e are facing 2023 with a forecast economic recession and a deepening crisis, linked to shortages of certain products on the market and the worse financial condition of households. The rising cost of living means that 61% of Poles cannot afford what they could afford before and have to look for savings (EY, 2022). In the coming year, the price of products will play an even more important role than before, and consequently, tools such as price browsers and product comparison sites will gain importance, so attractive pricing will be an important tool in the battle for market competitiveness in 2023.
Crisis events such as pandemics and war have also influenced a shift in other consumer needs in recent years. Safety and living comfort have taken on a new importance. We have gained a greater environmental awareness, which will shape a different approach to consumption in the time to come. We are more appreciative of solutions that increase satisfaction in various spheres of life, including that of the products we purchase and the purchasing process itself. We are looking for quality and efficient technological solutions to make our lives easier. Artificial intelligence is entering newer and newer spheres of e-commerce, covering aspects such as personalisation, search, or forecasting.
During the pandemic period, the popularity of e-commerce skyrocketed, which allowed people to make purchases without breaking pandemic strictures. Today, as freedom of movement has returned - we feel safer again in public and commercial spaces. As a result, we appreciate shopping in traditional outlets that allow direct contact with the product and the seller. While as recently as March 2021. 43% of respondents said they visit traditional shops less often, by May 2022 this percentage had already dropped to 20% (EY, 2022). However, the pandemic has permanently changed our habits and we are increasingly taking our first steps to find out about and purchase products online. Therefore, omnichannel strategies and online shop showrooms are growing in importance, and new trends are further challenging e-commerce to make online shops an even more convenient alternative to stationary shopping.
The past year has brought significant changes to the real and virtual worlds. So what are the main factors that will shape digital reality in 2023? Here is an overview of the most important e-commerce trends for the coming year.
1. Online responders
An efficient chatbot, allowing customers to get information as quickly as possible, will become an important determinant of sales growth in social media and online shops in the near future. In 2018, one-fifth of Poles bought via social media platforms, and this is now over ⅓. And this trend is forecast to grow (Retail News, 2018).
As many as 47% of respondents who shop on social media purchase products through direct contact with the seller via messenger or email (eGospodarka, 2022). When consumers buy via social media, they are generally less inclined to search for product information online and rely on obtaining this knowledge directly from the salesperson.
One of the leading customer needs in 2023 will be easy contact with the e-shop and fast order processing. This is where tools designed for conversational commerce come to the rescue in the form of bots in the role of intelligent personal assistants that communicate with the customer via live chat. Shopping with an online messenger is an attractive complement to the classic method of purchasing products in e-commerce, as the interaction with the assistant brings the experience of online shopping closer to that of contact with a salesperson in traditional sales.
2. Live shopping
In 2023, the opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition and increase sales will be live streaming, the transmission of videos in real-time. Live streaming has been popularised in recent years through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Twitch, and Instagram. Hosting live interactions engages fans more, who, during the broadcast via live chats, can co-participate in the event together with the host. Streaming as one of the affiliate marketing tools is used extensively by influencers, YouTubers, or gamers in online auctions, limited edition product sales, or simply in live sales, similar in experience to contacting a salesperson in stationary retail. By live-streaming, brand ambassadors and representatives often promote products in the intimate environment of their own homes or present them in use. In this way, they show the human face of the brand and build better relationships with customers.
Already, 19% of respondents use live streaming to make purchases (eGospodarka, 2022). The trend will grow and in the next few years, sales via live streaming will become an even more important part of marketing strategies. Various applications have been developed to enhance real-time streaming. Increasingly popular is Twitter streaming, which does not require a lot of investment to build brand recognition. This medium does not yet have such a strict algorithm responsible for displaying content as, for example, Facebook, which increases the likelihood of audience engagement (Omnicore, 2022). Streaming live events and returning to the video via a replay function is enabled, for example, by the Periscope app for Twitter. The ability to interact with the audience using embedded chat and comment in real-time is provided by the Meerkat app, which also allows the video to be rebroadcast directly to the Twitter account.
3. Voice commerce
Something that caused surprise just a few years ago - i.e. a human speaking to an app on the phone - has become a common image of our reality. Already in 2018, 27% of smartphone users used voice functions when using their smartphones (GWI, 2018). Speech recognition shopping, or voice commerce, has also become popular in recent years. The trend started in 2014. Amazon, following in the footsteps of Apple and its SIRI app - created the smart Echo app and paved the way for a new form of shopping. Users use the voice function most often to select products and track the status of a shipment and less often to finalise a transaction. Poland is the first country to introduce voice ordering using Google Assistant. The pyszne.pl, Flixbus and CCC brands were the first to use such solutions.
Voice commerce has a growing user base across all age groups. It is most popular among teenagers, but, interestingly, people over 50 are also interested in this feature. Representatives of older generations declare that they feel more confident interacting with voice assistants, due to the impression of a more human face of new technologies. Due to the rise in popularity of mobile shopping, voice shopping will soon become the next must-have feature of modern e-commerce.
4 Virtual and augmented reality
Although voice shopping increases the speed of the process, it has the disadvantage of narrowing the sensory experience of interacting with the shop and the product to audio stimuli only. Other solutions, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, aim to improve the shopping experience by engaging the different senses and, as much as possible, making the virtual purchasing process similar to the in-store shopping experience. Although considered revolutionary technological innovations only a few years ago, these artificial intelligence proposals have now become a permanent fixture in the online shopping space. With augmented reality, it is possible to display 3D products in the user's environment or directly on the user. The customer can try on glasses, hats, and jewellery or view what the products would look like in their home. Marketers are increasingly taking advantage of these functionalities. 71% of customers say they would be more likely to buy from shops using VR, and the use of 3D technology increases conversions by 30% (Algolia, 2022).
More and more e-commerce platforms are using such forms of artificial intelligence. In virtual fitting rooms, manufacturers are tasked with transmitting exact clothing sizes, which are then matched to the customer's avatar silhouette and, using a heat map principle, show where a product is too big or too small. Apps on the phone make it possible to put glasses on one's face - simply measure the pupil distance, take a photo and try them on, as offered by Avocado Glasses, for example. An increasing number of furniture shops also offer the possibility to virtually furnish your own interiors with furniture from the shop. Such a solution can be found in Komandor, IKEA, or Agata online stores.
5. Flexible delivery BOPIS
Although, after the pandemic, many consumers have returned to shopping in traditional shops, this issue has seen significant changes in behaviour in recent years. Increasingly, the reason for visiting shops is to choose the BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up in Store) option, i.e. buying online and picking up the product in the shop. As many as 37% of respondents consider the high cost of delivery as one of the most frustrating aspects of online shopping, and 36% do not trust retailers operating exclusively in the digital world, so they choose to buy from companies that have traditional outlets (EY, 2022).
What customers appreciate about the BOPIS solution is that there are no delivery charges and no waiting for the product to be delivered. It is also important for them to avoid the risk of damaging the product during transport, the possibility to check the goods on-site and, if necessary, an immediate return. An interesting example of this form of order collection are the Castomats - parcel-like collection boxes that can be found in front of physical Castorama shops. Castomats allow you to collect your order 24 hours a day, even when the physical shop is closed. Once an order has been placed, staff need a maximum of two hours to prepare the parcel, and customers do not have to queue to collect their order - all they need to do is scan a code received by text message at the Castomat.
2023 – the year of flexible solutions
Despite the opening up of commercial and public spaces after the pandemic, there continues to be a growing number of consumers who choose to shop via e-commerce, and, according to forecasts, this trend will affect the B2B market even more intensively. In May 2022, 33% of Poles declared that they shop online, meaning that the number of those interested in e-commerce increased by 9% compared to May 2021 (EY, 2022).
Online shopping does not usually end and start on the e-commerce platform. Buyers follow social media, check prices of analogous products on comparison sites before buying, look for reviews, and then share their opinion of the retailer and products online.
Customers are increasingly boldly deciding to be active in the virtual world in spheres that were hitherto reserved mainly for shopping experiences in the real world, such as buying a new pair of glasses. This is also where artificial intelligence has the field to play, responding to increasingly sophisticated methods of adapting the product to the purchaser. Examples include Voice Shopping, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, which allow new functionalities to be developed and thus enhance the usability and comfort of the shopping process at every stage.
We are visiting the shops again, but here too the pandemic has modified our habits. We increasingly use online shopping with the option of picking up goods in the shop. We value flexible, cost-free, and fast forms of delivery, which BOPIS fits into, and we are increasingly willing to buy on platforms such as marketplaces. In the coming year, it is the omnichannel strategy that will become the basis for the success of online businesses.