After three years of COVID-19, consumers continue to shop online with no signs of stopping. How will shoppers’ habits change in 2023? Digital Commerce 360’s editorial team weighs in on what to watch for from online retailers in 2023.

What’s to come in 2023 online retail? Digital Commerce 360’s editorial team offers their predictions. Online shopping accelerated during COVID-19, pushing ecommerce sales three years into the future, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. Now, it’s all about maintaining momentum in 2023. From a U.S. government crackdown on Big Tech to forcing Amazon to answer for its questionable practices, learn what editors are watching in the year ahead.

Expect Big Tech backlash

Director of editorial, research, Paul Conley expects a backlash against Big Tech and social media in 2023. He said he believes it will have a dramatic impact on online retail. U.S. politicians are uniting against TikTok as concerns grow about China’s influence campaigns and data gathering. Twitter, a cause of worry for advertisers even before Elon Musk bought the company, now has brands fleeing in droves, Conley says.
“What might retail look like in a new world where social media is passe and tech giants shunned?” Conley believes it might look much as it did a few decades ago. Barnes & Noble Booksellers Inc., Ross, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and others are building new stores at a rapid pace where ecommerce unicorns have lost their magic, he says

Sustainability continues to be important to consumers

As sustainability grows more important for consumers, merchants will need to make it a priority as well. Throwing around the term “sustainable” isn’t enough, says director of editorial, retail, April Berthene. Shoppers want transparency.
Consumers are thinking about how their spending habits affect the environment. More than ever, they want details about how merchants are producing their products.
“Retailers can no longer claim they are sustainable without giving supporting evidence,” Berthene says.

Digital marketers will rely more on retail media networks 

Senior editor Gretchen Salois expects digital marketers to rely more on retail media networks to resonate with consumers in 2023 — and make use of valuable first-party data. Consumers are shopping differently. Whether they see ads on a website, a social media app, or while walking through a store, digital marketers are learning how to use customer data to appeal to shoppers.
Ulta Beauty Inc., which boasts more than 37 million loyalty members, launched its own retail media network, UB Media. Brent Rosso, vice president, UB Media plans to “harnesses the power of our unmatched, first-party data” to connect with beauty lovers, he said in a company statement. 
Retail media networks are also an opportunity for aging merchants that want to attract a new generation of online shoppers. Lord & Taylor relaunched itself as digital-only in spring 2021. It will be delivering shoppable brand videos to customers in 2023. 

Big players buy up cash-strapped online retailers

Editor at large Don Davis predicts more online retailers will “wind up under the umbrella of retailers like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., and private equity firms like retail-focused Sycamore Capital.”
“The venture capital money spigot has largely been turned off for online-only retailers and startup brands that market themselves primarily online, at least at first,” Davis says
Most of these web-based retailers struggle to make a profit. And the IPO market for growth-over-profit tech companies has dried up. This leaves the venture capitalists with little likelihood of a big payday from investing in these companies, Davis says. Online retailers that can’t at least break even will be looking for new homes. 

2023 will force Amazon to answer for its actions

Finally, Davis says it’s put up or shut up time for Lina Khan, the chairperson of the Federal Trade Commission. Khan made her name through her arguments that Amazon’s dominance requires antitrust action, even if consumers are not obviously being harmed. 2023 will be her third year as FTC chair. Notably, the last before the next presidential election year, when everything the feds do will be influenced by implications for November 2024. If Khan is going to advance her anti-Amazon antitrust theory before an increasingly pro-business federal judiciary, 2023 is the time, Davis says.
Amazon can expect to answer for other gripes from both the labor side and consumers alike, Conley says.
“Amazon has long faced complaints over its labor practices and the presence of shoddy goods on the marketplace,” he says. “Those complaints seem to be reaching a tipping point.”

Other 2023 online retail predictions

Berthene predicts marketers will also continue to diversify their strategy beyond Facebook ads.
“With a growing focus on privacy and consumer data tracking, owning customer data will be a top priority for retailers in 2023,” she says.
Meanwhile, research analyst James Risley expects Shopify to gain ground that Facebook lost after Apple’s iOS 14 privacy changes, he says.  
“Shopify seems primed to take on Amazon but is shying away from labeling itself as a marketplace,” Risley says. “Still, all the pieces are there: [Shopify] has an app, a payment platform, access to inventory status. It even had plans to do fulfillment.”

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