The increasingly fast pace of innovation in digital commerce is almost enough to make one’s head spin. New solutions crop up almost daily to solve every problem or realize each opportunity online retail offers – so many that just keeping up can be a challenge. However, with a little tenacity and foresight, you can stay on top of these trends and gain a competitive advantage. With that in mind, here are some of the big ecommerce topics we’re seeing as we head into 2024.
Interest in artificial intelligence ignited like rocket fuel in 2023 – and 2024 will be no different. We are still in the early days of developing and harnessing tools and technologies artificial intelligence can offer, but one day, in the not-so-distant future, we will look back in awe at the impact artificial intelligence has had on our society.
Businesses are exploring how to bring the practical applications of artificial intelligence to life. To help us imagine what’s yet to come, let’s take a look back at two examples of commerce-related AI innovations from 2023:
Sidekick by Shopify – At the Shopify Editions Summer 2023 event, Tobi Lutke, Founder and CEO of Shopify, unveiled a new platform feature called Sidekick, an AI-assistant aimed at helping make the lives of every Shopify merchant easier.
Sidekick assists merchants in a variety of ways. For example, users can get help with using and understanding the Shopify platform. Sidekick can perform store changes and updates on a merchant’s behalf. The AI-assistant can also help analyze store performance or write marketing copy for campaigns and promotions.
On the possibilities of artificial intelligence, Tobi Lutke notes, “I have never seen anything like AI. This will be an unbelievable boon to entrepreneurship,” and we agree. AI technologies will empower growing brands to compete at an enterprise level.
Visual Copilot by Builder.io – The CQL UX, Design, and Development teams are eagerly testing and adopting new AI-tools that transform design into usable code.Our latest obsession is the Copilot beta from Builder.io.
AI-generated code can help reduce development effort while increasing consistency, quality, and speed to market. Taylor Nielsen, Senior Partnership Manager at Builder.io predicts, “AI will impact how every team gets ecommerce experiences to market,” another prediction we wholeheartedly agree with at CQL.
Artificial intelligence can amplify productivity in ways we are only just starting to understand. Salsify’s Nicole Alissi adds, “AI and machine learning capabilities and its effect on productivity and brand power makes it a top contender for 2024… we anticipate that many will have AI in their roadmap.”
In summary, we predict “Artificial intelligence” to be the buzziest of ecommerce buzzwords, even overtaking the “headless commerce” trend we’ve seen these past few years.
Customer Loyalty and Retention
The barrier to entry for ecommerce is basically non-existent in 2024. There are thousands (likely millions) more online stores today than there were even a decade ago. Sprinkle in some spicy macro trends, such as high inflation, lagging wage growth, and the ongoing decline of paid marketing performance, and we have the recipe for a very competitive retail landscape in 2024.
These converging trends are making customer acquisition exceptionally more difficult and forcing brands to explore new ways to engage, retain, and grow revenues from their existing customer base. Luckily, there are many solutions available to help merchants deepen customer relationships to build strong, loyal fans, and we predict a rise in these retention strategies from merchants in 2024:
Subscriptions – Think your products don’t naturally lend themselves to a subscription model? Think again. Wyatt Shane, Partner Manager at Recharge, agrees and notes, “Customer acquisition costs will continue to grow and brands that would not fit the typical “subscription” profile will look to roll out recurring revenue programs.”
Subscription programs are evolving and new models are emerging making them worth a revisit in 2024. For example, Recharge recently added gift subscriptions to their platform, an innovative offering that expands the reach of subscriptions to new audiences and creates new revenue streams for brands.
Loyalty Programs – Loyalty programs are also advancing to help reward customers in new ways. Bauer Hockey, Yotpo, and CQL recently teamed up to launch Bauer’s new MVP Loyalty Program, which introduced innovative features like loyalty points for in-store purchases at authorized retailers, early access to special events, and sweepstakes for special prizes, experiences, or trips.
Loyalty programs should not be a one-time endeavor either. These programs should be revisited, tailored, and optimized for each brand’s unique customer base. Yotpo’s blog post, Beyond Points, even concludes by reminding readers that “loyalty programs are not ‘set it and forget it.’” We expect to see more fine tuning of loyalty programs in 2024.
Returns Management – Managing exchanges and returns can be a significant endeavor for merchants. ShipperHQ’s Danna Nieto notes, “The average online returns rate is about 30% and can be as high as 50% in some product categories.” Not only do returns eat into a brand’s margins, they have the potential to create a negative experience for customers, impacting both customer satisfaction and retention.
Successful merchants are flipping the script on returns by finding opportunities to create raving fans, reduce returns, and even increase revenues. Loop is one of the innovators in the space that demonstrates how its solution “turns disappointment into dollars” by making the process friction-free for customers and shifting an unprofitable return into a potential revenue-generating exchange instead.
We predict savvy brands will increasingly adopt returns management solutions like Loop in 2024 as they aim to improve customer retention and reduce returns management costs in the process.
A New Era In Commerce Starts in 2024
With 2023 in our rearview, it’s time to focus on making 2024 an amazing year in commerce. There are so many new and exciting technologies in front of us, so preparing now can ensure success in 2024 and beyond.
If you’d like to know more about CQL’s 2024 commerce predictions, or just want to talk about how to improve your brand’s online presence, then give us a call. We’ve got a few more ideas up our sleeves that’d work well for you, your brand, and your future.