Amazon will ambush ByteDance. Aaron Judge will better the 62 homers from last season. Beth Dutton will end up as Resident Matron of a finishing school in France.
Outlandish? Preposterous? The past year has been just as tumultuous. So, I’ll keep my actual predictions for the year ahead a bit realistic and conservative. Hello, 2023; here’s what we expect to see in the year ahead.
Cost savings and Accountability will be big
Sandwiched between macroeconomic headwinds and consumer expectations, companies will look for creative ways to cut costs and maximize outcomes. Approaches and tools that espouse cost saving will rule the roost.
Consumers will care more about how far their dollars go. Discounts, promotions, and assurances of easy omnichannel pick-up and returns will be communicated front and center over communication that tries to build aspiration and portray values. Sustainability, while a big multi-year trend, will be tested in 2023 as shoppers downshift from value-driven brands to pocket-friendly brands. Ergo, should we say we will see sustainable brands that are affordable?
Stores and wholesale will be popular. But there’s a catch.
Roughly 1 in 5 orders received online is returned, according to NRF. Juxtapose that against the less than 2% number in-store. Brands will gravitate towards putting their products on the aisles - no brainer. The right thing to do for retailers is to go omnichannel – especially setting up physical stores. Not all brands can afford it though. Going wholesale dents the cash conversion cycle for small brands. Retailers too are sitting on historically high inventory and so category managers will be cautious about giving aisle space to new brands. So, if you are a cash-rich brand, now is the time to acquire customers and brand recognition for less, via setting up physical stores or going wholesale.
Data Democracy is in. Data glut is also in. Data DIY's time has come.
Accessibility to data, to query and to visualize in marketer-friendly ways, is tilting the scales. The good news for brands is that retailers are now more open with their data. But brands don't have the infrastructure to process the data glut. Integration and standardization of data via tools is a must have. What brands need is a way to understand which buttons to push. In a year where hiring is going to be measured, tools that get more productivity for the current workforce will be favored. Tools that tell brand owners which actions to take, will be favored over tools that need you to hire an army of data analysts and data scientists.
Retail Media Networks - Better intent, better conversion
Five years is all it took Retail Media Networks to raise spend from USD 1B to 30B. Reason? Audience intent. RMNs promise better intent than social ads and will earn a disproportionate allocation of dollars. Attribution tech will see maturity and adoption as everyone will want to know how their ad spend is converting to revenue.
Video, AR, and AI will move from being the innovation levers to operational efficiency levers
AI will push the cost of video production off the cliff and break through the human efficiency barriers of product tagging, product descriptions, product information management etc. From product discovery to images to recommendations, shoppers’ journeys will become memorable experiences.
Social commerce will grow but the growth will be unevenly felt
Unlike in China, in-stream shopping has not taken off in the US. Neither Facebook nor Instagram has been able to push live shopping successfully. Yes, TikTok is popular, but equally so, among endusers and lawmakers. Politics aside, none of the social platforms are suitable as a channel for every type of brand and audience.
As corporate belt-tightening continues into 2023, big brands will do fewer experiments and side with channels that are tried and tested. For sure, authentic story-telling to niche audiences, engaging the right creators, will generate a tremendous lift in sales. Creators are pushing boundaries by partnering with unusual brands. Mr.Beast partnered with Shopify recently and Shopify has nothing to sell to a consumer. Such partnerships will be exceptions. But mainstream brands will still be in the 'watch and learn' mode, further widening the disparity between social / creator-led brands and themselves.
2023 is about making the dollar work harder, both for the brands and the shoppers. Streamlined tech, DIY data, and purposeful media and creator spends will dominate the B2B chatter, while austerity will dominate the shopping theme on the consumer side.
I’d keep a watchful eye on the Rip Wheelers though, as we sail through this momentous time period.
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