We know how easy it is to return from the Christmas break and get lost in the detail of the day-to-day actions that you didn’t quite tick off the list in 2022 or responding to the many emails received. eCommerce has become under immense pressure over recent months, with the IMRG reporting negative YoY revenue across all retail in 2022. No category seems to be safe from this either. That’s why we’ve taken a step back to identify and share what we feel are the key consumer trends that eCommerce business’ need to tackle in 2023. 

Excellence in customer service is amplified as a differentiator 

It is reported that customers are 87% more likely to spend less or leave a site if brands do not provide a great customer service. Whilst not all business’ can have human support available 24/7, brands need to look at how they can service these customers during Out of Hours trading. Our feeling is that Chat Bots still have a way to go to support the purchase journey seamlessly, we are now blessed with a plethora of technology solutions, to support these moments and to replicate where possible a customers offline shopping experience. This will only increase as Augmented Reality solutions become more mainstream. By delighting your customers, giving them options to self-serve on their questions, higher review rating and positive comments are more likely to be achieved, making the retention of the customer much easier and creating the required advocacy to support new customers. 

Embrace rather than reject returns to increase customer retention 

Whilst we appreciate it’s a business owners worst nightmare, the nature of eCommerce means that product returns will happen. It is reported that 92% of customers will purchase from a brand again if the returns process is easy. This is skewed by the younger up and coming online population including Generation Z customers, who are looking for convenience. The IMRG also reported a 26.6% increase in returns across all returns vs. November 2022, showing the need to tackle returns. There are various approaches that retailers take around returns, with longer periods to return and free returns offered by many. We don’t see that extending returns period is a big factor for customers in making it easy, as customers should know straight away whether they want to return this. Offering an alternative policy for gifting periods e.g. Christmas would however be advisable. The questionable one is whether offering free returns just erodes margin, or whether it makes it more likely for a customer to shop with you both for the first time and in the future. We would advocate testing and measuring retention rates and profitability levels. Alternatively, you could offer free returns as a benefit within a loyalty programme, for your most loyal customers to encourage repeat purchasing. Another option would be to review solutions like Loop. Ideal for fashion retailers, this solution will allow brands to dispatch replacements e.g. customers in need of the product for an occasion who have ordered in the wrong size immediately, by taking a deposit from the customer, rather than having to wait for the product to return. Whilst it may not seem the most revolutionary idea, having a clear signposted returns policy which potential customers can find is a must and one that many retailers still fail to get right. 

Going the extra mile with delivery and payment solutions 

With a large percentage of shoppers now returning to the workplace, offering easy ways to receive your purchase (rather than just relying on home delivery) is a huge factor to consider. Click and collect solutions have been a must for years for anyone who has a store presence. We have seen many brands adopt these recently, especially with the recent strikes from Royal Mail and the affect on other couriers. The challenge comes from brands who do not have stores. Alternative options have now become more mainstream, including the utilisation of locker-based solutions like In Post. This will not only enable collections 24/7, but also support with the returns challenge mentioned earlier. An alternative / additional approach is to leverage any brand relationships that you create, to see whether their offline infrastructure can support your fulfilment requirements. From a payment perspective, our advice remains unchanged, making sure that you provide customers with the choice they crave. The only caveat we put on this is that you monitor returns by payment provider, as we have seen the increase in returns is largely driven from Buy Now Pay Later solutions such as Klarna. 

Brand partnerships will become a key awareness and sales channel 

Over the last 3 years, we have seen the affiliate marketing channel experience exponential growth, due to the consistent ROI that it can bring. As costs of both awareness and direct response marketing continue to rise, brands will be keen to explore complementary partnerships with brands where there is a complementary audience basis to target. We already spotted this trend last year, as we started to develop partnerships between our current partner base, enabling brands to collaborate on a wide range of campaigns from features within email marketing, social competitions to offline insert inclusion within packaging. Where audience sizes are similar, no costs are required for this exposure, creating a win-win scenario. Due to the initial success’ we have seen with such partnerships, this is also an area that we will be supporting both existing and new partners to complement our existing affiliate marketing offering in 2023. 
We hope that this Hawkeye view on some of the key trends for 2023 has been useful. If you’re not sure where to start with these trends or looking for more insight on how these apply to your business, get in touch with our team of eCommerce specialists today. 
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