Ecommerce Trends to Watch from Shoptalk 2023
Our team had the pleasure of attending ShopTalk 2023 in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s event was roaring. From walking the showroom floor, attending happy hour events, and even seeing Nelly perform at Mandalay Bay Beach, there was something for everyone.
Shoptalk is a premier retail and ecommerce conference, focusing on emerging trends and innovations in the industry. Through educational sessions and conversations with attendees, there were multiple insights on the trends currently shaping the retail landscape.
Here are the top takeaways for ecommerce merchants from ShopTalk 2023.
Virtual Reality is Here to Stay
With new and innovative technologies being introduced every day, one of the biggest trends we took notice of is using virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR) as a competitive advantage for ecommerce brands.
VR/AR is pioneering the way for online shopping experiences and shouldn’t be overlooked, as it offers shoppers an immersive way to interact with products online. VR/AR allows shoppers to try on clothes, see how furniture would look in their homes, or even fully customize products to their liking.
With this technology, shoppers may be less likely to return items if the virtual representation is closer to the reality of how something looks, feels, or fits as it would in person. However, the success of ecommerce businesses does not solely depend on the adoption of VR/AR, there are many other technologies to consider.
AI is Becoming More Popular in Ecommerce
Merchants are always looking for more ways to enhance their customer experience and streamline operations. One rising trend is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI can be used in various ways throughout an ecommerce company, from automating customer support chats to optimizing logistics and warehousing.
For example, some merchants use AI to determine where the closest warehouse is to return a product, reducing shipping costs and turnaround times for shoppers.AI chatbots are also becoming more popular as they provide quick responses to customer questions even after business hours.
With the growing popularity of AI technologies like Chat GPT, it’s clear that merchants who invest in AI will have a competitive advantage and rise as leaders in their industry.
Returns Management is Key to Profitability
Despite these new emerging technologies, one trend we heard was that returns are still a headache for ecommerce merchants regardless of vertical. While VR/AR and AI have the potential to improve the online shopping experience, returns management and returns optimization is crucial for the post-purchase experience.
With the continued rise in online purchases, shoppers can’t physically interact with the products they purchase. This creates a higher likelihood of returns than in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Finding ways to reduce return rates is essential.
Other approaches include improving product descriptions and images, providing customer reviews to help make informed purchasing decisions, and gathering returns data to analyze and make strategic changes to the manufacturing process.
Customer Data Remains a Crucial Element in Customer Lifetime Value
It’s apparent that brands and merchants are starting to realize the value of returns data and how it can be leveraged through supportive ecommerce technologies. As such, technology providers such as email marketing tools, customer service platforms, and shipping providers expressed interest in leveraging returns data to improve the customer experience with greater visibility and proactive communication on returned orders.
For instance, email marketing providers view returns as an opportunity to engage with customers and gather valuable feedback, while customer service help desks want to arm their teams with returns data to have a more comprehensive view of a customer’s journey to provide better support.
By gathering and analyzing customer data, ecommerce businesses gain valuable insights into their customers’ behavior, needs, and pain points. This data can be used to improve the shopper experience and improve retention.
Data can also be used to personalize marketing efforts and provide targeted recommendations, as well as tailor the returns experience to make returning products easier for shoppers who are most profitable.
Ecommerce Partnerships Are Thriving
Shoptalk attendees met with partners essential to the ecommerce ecosystem including technology partners and agencies and discussed potential collaborations. Merchants sought out solutions that are complementary to their growth strategy and tech stack.
At the show, we saw multiple companies collaborating together with in-booth and after-hours events which provided merchants an opportunity to network with like-minded companies. Service providers and vendors also participated in Shoptalk’s inaugural Meet Up event, which hosted thousands of retail innovators in one-on-one meetings. Spanning over five football fields, the first-ever Meet Up event was a remarkable sight.
We also saw 3PL (third-party logistics providers) partners exploring ways to assist their customers with returns and robust returns management software. Google announced they are looking to enter the returns space by surfacing returns policies on Google Shopping. Both of these observations highlight the growing importance of returns technology and strategic partnerships in the ecommerce industry.
Ecommerce Trends Worth ShopTalking About
During an uncertain economy, returns management and analytics are crucial to a company’s future profitability and customer lifetime value. Even with these new trends and new technologies, returns remain a challenge. We spoke to multiple merchants, all of who are heavily invested in implementing technology to manage and reduce returns.
Overall, Shoptalk 2023 provided a platform for attendees to discuss emerging trends and explore new partnership opportunities in the retail and ecommerce landscape. We look forward to seeing you again next year and learning more about the new technology transforming retail operations.
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