user-generated content to building tech stacks for ecomm brands. Here's their insights and predictions into what lies ahead for 2023.
Daphne Tideman on customer loyalty and retention
Daphne started out as the 1st employee for RockBoost, a growth hacking agency. She’s worked brand-side where she helped braincare startup Heights 10x their subscriber base in 18 months. Now Daphne helps the best eco-friendly & wellness D2C startups grow faster.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a considerable slowdown in new marketing channels and increasing competition. The growth of Amazon also means a good ecommerce experience is no longer enough. So we have rising acquisition costs, making it harder to sway customers to buy with us. Plus, a current economic crisis means spending is down, as is VC funding.
It seems gloomy like this, but I believe it allows 2023 to be the year to focus on optimizing customer lifetime value and building stronger brand loyalty. For too long, growth has focused on new customer acquisition rather than existing ones.
The brands that survive and thrive will be the ones who double down on customer research and on creating a new level of experience every step of the journey from purchase to aftercare. So I expect that if startups are hiring for growth roles, it will be more CRM specialists and retention experts rather than paid ads.
So what I mean is that a decent customer experience isn't enough to stand out. There have to be more wow moments and, indeed personalisation (or at least data-driven segmentation) to improve the experience.
With customer research, I mean going back to who their customers are, as this will also have changed with the recession (as price elasticity changes). I see more and more brands taking the time now for Jobs to Be Done research and trying to understand better what their customers are trying to achieve.
OIiver Rhodes on brand storytelling
Oliver Rhodes is the founder of Aalto Projects works with ecommerce brands like RIXO and Hype. With so many services out there, Oliver sorts the wheat from the chaff and offers deceptively simple solutions to complex DTC problems. Check out his suggested Tech Stack for different ecommerce workflows.
In the past couple of years, demand has been reducing. At the end of 2021, everyone was feeling super confident after COVID so companies increased their forecast and inventory. But, moving into 2022, iOS has screwed up the paid advertising funnel and the UK pound has dropped. This means that people are buying less. Uncertainty stops you from buying and it stops you from moving forward. That’s why people are so obsessed with productivity and trying to manage time.
For D2C brands, the website bar has gone up. It's not enough to just have a great catalogue, brands need to create a good story too. Take Finisterre. They’re creating visual stories of their brand and embedding their product catalogues into the story. They’re weaving products in with the lifestyle that customers want to have.
If you do wholesale and B2B distribution, I think the traditional buying pattern where brands buy bulk products from wholesalers ahead of a new season has gone. COVID has meant that consumers are buying a lot more sporadically. They’ll still be doing wholesale, but they’ll only sell to wholesalers what’s in stock. It is also why I think some brands will start using dropshipping platforms. You can list other people’s inventory on their website alongside their own. This addresses inventory challenges and helps create newness. And it enables cross-collaboration/sharing stock with other brands.
You could work with an on-demand printing platform and access organic cotton sweatshirts, for example. You can test designs without risking inventory. It’s more responsible - you’re not pre-printing inventory that you sit on and you’re not taking up warehouse space. You’re therefore reducing risk and giving yourself more money to spend on acquisition and retention.
Brands will be looking at ways to improve cash flows. Instant refunds mean you can enable the customer to get their money back fast. This is great for the customer experience and it eliminates customer service costs because there will be fewer people getting in touch asking for a refund. This means brands aren’t reducing their cash flow unpredictably. People don’t like the unpredictable nature of returns - you don’t know how much money is going to be lost in refunds and they’re particularly hard for brands in growth mode because they’re keeping a tight cash flow.
Abraham Wolke on community
Abraham Wolke is the Co Founder & CEO of Bounty. He previously co-founded two direct-to-consumer brands. When Apple's privacy updates upended digital advertising, Abraham started Bounty, leveraging his learnings from previous ventures to create a new scalable channel to help brands drive growth.
In 2023, brands should look to leverage their own communities to help them grow by creating content to use in ads, giving product feedback, and/or driving organic reach.
Customer acquisition costs and product costs aren’t coming down and ecommerce sales are slowing in the tough economy.
What better way to keep shopping affordable for your best customers than to reward them for driving reach for your brand and super-powering your marketing team with a stream of authentic, organic content?
Dedicating a portion of the marketing budget to give back to your community drives loyalty without discounts that eat into margins.
At Bounty, we’ve built a platform that automates this process for brands and allows anyone to participate!
Martin Wilson on the importance of visual content
Martin Wilson is co-founder of Bright, an agile software company. He heads up Dash (that’s us), a digital asset management solution for SMEs. He’s on a mission to bring effortless digital asset management to all teams, whatever their size, especially growing ecommerce brands.
We know the competition in ecommerce is fierce. Growing brands working with agencies, resellers and marketplaces need to create and deploy top-quality content at speed if they want to stay ahead. The quicker they can do this, the quicker they will grow.
Creating effective brand content is time-consuming and costly. Smaller brands using Google Drive, Dropbox or (dare I say it) shared network drives find it almost impossible to stay on top of their content. They waste a lot of time organising, searching for and deploying their content and, more often than not, this leads to campaigns launching with substandard visuals.
To stand out on Instagram or TikTok these days, brands need to be using highly effective images and videos. This means content that is authentic to your brand and has been proven to work with the target audience.
The ecommerce brands thriving in 2023 will be doing the following:
- Testing content continuously to see what resonates and what doesn’t. They’ll also be recording that data to help with future content.
- Using images and videos that have proven to engage audiences in future campaigns. This makes the most of a tight budget and ensures they only use really effective visuals for expensive campaigns such as paid ads.
- Improving their processes for obtaining UGC from influencers and customers. This includes quickly sorting the good from the bad to ensure a continuous stream of high-quality, authentic content.
- Speeding up the lifecycle of product shots - from working with photographers on photoshoots, touching up and cropping images, and deploying to ecommerce platforms. This means they can adapt quickly to changes in the market without having the chaos that seems to accompany big refreshes.
Investing in a platform that can support all these workflows effortlessly!
A good example of a DTC brand that’s ready for 2023 is Goodrays. They’ve seen huge growth in the past year and are now selling on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Deliveroo. Each platform has specific image specifications - just one of the many things to think about when expanding into new marketplaces. Dash helps them support this workflow by quickly providing their product images in the right dimensions.
The key to growth in a challenging business environment is to use lean principles. How can you do more with fewer resources? The trick is to turn all your day-to-day activities into repeatable workflows and invest in the right software platforms to automate these as much as possible.
Jesse Wragg on expanding marketplaces
As Co-Founder & Managing Director at eCommeleon, Jesse has been helping online retailers expand internationally via marketplaces since 2015. Jesse enjoys working with brands and retailers of all sizes to help them build and realise their own marketplace expansion goals.
Even before COVID changed the ecommerce world for good, marketplaces were seen by the largest retailers worldwide as an opportunity to level up already successful online businesses. For most of them though, the question wasn’t “which marketplaces shall we sell on?”, but “how do we become a marketplace ourselves?” Decathlon, B&Q, MediaMarkt, Manor, Conrad, Carrefour and many more big names have followed the example set by Walmart, opening their doors to allow third-party retailers and brands to offer their products on their high-traffic sites. It makes sense; they get to rapidly increase the number of offered products, thus encouraging existing customers to keep coming back as they (re)discover alternatives to Amazon.
Moving into 2023, I expect to see an increase not only in the number of household names entering this space but also in their overall success. MediaMarkt recently overtook Zalando as the number 3 ecommerce player in Germany - no small feat. These shifts will continue as more category-specific players join the marketplace game and the barriers to entry are reduced thanks to technology like Mirakl & Spryker.
This trend, combined with an ever-growing number of niche startup marketplaces, means that D2C brands and retailers will be spoiled for choice as to where they can find new buyers and need only to focus on ensuring that the right systems are in place to enable them to take advantage of these expansion opportunities.
Nathan Lomax on sustainability
Nathan Lomax is co-founder of Quickfire Digital, a Shopify agency which builds money-making websites for DTC brands. They work with world-class ecommerce brands like FILA, Juicy Couture and Magnum Boots.
Ecommerce will continue to grow in 2023 - of that I have no doubt - and we’ll see more challenger brands disrupting a variety of sectors.
With online competition intensifying year-on-year, these new kids on the block understand that they need a hook; something different which sets them apart. And we’ll definitely see more of this next year and beyond.
We work with many such brands - the likes of Snug Sofa, Stripe & Stare, Tala - and are currently developing a marketplace using the Shopify framework for an environmentally-friendly alternative to Amazon.
It’s an exciting space and with what seems an infinite number of niches, ecommerce will continue to develop and grow. Let’s not forget, it’s still a baby in the world of retail but accounts for about a third of all UK sales.
I think we’ll see the sustainable angle grow over the next few years. Yes, the cost of living is biting but we’re becoming more conscious all the time of where our goods come from and how they are made.
From a platform perspective - which is where we make our living - I’m biased but I can only see Shopify growing its market share in the UK. Not only does it have arguably the best structure, it never stands still and I think its point-of-sale (POS) software will emerge as a major consideration for those brands which have been built online but are now entering the physical space - that’s how I see the omnichannel concept really taking off.
Shaun Brandt on brand-first CRO
Shaun is one of the co-founders of Oddit which offers UX teardowns for websites looking to boost long-term conversion & strengthen brand loyalty. Oddit has worked with over 3,500 brands including Corkcicle, P&G, Pela Case, Winc, and Jones Road Beauty.
There’s no getting away from the rising costs that all brands are going to see in 2023. But there’s one thing you can do to help ensure you keep customers - brand-first CRO.
Think about it. The majority of conversions are based on a customer’s buy-in to your brand. You could have a fantastic product but if customers don’t believe in your brand, it’s going to be hard to keep them. On the flip side, if they love your brand but have the worst experience on your website, they’ll still want to buy your product.
Rising costs will weed out the DTC brands that are basically just Amazon resellers with a pretty storefront. A lot of them popped up during COVID and have been undercutting the really great DTC brands. Companies that focus on building brand trust are the ones that are going to win.
How can you build brand trust and loyalty? I think ecommerce brands should work to find their cohort of brand ambassadors. Who are the people that, if you increase your pricing, are still going to buy your product? Talk to customers and find out what they love so much about your brand. You might be surprised what they say.
Another way to achieve this is focusing on your customer service. For example, how are your customers dealt with when they have a return? Can you make it easier for them? Customers share good experiences just as much as bad experiences.
Take Jones Road Beauty, who sell different shades of makeup. If a customer buys a product and it’s not a skin tone match, they don’t ask customers to send products back. Instead, they ask them to gift it to a friend. This creates a great brand experience because a customer doesn’t have to worry about the hassling of returning a product. But it’s also a win for the brand. They’ve saved the time and money spent receiving a return and turned what might have been a negative experience for the customer into a way to introduce the brand to new people.
Another challenge brands are facing in 2023 is making user-generated content feel authentic. It’s now so easy for consumers to tell the difference between authentic UGC and a paid partnership with a professional influence.
Sure, influencer marketing works in ad strategies. But once people get to your site, you need to build brand trust and get people to believe in you. This is where authentic UGC should sit. You want customers to feel that connection. One of our clients, Long Wknd, does this well. They use Bounty to persuade customers to post about their products on TikTok, and promote it on their product pages.
Eric Dyck on focusing on creative content
Eric’s mission is to “accelerate the democratization of commerce,” by sharing proven best practices to grow your brand. He’s the co-founder and CEO of DTC Newsletter and Podcast where he shines a light on the performance marketing tactics fuelling the world’s fastest growing brands and agencies. To date, the DTC Newsletter reaches over 150,000 ecommerce brand builders and marketers.
The number one thing brands should think about in 2023 is their audience’s attention.
Earlier this year, entrepreneur celeb David Friedberg said on his All-In Podcast that in the next 30 years all legacy brands will die. Instead, the millennials and Gen Z creators who build audiences now (like MrBeast) will be the ones who create the next McDonald’s.
Bold prediction. But he’s not wrong about the importance of owning your audience’s attention.
And I don’t mean just through paid ad content.
- Think about Barstool Sports being acquired by Penn National Gaming.
- Or Ridge Wallet buying everydaycarry.com (600k+ monthly organic impressions).
- Or DTC Newsletter (that’s us) scaling to 150,000 subscribers in partnership with Pilothouse (and helping the agency grow to 150+ employees).
On the ad buying side, before iOS14, we used to say things like “data is the new oil.” After iOS14 the oil got a lot more “crude,” needing lots more refining.
In response we pushed into creative content, because we figured out that creative and angle testing can be used to attract the right audience in the same way Meta’s pixel used to.
But when you think about it, the point of content is to hold your audience’s attention as you move them down the funnel.
That’s why attention is the new oil.
Data and content (paid, earned, owned, and acquired) are means to that end.
How are you going to get and keep your audience’s attention in 2023? (without having to pay for every impression).
Elliot Scott on AI and hyper-personalisation
Retention for ecommerce brands in 2023 will be bigger than ever. A big opportunity I see moving to next year is the utilisation of a hyper-personalised customer journey and use of predictive analytics and AI to deliver better experiences and smarter ways to target customers.
Audiences expect a level of personalisation in their emails and texts. But often when there's an overwhelming amount of data available to brands, it can be tricky to understand and pinpoint exactly what needs to be sent, when to send it and to who. Personalised communication that directly relates to a customer’s specific needs will cut through the noise.
Ecommerce brands should take the time to understand predictive analytics and even integrate AI softwares to their tech stack to remove the guesswork from their retention strategy. AI can analyse thousands of data points and pull out meaningful insights and patterns to help you better understand your data and what customers want from you. Brands that can closely match a customer’s interests and/or needs will see higher conversions, more repeat purchases and increased LTV.
Mark Elward on helping consumers spread costs
Mark Elward is an experienced logistics professional with a wealth of experience in the ecommerce arena. He is responsible for supporting and growing Huboo’s Enterprise Sales team - a crucial role as the business continues to develop bespoke, customisable fulfillment solutions for larger ecommerce and D2C brands on a global basis.
The retail industry’s cautiously optimistic outlook at the start of 2022 was eroded by strong economic headwinds, geopolitical instability, soaring inflation and plummeting consumer confidence. It’s a tough operating environment, but for online retailers, there are still opportunities to ride out the downturn and grow their businesses in 2023.
They can do so by meeting the needs of the price-sensitive consumer. Consumers have already begun cutting down on larger expenses and trading down by moving to cheaper products. In 2022, we’ve seen bundle deals, which offer complementary products at a discounted rate, become an effective way for retailers to incentivise consumers to increase their basket size. There has also been significant growth in retailers offering subscription models – where customers commit to regular purchases of products such as alcohol or pet food for a discounted price. Designing effective promotions is more than just slapping discounts on products or holding flash sales. Online retailers need to use sales bundles and subscriptions creatively, actively increasing product sales without devaluing their products or brand.
It’s also important to market in tune with the consumer mood. During the height of COVID, many ecommerce brands were able to adapt their communications to reflect the sombre climate. The most effective pandemic adverts were more restrained, often demonstrating support for broader societal causes. In 2023, everyday brands of all shapes and sizes must pay close attention to the tone of all ongoing marketing efforts – from digital ads to newsletters – to make sure communication is sensitive to the tough situation many customers will find themselves in.
Retailers can help customers spread the cost of purchases. The popularity of buy now pay later (BNPL) schemes exploded during the pandemic. To drum up sales at a moment of widespread uncertainty, retailers large and small partnered up with BNPL companies like Klarna to offer flexible payment options. As the impact of the cost of living continues to be felt through 2023, offering flexible payment terms can be a competitive advantage for retailers – particularly on higher-cost items. We expect to see BNPL becoming more commonplace across the ecommerce arena, and retailers that will see most success will be those that think creatively about how to use these schemes to both attract customers and encourage them to spend more.
Adaptability and responsiveness will continue to be the ecommerce secret weapon. It won’t be easy, but if online retailers take leanings from the last 12 months, they will put their businesses on a positive trajectory and will emerge from the downturn stronger, leaner, and more attuned to their customers’ needs.
Recommendations for ecommerce brands in 2023
So what can we take away from these insights? Here are some recommendations from our experts and some actionable tips you can implement right now. 🙌
Have your visual content work twice as hard
Invest more in your visual content
Visual content has always been important, but as we move into 2023, fighting for your audience's attention is going to become an increasing challenge. So make sure you’re investing time in creating and deploying quality images and videos. Whether that’s product shots, brand assets or social graphics, you can make them accessible in an easy-to-use platform like Dash. This will also mean you always have a ready-to-use library of images for marketplaces and resellers.
Test your creative
Make sure to record what’s going well in your ads and social campaigns and continue to test for the best results. For visual content, you track what’s resonated best with your audience in a tool like Dash.
Make sure your ad graphics are on point
When you think about it, the point of content is to hold your audience’s attention as you move them down the funnel. That’s why more time should be spent on testing and improving your ad creatives. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Take inspiration from other ecommerce brands - for example, you can take a look at what brands are doing across social media including Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
- Find your brand ambassadors - consumers can tell the difference between authentic UGC and paid partnerships with professional influencers. That’s why you should connect with your brand ambassadors and loyal customers and work with them to produce real UGC for your paid ads.
Encourage authentic UGC
Need more user-generated content? You could follow Long Wknd’s footsteps and offer an incentive at the checkout. They use Bounty to persuade real-life customers to post about their products on TikTok, and promote it on their product pages.
Focus on customer loyalty and retention
Get a deeper understanding of your customers
Who are the people that, if you increase your pricing, will still want to buy from you? (Brand loyalty goals, right?) Talk to your customers and find out why they really like your brand. You’ll be surprised at what they say.
💡Our tip: incentivise customers to join you on a 30-minute call by offering a gift voucher or discount off your products.
Focus on your CRM and retention strategy
To thrive and survive in 2023, you should be focusing on your customer relationship management (CRM) and retention strategies.
Double down on your customer research and on creating a new level of experience during every step of the customer journey. To do this, consider hiring people who have skills in customer relationship management.
Use brand conversation optimisation (CRO) to increase brand loyalty 💪
There’s no getting away from the rising cost of living. Consumers have less money to spend, so it’s important for brands to build connections and trust with their customers. You can do this with brand-first CRO.
This is where you align your brand story and user experience (UX) and remove friction points across your website. This all plays into the wider experience that a customer has with your brand. Companies that focus on building brand trust are the ones that are going to win in 2023. 🙌
Use AI for hyper-personalisation
Take the time to understand predictive analytics. You could integrate artificial intelligence (AI) software into your tech stack to remove the guesswork from your retention strategy. AI can analyse thousands of data points and pull out meaningful insights and patterns to help you better understand your data and what customers want from you. Brands that can closely match a customer’s interests and/or needs will see higher conversions, more repeat purchases and increased lifetime value (LTV).
Streamline your payment and order systems
Consider an instant refund service
Use instant refund services to take better control over your cash flow. This means your customers will get their money back as soon as they place a return on your website - you then need to pay the refund company when the return is received. Not only does this better help you manage budgets, but it's great for the customer experience and reduces customer service time. (In other words, there’ll be less time spent dealing with those ‘where’s my refund’ requests. 👀)
Make your return process easier
As well as offering an instant refund service, make sure it’s as easy as possible for customers to return their items. Take inspiration from beauty brand, Jones Road Beauty. They’re passionate about helping people find their perfect shade of makeup. But, if you order some foundation and it’s not the right shade, they actually encourage you to pass it on to a friend. This is good for brand experience and frees up your customer service team from constant refund queries.
Offer flexible payment options
Help your customers spread the costs of their purchases by offering flexible payment options. Buy now pay later (BNPL) schemes (like Klarna and Afterpay) can offer you a competitive advantage, especially if you sell high-cost items. Think creatively about how to use these schemes to both attract customers and encourage them to spend more. 🤑
Look for new areas to grow
Look for opportunities in new marketplaces
More marketplaces mean more opportunities. And, as a D2C brand, you’ll be spoiled for choice as to where to find new customers. Getting the right technology in place will be essential in making the most of these expansion opportunities. Take a look at software tools like eCommeleon that help you expand your online shopping reach and grow into new marketplaces. 🚀
Create sales bundles and subscriptions
Do you need customers to spend more with you? Perhaps a subscription model is the way to go. This is where customers commit to regular purchases of products such as alcohol or pet food at a discounted price. Consider whether this is something your store can offer. Alternatively, you could create sales bundles of product recommendations to encourage customers to increase their basket size.
Consider on-demand printing
If you currently use printing services to produce customised or branded products (like t-shirts, bags or gift items), you could swap to on-demand printing.
If we take t-shirts as an example, a product will only be created once a customer places an order. This allows you to test designs without risking inventory. It’s also more responsible because you’re not pre-printing inventory that you sit on and take up warehouse space. In turn, this will give you more money to spend on acquisition and retention. 🤑
Get your ecommerce business ready for 2023
Now you’ve seen what’s to come in 2023, it’s time to get prepared. 💪 As Oliver told us, ecommerce brands should focus on building their tech stack so you’ve got more resources and time to focus on growing your brand.
That’s why you should use Dash. 😇 This is a tool that lets you store, organise and share your visual content with agencies, resellers and marketplaces. No more trawling through shared drives or losing important brand docs - instead, quickly search and find your content in Dash.
Want to give it a go? Sign up for free for 14 days, no credit card needed. ✨