In today’s world, shopping online has become effortless with just a few taps on your smartphone. E-commerce not only remains a popular choice, but it also intersects with the hottest social media trends of 2023.
According to analysts, US e-commerce sales are expected to rise from the current 23% of retail sales to 31% by 2026. Brick-and-mortar stores are still relevant, but modern consumers have more items on their shopping lists that are preferably available online. In addition to convenience and choices, consumers also value prices, brand values alignment, and more.
Sophisticated social media marketers and e-commerce managers must keep up with the latest e-commerce trends since consumer behavior is constantly changing. Product launches no longer happen only in the physical space, but the digital realm is just as important, if not more so.
Let’s dive into the top e-commerce trends for 2023 that you should be aware of:
1. Accelerated use of mobile shopping
The use of mobile devices for shopping is on the rise, and it’s not just limited to buying items through mobile apps. Mobile commerce encompasses any purchasing activity such as browsing brands on a smartphone, engaging with mobile ads, or talking to sales representatives. As mobile shopping intersects with other popular e-commerce features like in-app purchases, live stream shopping, and augmented reality shopping, it’s expected to gain more momentum in 2023.
To take advantage of this trend, businesses should evaluate their current mobile shopping offerings and experiment with new commerce features that are gaining popularity. Staying up-to-date with the latest e-commerce product features can also give businesses an edge in the market.
2. Social commerce continues to grow and evolve
The evolution of social commerce is ongoing and continues to grow in importance. In 2022, consumers showed increased selectivity and complexity in their purchasing decisions, particularly in anticipation of an economic downturn. According to Sprout’s social shopping report, 98% of consumers planned to make a purchase through social shopping or influencer commerce in 2022, and this trend is not slowing down. If you haven’t already entered the social commerce space, chances are high that your competitors are already selling on social media or have plans to do so.
As creator marketing matures, the logical next step is for platforms to assist creators and companies in selling to consumers. Grove Collaborative, for example, uses Instagram Shop to provide customers with a unique browsing experience, as well as the ability to check out directly within the app. In addition to photos, they include tutorial videos that demonstrate how to use their products, and users can send direct messages to Grove Collaborative if they have any questions.
Why lead people away from Instagram when they can simply tap on a product tag and make a purchase within a minute? It’s a step less in the buying process for customers, and that means one less opportunity for them to abandon their shopping cart.
According to the results of our Q1 2023 Sprout Pulse survey, nearly half of the participants (47%) expressed their intention to utilize the shopping features offered within various platforms such as Instagram Shops, Facebook Shops, TikTok Shopping, and more.
Consumers of all age groups are expecting to utilize in-app shopping functionalities in the upcoming year.
How to act on this:
- It is worth considering the implementation of new in-app shopping features on social media.
- Engage your customers on the social shopping platform or feature that they use the most.
- Offer exclusive in-app discounts and sales to reward social shoppers.
3. Personalization is a preferred shopping experience
Both B2C and B2B consumers are increasingly demanding personalized e-commerce experiences, and are more likely to remain loyal to retailers that provide such experiences. The State of Personalization 2022 survey found that almost half (49%) of consumers are likely to become repeat buyers after receiving a personalized shopping experience from a retailer.
Personalization may involve various elements, such as product recommendations, customized offers and discounts, and a consistent retail experience across multiple channels like websites, mobile, and social media. It may also involve offering a range of payment methods, as customers may abandon the website if their preferred payment method is not available.
Brands that are enhancing their personalization efforts are seeing the benefits. According to BCG’s Personalization Maturity Index, retailers that have scaled up their advanced personalization capabilities are generating four times the revenue compared to those with less advanced features.
How to act on this:
- Expand personalization efforts by providing personalized product recommendations and exclusive promotions.
- Explore incorporating modern payment methods such as Apple Pay or buy now, pay later services like Klarna.
- Give importance to enhancing customer support on your social media platforms.
4. Artificial Intelligence will help brands learn more about shoppers
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly growing with the rise of custom shopping experiences. AI can gather data on customers’ shopping behaviors, including their browsing preferences and purchase history, which can then be used to offer a personalized shopping experience.
Think of it like having a tech-savvy sales associate who can recommend products and share details about relevant upcoming sales. While we may not have AI robots that can express human emotions yet, there are practical use cases for AI in customer service.
By using AI, companies can improve efficiencies and handle more practical customer care engagements like searching for an item status. As bots learn to communicate better, brands can teach them to provide more complex customer service and offer products based on a customer’s mood and preferences.
While not every AI scenario is perfect, the potential benefits of using AI in customer service and personalized shopping experiences are promising.
How to act on this:
- Explore the most effective applications of AI in e-commerce.
- Gain practical experience by trying out different AI tools.
- Keep up to date with industry developments and advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
5. Zero-party data and privacy are on consumers’ minds
While some customers prefer a personalized shopping experience, others have concerns about their privacy and data rights. Although more people are aware that e-commerce sites collect data, they may not know how the data is used or whether the collection puts them at risk. There are mixed opinions about the benefits of big data and how it affects personalized shopping experiences.
As major companies like Google plan to end support for third-party cookies in 2023, more brands are turning to zero-party data. Collecting data directly from consenting customers is a way to avoid the issues associated with third-party cookies.
Our Q1 2023 Sprout Pulse survey indicates that 63% of online shoppers are concerned about zero-party data.
Despite concerns about data privacy, the Sprout Pulse survey conducted in Q1 of 2023 showed that a majority of consumers, at 55%, are comfortable with brands using their personal information for tailored content and offers, as long as it aligns with their identity.
As zero-party data becomes more prevalent, marketers will need to strike a delicate balance between providing personalized experiences and addressing data and privacy concerns.
How to act on this:
- Explore the potential of zero-party data and establish a direct data collection channel with your customers.
- Ensure that your data security and privacy measures are robust enough to safeguard your customers’ data.
- Provide clear and concise information to your customers about how their data is being collected, stored, and utilized by your brand.
6. AR and VR enhance online shopping experiences
According to the results of our Q1 2023 Pulse survey, almost half (48%) of marketers are planning to utilize Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or Extended Reality (XR) technologies such as the metaverse. Additionally, 43% of consumers stated that they believe VR/AR/XR will have a significant impact on how they interact with brands within the next year.
AR commerce is transforming the “try before you buy” concept by allowing customers to try out products or preview experiences using 3D mapping technology. AR has revolutionized various industries, including fashion, beauty, and home decor, by giving customers a tangible experience with the product/service. Even without physical stores, brands can leverage AR commerce to offer customers a unique shopping experience.
- AR commerce enables customers to try out products or preview experiences in 3D mapping, even without seeing them physically in person.
- AR commerce provides convenience for customers who have limited time or live far away from a physical store.
- Previewing products and experiences through AR leads to more informed purchase decisions, potentially reducing the number of returns.
- AR commerce is a cost-effective marketing and sales channel that allows consumers to test products on their own time.
AR commerce is increasingly being used by brands to enhance the customer experience and improve sales. For example, customers can virtually try on glasses frames, place furniture in a room to see how it looks or apply makeup to see how it compliments their skin tone. Target’s iOS app uses AR to help customers visualize how furniture items will look in their spaces, which boosts their confidence in purchasing decisions and reduces the likelihood of returns.
How to act on this:
- Explore the possibility of integrating AR e-commerce features into your brand’s mobile app or partnering with an existing AR app such as Snapchat.
- Leverage social media to promote your brand’s AR commerce capabilities and demonstrate how customers can use them to enhance their shopping experience.
7. A rise in voice search
n 2023, social commerce strategies are being enhanced by marketers using emerging technologies like voice search. With the increasing number of consumers relying on smart speakers and voice assistants to carry out daily tasks, they can now explore a brand’s product range, select different sizes and colors, and ask questions directly within the store. As more people adopt these systems, they will likely start using voice search to make purchases ranging from clothing to food. According to our Q1 2023 Pulse survey, 25% of respondents said they intend to use voice search in 2023, marking a 3% increase from 2022.
How to act on this:
- Incorporate voice search optimization by using standard search engine optimization and semantic strategy.
- Tailor your product and service descriptions to voice search by using natural language, such as “who,” “what,” “where,” “why,” “when,” and “how.”
8. Businesses focus on optimizing for conversion
As consumers are spending less and less often, marketers must focus on optimizing for conversion on social media and search engine advertising, according to Shopify’s The Future of E-commerce + Trends 2022 report. The report states that 35% of global Shopify Plus merchants have seen shrinking average cart sizes, while 50% are experiencing lower site traffic and conversion rates. This trend emphasizes the importance of crafting a cohesive brand presence while tailoring messaging and content to different social channels. In contrast to the past where identical messaging was used across traditional channels like billboards and postcards, today’s multichannel marketing requires companies to optimize their strategies for different platforms.
How to act on this:
- Make customer care a top priority across all your brand’s channels to build trust and confidence.
- Ensure your content includes a clear call to action link or button to encourage conversions.
- Display positive testimonials and reviews across your social channels to enhance your brand’s reputation and credibility.
9. Subscriptions help retain loyal customers
Brands are embracing subscription models to entice customers to remain loyal while increasing profitability and retention rates. Inflation and economic instability are driving the popularity of subscriptions and memberships.
B2C brands, in particular, are promoting subscription plans as a chance to save money, with some even offering lifetime price rates as a registration bonus. Additionally, gated membership communities such as Fabletics and Lululemon are becoming increasingly popular. These models rely on the fear of missing out (FOMO), providing members with VIP-like perks such as access to exclusive products and events.
Got my @lululemon yoga mat & I’m so excited for yoga tomorrow! I told myself that if I went to yoga consistently for the month and used my unlimited subscription, I’d treat myself and voila 😌 pic.twitter.com/wQOho8QbCP
— AmandaLeigha† (@amandaleigha) August 2, 2021
To encourage customers to sign up for their membership program, Lululemon actively engages with them on social media and even surprises some of them with subscriptions. According to Shopify’s The Future of E-commerce + Trends 2022 report, Lululemon anticipates that 80% of its customers will become members over the next five years.
— Kerri Lynn (@kerri_0011) December 20, 2015
How to act on this:
- Offer exclusive perks, discounts, and early access to new products to reward subscribers and incentivize them to stay subscribed.
- Highlight the benefits of your subscription service in your marketing efforts, emphasizing the value and convenience it offers to customers.
- Foster a sense of community among your subscribers by engaging with them online, creating a space for them to connect and share their experiences.
10. Consumers are choosing brands that align with their beliefs
Customers prioritize brands that share their values, according to our Q1 2023 Pulse survey. It’s not enough for brands to merely espouse certain values, customers want to see them being put into action as well.
To illustrate, if an e-commerce company prioritizes environmentalism, it could provide customers with the choice to reduce the number of shipments for their orders. Similarly, beauty and fashion brands that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion are expected to showcase inclusive sizes, foundation shades, and diverse models.
According to our Pulse survey, consumers are increasingly likely to spend more on brands that they feel a strong connection with. The survey revealed that 77% of respondents feel this way, which is a 57% increase from our 2018 Brands Get the Real report.
Our recent Pulse survey demonstrated that consumers of all generations tend to spend more on brands they have a stronger sense of connection with.
How to act on this:
- Be innovative in demonstrating your brand’s values.
- Partner with similar-minded companies, creators, and influencers to strengthen your message.
11. Consumers are increasingly mindful of sustainability
As consumers continue to prioritize brands that share their values, sustainability has emerged as a key consideration for shoppers. The environmental impact of fast fashion and technologies like NFTs, which have large carbon footprints, have made consumers increasingly conscious of sustainability concerns.
To meet this growing demand, consumers are looking for sustainable packaging options and paying closer attention to brands’ environmental activism efforts, moving away from plastic and towards more eco-friendly alternatives.
How to act on this:
- Assess your brand’s ability to adopt sustainable business practices.
- Explore opportunities to make your product or service more environmentally friendly.
12. Livestream shopping
To blend social commerce and live streaming, brands are leveraging livestream shopping. With this approach, they can endorse their products/services while engaging with customers in real time. The experience simulates the interaction one would have with sales associates in a physical store, but now it can be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s home.
As per our Q1 2023 Sprout Pulse survey, 49% of consumers plan on watching live streams in 2023.
Livestream shopping is not limited to digital channels only. Even traditional television shopping networks like QVC have embraced it, providing viewers with the opportunity to tune in via Facebook, YouTube, and the QVC streaming app.
13. Conversational marketing
If a customer initiates a conversation with your brand on Facebook Messenger, a chatbot or a live agent can assist them with their inquiries about your product/service. The customer can even make a purchase without exiting the platform. Conversational commerce is more customized and engaging on a one-to-one level.
According to our Q1 2023 Sprout Pulse survey, 26% of marketers are planning to incorporate conversational marketing into their strategy in 2023, which is a 6% rise from 2022.
Conversational commerce also extends to voice shopping, as mentioned earlier. This involves having a natural conversation with devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home that ultimately leads to a purchase.
Next steps for marketers:
- Optimize conversational marketing efforts for conversions by using chatbot call-to-action prompts or incorporating live agents alongside chatbots.
- Integrate chatbots on your brand’s website and messaging platforms.
Monitor these developing e-commerce trends in the coming year as they can improve customer journeys and enhance brand experiences, benefiting both the consumer and the company.