By the end of 2022, the US will be the only country other than China to see online sales hit the trillions––projected to hit $1.05 trillion. While online sales account for only 15% of total retail sales in the US, shopping habits are increasingly online.
So how do you make sure your ecommerce brand stands out in an increasingly competitive online shopping environment? How can you attract your target audience and get them to convert? Brands need a solid understanding of their target consumer shopping preferences and habits. Then, it’s a case of tapping into current trends and finding what works for your customer base.
Here, we take a closer look at the online shopping trends, statistics, and predictions shaping the first few months of 2023 and beyond.
What’s the state of online shopping in 2022?
Before 2023 kicks off, it’s worth evaluating the state of online shopping in 2022. That way, when Q1 rolls around, your ecommerce brand will be ready for whatever the new year has to bring.
Online sales continue to play an increasingly important role in retail. In 2022, Statista forecasts that ecommerce sales will account for close to 20% of all global retail sales. Forecasts show that by 2026, online sales will make up nearly a quarter of worldwide retail sales.
In recent years, online shopping has steadily grown in popularity. In 2021, global online sales came to close to $5 trillion––a figure that’s expected to increase by 56% and exceed $8 trillion in 2026.
Changes in consumer behavior that, in large part, were due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders over the past few years have led consumers to shop more frequently online. Currently, 57% of US consumers shop online once a week or more.
As for leading US retailers, Amazon is still by far the most popular ecommerce site. As of June 2022, the retail giant holds close to 38% of the market share. Far behind, Walmart holds 6.3%, and Apple is in third, with 3.9%.
But it’s not just the US global ecommerce markets that brands should aim to reach. As shopper behavior shifts, new emerging markets provide fresh grounds for opportunity.
Digital uptake soared in Latin America throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This generated unprecedented ecommerce growth in the region––Brazil and Argentina currently lead the world’s fastest-growing online retail markets.
Recent calculations indicate Brazil will rank first in terms of retail ecommerce development, with a compound annual growth rate of around 20% between 2022 and 2025. For comparison, the global retail ecommerce compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the same period will sit around 11%.
The top 11 online shopping trends shaping the ecommerce industry in 2023 (and how to tap into them)
1. More people will shop through social commerce
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become increasingly popular places for consumers to discover, research, and purchase products. Social commerce makes shopping a more convenient and interactive experience, which helps explain why it’s become so popular.
Core functionality features like in-app checkout, Buy buttons, and instant messaging tools make social media intuitive to buy through.
Right now, these four social media apps have built-in native social commerce features:
In 2021, around 96.9 million US shoppers made a purchase through social media. Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, this trend is unlikely to slow down––in the US, social commerce earnings are estimated to reach nearly $80 billion by 2025. Plus, by 2025, the number of social commerce buyers in the United States is forecast to reach over 114 million.
When you consider that 4.59 billion people, or 57% of the global population, currently use social media, social commerce is a no-brainer when it comes to getting your brand in front of a larger global audience.
On the global social commerce stage, China currently leads the way. According to eMarketer, almost half of internet users in the country shop on social networks. Those consumers generate more than 10 times the sales of the United States.
Facebook and Instagram continue to stand out as shoppers’ preferred shopping channels. As of 2022, approximately 19% of US online users who made purchases on a social media platform did so on Facebook, while 12% used Instagram.
According to an eMarketer survey, close to 71% of global Facebook users purchase from the platform at least some of the time. That equals 59.4 million buyers—many of whom brands can reach simply by opening a Facebook shop.
For brands with a younger audience, social commerce makes even more sense. If your target audience lies in the 18-to-34 age group, they’re already scrolling and ready to shop.
In the US, Generation Z and millennials are the most likely social network users to have made at least one purchase via a social channel.
Other than the potential boost to online sales, using social commerce can help brands offer a more frictionless shopping experience, gather more data on their audience, and tap into social proof.
As social commerce becomes more popular, ecommerce platforms like Shopify are making it easier for retailers to integrate both.
For example, Shopify’s integration with Facebook and Instagram lets you automatically sync your Shopify product catalog to both social media platforms so you can create ads and shoppable posts. It’s also easy to bring the look and feel of your Shopify store to Facebook and Instagram Shops by grouping items together to help customers discover products.
2. More shoppers will use voice search
Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa were once associated with asking location directions, weather-related questions, or calling someone. But the way people use voice search is changing––voice assistants are now becoming a core component of online shopping,
In 2022, it was predicted $40 billion worth of transactions will be made through voice-activated devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo. This is a huge increase compared to the $2 billion worth of transactions made via voice search in 2017.
Plus, eMarketer estimated that 33.2 million US shoppers would use the voice search feature on their smart speakers to shop in 2022. Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, it appears shoppers are only going to increase their use of voice search.
When are shoppers most likely to turn to voice search? According to research by Navar, the majority of shoppers (51%) use voice search to research products, and another 36% of shoppers use voice search to add products to their shopping lists.
To make your site more voice search friendly in 2023, think about how you can optimize product detail pages for consumers’ voice search commands. For instance, while in the research phase, shoppers may ask their voice assistant questions like, “Where can I buy the latest pair of Nike sneakers?”
3. Shoppers place more trust in influencer recommendations
In recent years, influencers have become a key ingredient of any ecommerce marketing strategy.
In 2021, brands spent around $3.7 billion on the influencer marketing industry in the US––a 33% increase from 2020. Influencer-led content is often seen as more human and authentic than typical brand campaigns.
In fact, 61% of consumers trust the product recommendations they get from influencers. Meanwhile, only 38% trust branded social media content. And in 2022, 30% of consumers now report influencer recommendations are one of the most important factors in their purchasing decisions, compared to 27% for recommendations from friends or family.
Plus, 60% of marketers believe influencer-generated content performed better than regular branded content.
Ecommerce brands are often put off by the thought of sky-high costs associated with celebrity influencer endorsements. But a higher follower count doesn’t always equal high engagement.
HypeAuditor found that nano-influencers with fewer than 5,000 followers have the highest engagement rates (5%). Engagement seems to decrease as the follower count skyrockets until reaching celebrity level (1.6%).
Footwear brand Veja often features user-generated content (UGC) and content from nano-influencers on their Instagram account. The emphasis is on sharing authentic images that don’t look staged or fake.
In a recent interview with Glossy, Alison Bringé, CMO of Launchmetrics, explains how consumers are increasingly well-informed about who is promoting products and will prioritize authenticity above all else.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we know that customers are looking for real connectivity, when it comes to brands and products,” she said. “The days of celebrity endorsements are behind us, as micro and nano influencers evolve into becoming key opinion customers.”
4. Shoppers will rely more on chatbots
In 2023, chatbot revenue is expected to hit $137.6 million––up from $40.9 million in 2018. Chatbots are gaining ground as the go-to option for providing customer support in 2023 and beyond.
Currently, 80% of customers have had a conversation with a chatbot and nearly 64% of people believe chatbots are beneficial, as the 24/7 service they offer makes businesses more reliable and efficient.
While there’s room for improvement in meeting consumer expectations, it’s clear customers appreciate the fast response times and out-of-office-hours support:
Mattress-in-a-box brand Leesa is one brand using chatbots throughout all levels of the shopping experience. Its chatbot starts by asking the customer to choose what they need help with.
Next, based on the initial response, the chatbot returns a personalized selection of prompts––including shipping, return, and warranty to give customers the information they need in real-time.
5. Consumers will become more comfortable with mobile shopping
Mobile commerce is fast becoming consumers’ preferred shopping channel. As mobile searches overtake desktop––61% of Google search results now come from a mobile device––increasing numbers of shoppers are tapping Buy on their devices.
In 2021, retail m-commerce sales hit $359.32 billion––an increase of 15.2% over 2020. By 2025, retail m-commerce sales should more than double, to reach $728.28 billion, and account for 44.2% of retail ecommerce sales in the US.
Despite these estimations, the average order value via smartphones and tablets is still behind traditional ecommerce sales on desktop computers.
Region-wise, shoppers in Europe, Great Britain, the Middle East, and Africa are more comfortable checking out larger basket values than consumers in the US. In Q2 2022, online orders placed from a mobile device in the US had an average value of approximately $112, compared with almost $95 in the EMEA region.
Online shopping through smartphones is particularly popular in Asia. At the end of 2021, Malaysia was the top digital market according to the percentage of the population that had bought something with their mobile phone, with nearly 45% having made a weekly mobile purchase. South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines also ranked highly.
If these figures are anything to go by, ecommerce brands that prioritize the development of user-friendly mobile sites and apps will be best positioned to convert more mobile shoppers.
Despite the increasing popularity of mobile shopping, customers still face frustration with design and user experience. In one survey, 67% of users said that “pages and links being too small to click on” was an impediment to mobile shopping. Another 36% of users cited “difficulty finding what they’re looking for” as an obstacle to shopping on their mobiles.
One way brands can attract more mobile shoppers is to build ultra-responsive intuitive mobile sites. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, brands need to prioritize mobile-friendly designs that help customers find what they’re looking for.
Jewelry brand and Shopify merchant Missoma is a great example. After migrating to Shopify Plus, its online storefront—which generates the bulk (97%) of its orders—meets mobile website design best practices, including:
- Vertical full-screen images to show products at their best
- Large buttons that make it easy for users to tap through
- Swipe through images to easily view all angles of products
6. Brands will tap into zero-party data to aid personalization
Online privacy and security continue to be a growing concern for shoppers. So governments are making it easier for shoppers to browse in private without worrying about cookies being held on their devices. Companies that fail to get this right may face hefty fines and penalties.
Tech giants are also embracing the reality of a cookieless world. Google Chrome for instance is blocking third-party cookies in 2024.
Although 28% of technology decision-makers expected these changes to customer data and privacy regulations to slow down their 2022 growth goals, this needn’t be the case for 2023 and beyond.
Ecommerce brands can work around this by gathering zero-party data––information offered voluntarily by customers. This year, 42% of brands planned to offer their customers personalized product recommendations through tools like quizzes.
Brands should aim to use multiple zero-party data collection methods. Doing so will provide a more thorough dataset of customer behavior and preferences.
For example, Shopify merchant and beauty brand Florence by Mills created a short quiz for customers to share their preferences with the brand. By gathering customer preferences and measuring their interest through the quiz, the brand was able to recommend the right products to the right customers.
The brand segments all quiz answers to send shoppers personalized offers to convert them to the recommended products. As a result, they saw a two-times increase in site conversion rate.
7. AI will personalize the shopping experience
Shoppers continue to demand personalized shopping experiences––even as data regulations tighten and the biggest tech players phase out support for third-party cookies.
In fact, more than 90% of shoppers say they expect their online experience to be equal to or better than recently reopened brick-and-mortar stores.
In 2023, more ecommerce brands will boost their efforts to use artificial intelligence and machine learning for personalization. A key use case of AI is providing product recommendations based on previous data.
Clothing retailer Levi’s uses an AI-powered recommendation engine to read shoppers’ online behavior cues to provide personalized shopping recommendations.
“For consumers who choose to receive personalized recommendations, the engine uses clickstream data, as well as product availability, price, product attributes, and historical purchase data,” Louis DiCesari, global head of data, analytics and AI at Levi’s, explained to Consumer Goods Technology.
“We recently added personalized popular filters to the engine, which enable consumers to quickly drill-down to the products they’re looking for—for example, trucker jackets, 501 jeans, baggy fit, or big and tall,” he says.
Thanks to the AI tech, Levi’s has recorded an uptick in conversions and revenue per visit, as a result of A/B testing.
In physical stores, Levi’s uses AI to curate assortments to provide better customer experiences. In the US and China, stores are using AI to forecast demand based on the profiles and preferences of consumers located near a store.
8. Augmented reality to become mainstream
AR and VR are becoming mainstream. Once a futuristic-sounding concept used only by gamers and young Snapchat users, AR is now key for helping consumers visualize products they may not be able to see physically. Using the tech, shoppers can more easily see the item they’re shopping for, which helps them make a decision.
Due to its ease of use, augmented reality looks set to grow in popularity––according to eMarketer, in 2023, around 97 million people in the US are expected to use AR at least once a month.
AR is especially effective in specific industries like fashion and home décor––customers can get a better feel for products without needing to see the products in person.
For instance, accessories brand The Cambridge Satchel Company uses Shopify’s augmented reality (AR) experience to let online shoppers virtually place a 3D image of a Cambridge Satchel bag onto a screenshot of the environment they’re currently in—essentially mimicking the “trying on” process via smartphone.
“The fact that we can offer this kind of AR experience with our budget puts us on a level playing field with people who have much greater resources than we do,” says founder Julie Deane. “I’ve no doubt that if big luxury brands create this kind of AR experience [in-house], they would be paying 10 times what we are.”
Social media is also a key driver of AR usage. People often first experience AR when they try a filter or lens on Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok. These filters allow people to try on makeup or clothing before they buy online.
Virtual try-on tech in particular is playing an increasingly important role in fashion. These features bring the physical fitting room into the digital space, letting customers use augmented reality to try on clothes virtually at home.
For instance, clothing brand Farfetch collaborated with Snapchat to create an augmented reality clothes shopping tool. The AR tech lets users try on jackets from Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collection.
Using 3D body mesh technology, it maps the garment to the customer’s body, while cloth simulation technology lets the garment act according to gravity, like it would in the real world.
Speaking with eMarketer, Carolina Arguelles Navas, Snap’s global AR product strategy and product marketing lead, explained how AR is giving consumers the confidence to follow through with purchases.
“Some of the key challenges that we've heard are around how [to] increase purchase confidence online,” she said. “I think a lot of consumers don't feel very confident when buying online. In fact, 70% of carts are actually abandoned, and 40% of people who abandon them say it's specifically because they're scared they might have to [make a] return.”
If Snap’s words are anything to go by, AR could become a core solution to solving the ecommerce industry’s major problems––cart abandonment and high return rates.
9. Shoppers prioritize brands with clear environmental pledges
Increasingly, shoppers are demanding environmentally sustainable and socially conscious businesses.
Customers are beginning to put money behind their beliefs. Previously customers may have only demonstrated a willingness to buy from purpose-driven brands.
In the past six years, there’s been a 71% increase in online searches globally for “sustainable goods,” especially in high-income countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
While purchasing decisions haven’t always matched intentions, shoppers are now showing clear preferences for environmentally conscious and ethically driven brands.
Right now, 44% of global consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with a clear commitment to sustainability. And 41% of shoppers chose to buy from brands with a strong commitment to social causes.
One way ecommerce brands can start tapping into sustainable initiatives is by using recyclable packaging. According to eMarketer, 19% of shoppers feel minimal packaging for shipping is extremely important, while 18% believe using recyclable or compostable shipping materials is crucial.
According to our research, 46% of customers are more likely to purchase a product online if they’re able to recycle the product packaging. This is part of the reason why 40% of brands highlighted more sustainable packaging as an area of investment.
The issue is bigger than consumer demand, though. Packaging is the largest source of ecommerce emissions, at six times higher than products purchased in-store.
Online brands need to evaluate how they’re packing and shipping products, whether they’re using recyclable or compostable materials or reusable packaging.
Twenty-four percent of customers also feel that products free of synthetic or harmful materials are highly important too. Other highly ranking sustainable initiatives include offsetting carbon emissions, locally sourced products, and having a clear and accessible climate pledge.
But to attract environmentally conscious online shoppers, ecommerce brands need to show what they’re doing to achieve sustainability and ethics goals. To do so, clearly communicate your brand’s environmental pledges, goals, and progress to customers.
For instance, sustainable outerwear brand Patagonia shares details about material sourcing, social responsibility, and suppliers on its Footprint page.
Womenswear brand Reformation’s sustainability mission is embedded in its tagline (and its tags): “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.” Plus, the brand encourages customers to “geek out on our sustainable practices” online, with detailed information on everything from local manufacturing to the use of recycled clothes hangers.
10. More brands will use 3D images to showcase products
As retailers look for new ways to bring products alive away from physical stores, ecommerce businesses are tapping into 3D tech. Instead of relying on static product photos or videos, 3D imagery shows items in a new light, helping customers make buying decisions.
In a bid to make the shopping experience more personalized, Google Shopping is bringing 3D elements into the purchasing journey.
Lilian Rincon, the senior director of product for Shopping at Google, confirmed to eMarketer that 3D listings saw more engagement than their traditional static listings.
“Earlier this year, we rolled out 3D in home goods and saw that people engaged 50% more with 3D images than they did the static ones,” she said. “We are now launching in our next category, shoes, enabling consumers to see 3D models of sneakers.”
For instance, Shopify merchant and fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff uses 3D imagery to create a more interactive shopping experience for customers.
Sarah Sheldon, Rebecca Minkoff’s senior director of global ecommerce and digital, explains how 3D tech helps bring products to life in a way that builds customer confidence.
“When people have the intent to shop without physically being able to touch and see a product, the more options you can give them to create that confidence is helpful,” she says.
Rebecca Minkoff’s Darren shoulder bag was one example that came to life with 3D modeling. A simple click-and-drag provides a full picture of every piece of the bag—texture, structure, and shape—in ways website listings don’t typically offer.
Customers clearly appreciated the ability to view the product and the brand saw a solid uptick in conversions and engagement.
Shoppers who interacted with a 3D model were 44% more likely to add it to their cart than those who hadn’t. Of those visitors who interacted with a 3D model, they were 27% more likely to place an order than those who hadn’t. When customers viewed a product in AR, Rebecca Minkoff says, they became 65% more likely to make a purchase.
“3D media makes for a much more interactive shopping experience. Customers can examine our products from every angle, including the option to view products in augmented reality, which helps them get a better sense of quality, size, and other details that matter.”
—Uri Minkoff, Co-founder and CEO, Rebecca Minkoff
11. More consumers tune into live shopping
Live commerce uses social media platforms to merge livestreaming with commerce. Viewers tune into a Facebook Live (or equivalent) video, have real-time communication with a brand, and purchase items off the back of its answers.
Brands are using livestream to promote products, answer questions, and close sales with customers who are joining remotely to watch.
Although the US is still in its infant stages, livestream has been a hit in China. China’s livestream selling market grew from $3 billion to $171 billion in three years.
“If China’s experience is any guide, our analysis indicates that live-commerce-initiated sales could account for as much as 10 to 20 percent of all e-commerce by 2026,” says McKinsey & Company.
Current estimates suggest that the livestream market will be worth $35 billion in the US by 2024.
Shoppers are beginning to see the benefits of live shopping too. Sixty percent of shoppers say livestreaming improves the shopping experience and 47% would even prefer it to shopping in-store.
While you may expect tech-savvy Gen Z and millennials to be livestream shopping fans, it’s actually baby boomers (28%) and Gen Xers (27%) who are more likely to have participated in these events.
Retailers prepared to tap into livestream shopping can expect large rewards too––brands report live commerce conversion around the 30% mark—that’s 10 times higher than conventional commerce. Plus, they’re experiencing lower product return rates—the biggest issue many online stores face.
Stand out in a crowded ecommerce landscape
These online shopping trends show that the popularity of online purchases is only set to grow in 2023 and beyond. As the number of online shoppers rises, ecommerce brands will continue to tap into new tech and trends in a bid to attract and retain customers.
To stand out in an increasingly competitive online shopping landscape, brands need to tap into these trends. Figure out what your audience prefers and then build a strategy to meet them there.
Online shopping trends FAQ
Do people prefer online shopping?
How do online sales compare to in-store sales?
Online sales currently make up 15% of total retail sales in the US.
How many Americans are shopping online?
In the US, 230.5 million people shopped online in 2021.
What are some ecommerce trends for 2023?
Core ecommerce trends include:
- More shoppers using social commerce
- Consumers prioritizing sustainable brands
- A cookieless personalized online shopping experience
- AR becoming more popular
- Brands to use 3D imagery