Change is the only constant in commerce, and business owners need to be able to adapt at a moment’s notice. But commerce trends do emerge—you just need to know what to look for in order to build the right apps, themes, and products to best support your clients and customers.
Commerce itself is facing bigger challenges over the coming months than ever before. Global businesses are still recovering from the negative impact of the pandemic, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has led to sanctions that delayed or paused trade altogether, and economic instability is driving the highest inflation in 40 years. A global recession now seems inevitable.
Total retail sales are still climbing but the growth is slowing. And to be successful, brands need to become even more resilient when facing the unexpected. Consumers, meanwhile, have less money to spend in 2023 and at the same time are more conscious of the environment and ethical business practices. Plus, they’re now used to being able to purchase a product instantly, wherever they’re shopping.
So, how do you meet these challenges, support merchants, and drive your own business growth in the new year?
We asked leading Shopify Partners for their insights on the most important commerce trends in 2023. Take their advice to heart and you’ll be equipped to build even better, and support your clients to adapt in an ever-changing commerce landscape.
For a deeper dive into the global developments that will shape this coming year, check out Shopify’s Commerce Trends 2023 report.
1. Embrace flexible commerce
If the past few years in online commerce have taught us anything, it’s that merchants need to be able to quickly respond to change in order to thrive. This need for adaptability is encapsulated by the idea of Flexible Commerce, which argues that merchants need tools that can be tailored to their brand, customer base, and operational needs at a pace measured in weeks rather than months.
Gavin Ballard, founder and CEO of Shopify Plus Partner Disco Labs and Shopify app Submarine, is a leading advocate of the Flexible Commerce movement and believes merchants can set themselves up for success in 2023 by embracing the following basic Flexible Commerce principles:
Invest in “best-in-class” instead of “all-in-one”
“The days of the ‘Swiss army knife’ solution are coming to a close—merchants today need the right tool for each of a dozen key areas of the modern commerce stack,” Ballard explains.
He suggests that merchants should become comfortable with researching and investing in specialized solutions, rather than looking to tools that try to cover too many bases.
“Something that covers 80 percent of your needs across three or four areas sounds great, but that 20 percent will be where you start losing margin and market share,” Ballard argues.
“One of the great things about platforms with a vibrant ecosystem like Shopify is that you have a solid, stable foundation from which you can plug in a variety of best-in-class apps in every niche,” he adds.
One of the great things about platforms with a vibrant ecosystem like Shopify is that you have a solid, stable foundation from which you can plug in a variety of best-in-class apps in every niche.
One way larger merchants customize their tech stack without adding complexity on the back end is to choose their right apps for their business from the dozens of Shopify Plus Certified App Partners.
Build a culture of iterate-and-test
Despite the pandemic showing that being able to rapidly adapt and innovate is crucial for commerce success, Ballard’s experience is that too many merchants—especially larger ones—are still moving too slowly to capitalize on change.
“If spinning up a separate Shopify instance to test a new product or new market is a months-long endeavor with multiple layers of approval and planning, it’s time to reevaluate how you get things done internally,” he says.
Ballard suggests that ecommerce managers and their teams spend time in 2023 reviewing their internal culture and processes with an eye to encouraging rapid delivery, iteration, and testing.
Default to global
While multi-region, multi-currency, multi-lingual commerce has never been “easy” per se, it’s never been better supported by platforms such as Shopify and their ecosystems as now.
“If you’re starting out with a new store or initiative in 2023, I’d strongly recommend laying the groundwork for your international strategy from day one,” Ballard says. “You can do this by selecting platforms and tools that have multi-currency, multi-locale support baked in.”
When combined with a culture of rapid iteration and testing, having a “global by default” mentality can mean testing out new regions for your brand, app, theme, or product takes a matter of mere days.
You might also like: 5 Practical Ways to Help Your Clients Deal With Supply Chain Issues.
2. Focus on sustainability with “recommerce”
Nathan Abbott, head of growth at full-service Shopify Plus agency Underwaterpistol, believes that in 2023 we’ll see the continued expansion of the “recommerce” trend—the selling of previously owned goods.
“The market for pre-owned and resold goods is incredibly exciting,” Abbott says. “It showcases the continued—and growing—importance of sustainability in the ecommerce space, which in turn encourages brands to engage with more environmentally sound practices.”
Recommerce showcases the continued—and growing—importance of sustainability in the ecommerce space, which in turn encourages brands to engage with more environmentally sound practices.
Recommerce also offers a more cost-effective solution to consumers than buying brand-new products, Abbott points out. Given the challenging economic climate, this is going to be more important than ever.
To engage with the thriving resale market, Abbott suggests brands take a critical look at how their products can interact with sustainability. And if their products don't have the ability to be resold, brands should look at how they can embrace a more sustainable approach in other areas, such as within their returns setup or the packaging they use.
“As consumers become more environmentally conscious, sustainability is becoming a more important factor that impacts where people buy from, particularly amongst the younger generations with nearly three in four Gen Z consumers happy to pay an extra 10 percent for a product if they know it’s sustainable,” Abbott says.
3. Differentiate your in-store experience
As lockdown restrictions eased after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers started to return to physical stores. For Dan Conboy, director of ecommerce strategy at IDHL Group, it’s clear that customers continue to want experience-led brick and mortar stores.
Conboy points to the success of fitness apparel and accessories brand Gymshark, which recently opened its first-ever permanent brick-and-mortar store on London’s famous Regent Street.
“It could have just been a store,” Conboy explains, “but the Gymshark team recognized the opportunity to use the space to create a greater connection with their fans. So it also features workout spaces and even a juice bar. The whole retail floor has been designed to—at the click of a button—transform into a gym space.”
From a tech point of view, the whole store is powered by Shopify POS, enabling Gymshark to create that single customer view and really understand how their customers are shopping across all their different sales channels.
The reaction to the store from fans and the retail community alike has been overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the importance of creating purposeful spaces that elevate the brand and—ultimately—create great buying experiences.
4. Invest in customer loyalty
Paid acquisition costs skyrocketed in 2022. This, combined with less ability to track paid advertising’s impact on sales in a now cookie-less, privacy-centric world, means that customer retention is now more important than ever, according to Kate Collinson, an ecommerce consultant and growth marketer specializing in Shopify and Shopify Plus.
“First, it’s important to know your customer retention metrics,” Collinson says. She recommends knowing your:
- Repeat purchase rate over one year
- Average duration between purchase
- Customer lifetime value over three years
“All this data is at your fingertips in Shopify analytics and using some simple calculations,” she says. “Return to these metrics every quarter.”
Collinson says that successful stores are investing in their first-party data and owned channels like email and SMS by focusing on lead-generation opportunities across every point of the upper funnel.
Brands need to be mindful of this valuable relationship by developing more sophisticated segmentation strategies based on engagement and behavior, and giving the customer more choice around communication frequency.
The consumers’ buying cycle is multi-touch, so bridging the experience between onsite and offsite is critical.
“It takes up to eight to 10 touch points to close a purchase, and including personalization in email and SMS experiences through targeted recommendations provides consumers with a seamless journey to get them over the finish line,” Goldstein says. “If the buying experience isn’t consistent across that journey, there will be breakage.”
The biggest mistake Collinson sees brands make is delaying customer loyalty strategies because they think it requires a fully fledged, customized loyalty program.
“That’s often a big investment and may not necessarily ‘fit’ the brand,” she explains. “But there’s nothing stopping you from sending campaigns to VIP segments or developing automations to build loyalty in an ad-hoc way using your existing tools like Klaviyo and Shopify Flow.”
Collinson suggests offering previews of launches and sales or creating little surprise-and-delight moments such as exclusive gifts with purchase, additional discounts or invitations.
“Every repeat purchase increases the likelihood of another and lowers your overall cost of acquisition,” she advises.
You might also like: 4 Key Ways to Differentiate Your Clients’ Ecommerce Stores From the Competition.
5. Maximize customer lifetime value
Nick Disabato, founder of Draft.nu, a design consultancy for Shopify Plus stores, agrees that it’s all about the customer in 2023.
“Ecommerce isn’t a video game where you stare at your ad dashboards and try to make the numbers go up,” he says. “It’s relationship management with real people, at scale. Store design in 2022 has taught me one thing: Recognize the essential humanity of your work, and you’ll profit.”
Ecommerce isn’t a video game where you stare at your ad dashboards and try to make the numbers go up,” he says. “It’s relationship management with real people, at scale.
Disabato says that customers don’t talk about awesome brands or awesome products. They talk about how they became awesome because of your product or brand.
Merchants therefore need to figure out how they can help their customers succeed, and if they do so in a way that makes the brand uniquely different from others—beyond rolling out a loyalty program or turning on subscriptions.
Disabato recommends the following process:
- Talk directly to customers to understand where their pain points are, and what drove them to buy from you. Store owners might not know these things out of the gate, despite what they may think.
- Write. Provide a positioning statement (who you are, what you do, what makes you special) on your home page. Address objections on product detail pages. And most importantly, put together an email sequence for new customers that helps them get the most out of your products.
- Follow through. Measure the impact of your changes, and adapt them over time. Keep following up with customers to identify and address ongoing pain points. Remember: don’t be heavy-handed on communications, and recognize that subscription is usually done after you win back a customer.
You might also like: How to Build Powerful In-App Surveys: Put the User First.
6. Own your brand identity
The looming global recession will have a strong impact on commerce trends in 2023, which also means that ecommerce businesses will face challenges with reduced consumer spending. Customers simply won’t have as much money to spend on products as in previous years.
Therefore, Freyja Wedderkop, marketing executive at Shopify Plus agency We Make Websites, believes the products customers are purchasing have to serve a purpose, and the brands they’re purchasing from should align with their values.
“We’ll see brands own what sets them apart from the competition, including developing products that sell well, meeting their customers' needs, solving problems, and carrying their company value,” Wedderkop predicts. “Ecommerce businesses need to hone in on and communicate this with customers effectively through their ecommerce store, email marketing, and user journey in order to succeed in 2023.”
Wedderkop points to We Make Websites client Good American whose brand identity is creating good pairs of jeans that fit women of all sizes.
“Of course, they sell other products, but they’re aware they’re known for their inclusive approach to selling jeans,” she explains. “And so their marketing, communication with customers, and ecommerce site all reflect this.”
7. Automate and outsource to reduce costs
For Ross Beyeler, the chief operating officer at Trellis Commerce, financial challenges mean ecommerce companies should specifically have two things in mind when it comes to optimizing profit: automation and outsourcing.
Beyeler recommends considering the following tools:
- According to LexisNexis Risk Solutions, American ecommerce merchants see $3.60 for every $1 of fraud. Platforms like Signifyd not only help to reduce fraud overall but specifically help to reduce chargebacks, an often “hidden” cost to merchants.
- Over 85 percent of Shopify merchants use third-party apps, which means getting useful and consistent data across these platforms can be challenging. Tools like Celigo help to streamline integrating third-party apps while reducing the need for increased labor costs in maintaining your data and systems.
- With at least 75 percent of retailers offering some sort of free shipping, optimizing your shipping costs is key. Tools like Pretty Damn Quick offer automated delivery method recommendations that not only create a better experience for the customer but also reduce costs to the merchant by selecting the best possible shipping method.
You might also like: How and Why to Integrate No-Code Automation into Your Shopify App.
8. Put more emphasis on social commerce
As search engine results pages become increasingly dominated by sponsored placements, customers are starting their purchasing journeys in other places—such as social media. In fact, a recent Statista survey showed that over 60 percent of shoppers between 18 and 34 made a purchase as a result of branded social posts.
Jason Stokes, founder and CEO of premier Shopify agency Eastside Co, also points out that not only does social commerce make it easier to buy, it lets customers interact with brands directly, via user generated content (UGC).
“It helps reinforce the merchant-customer relationship,” Stokes explains. “As an added bonus, UGC also doubles up as free, authentic marketing content for the business.”
User-generated content helps reinforce the merchant-customer relationship. As an added bonus, UGC also doubles up as free, authentic marketing content for the business.
On top of that, social media gives you access to customer data.
“Make sure you capitalize on this, and target your social ads to reach people who are likely to be actively interested in your products or services,” Stokes recommends. “Try getting started with just a few of your products—bestselling or low-cost ones to begin with.”
Lowering the barrier to entry will improve the conversion rate and generate more sales quickly, Stokes says.
You might also like: How to Drive Sales and Customer Engagement with Social Commerce.
9. Bring products to life through augmented reality
Deb Mecca, director of marketing at Shopify app In Cart Upsell, believes that augmented reality (AR) will be an increasingly leveraged technology in commerce in 2023. We’re now on the cusp of a new era of digital connection, and AR—as a way to personalize products and enhance the shopping experience—is becoming a viable option as more consumers around the world adopt the technology.
“The main benefits are a reduction in returns and a higher level of trust when purchasing items that would typically require a more intimate view,” Mecca explains. “This is especially true for home furnishing products that can fit into a space, or beauty products that require color matching.”
Beauty products in particular cannot be resold due to health and safety issues, which means that every return is lost revenue and impacts the carbon footprint.
Mecca points out that establishing AR technology on Shopify stores has been made easy by a handful of Shopify apps, such as AR & 3D Product Viewer, Angle 3D Configurator, and Zakeke Visual Customizer.
Stores can showcase 360-degree views of products on the product pages for one level of personalization. These apps also make it easy for products to appear on faces, heads, feet, wrists, or living spaces.
Prepare for the unexpected
To be successful in 2023, it’s crucial to be ready for uncertainty. There has been a marked shift from the ecommerce trends that defined 2022. Flexibility and agility across every aspect of the business will become competitive differentiators.
And as consumer behavior is also changing rapidly and expectations of brands evolve, improving the customer experience—online and offline at every touchpoint of the entire customer journey—also needs to be a top priority for the new year.
Many strategies will revolve around cost-cutting and boosting cash flow, which means automation and outsourcing will play a bigger role over the coming months as well. Lastly, using social commerce for marketing and promotions is now becoming the most important customer acquisition and retention strategy for businesses to drive growth.
Learn more about the rapidly changing commerce landscape with the top commerce trends defining 2023, and what to do to get ahead and help merchants build brands that last.