2024 Predictions: Ecommerce and retail

In the year ahead, marketers will be looking to expand the channels and ordering methods that customers can use to shop online. Many of these channels have been around for years (see shoppable ads, below), but they will be tied together and more engaging thanks to AI innovations marketers will adopt in greater numbers.

Making every order option available for retail shoppers

As is the case with customer experience, 2024 will find marketers leveraging AI to create a more robust ecommerce presence. The data will be connected, enabling brands to offer more ways for shoppers to discover and purchase, either digitally or in physical stores.

“If a customer wants something now, and they know that a big box retailer has it at a store right down the street, they want to make sure they can order on their phone, while they’re sitting in front of the TV,” said Keith Kirkpatrick, research director, enterprise applications for The Futurum Group. “They want to make sure it’s in stock, and that it will be ready at 10:30, so they can go there at 10:30 and it’s there.”

The blending of physical and digital channels, sometimes called “phygital,” really picked up during the first year of the COVID pandemic. Now, there’s no going back. Brands need to be everywhere.

“It’s a more efficient way of doing things, and it puts the customer first,” Kirkpatrick said. “Organizations are trying to do that, and they’re also trying to inject more personalization and anticipate what customers need based on their activity through an app.”

In this context, the term “phygital” is potentially misleading. Yes, the aim is to make both digital and physical experiences available for every customer journey upon request. But it’s the digital component that connects and drives the experience, even if it’s a simple receipt or survey emailed to a customer after their purchase at a physical store.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, improved AI and automation will help fill the gaps so they aren’t neglecting valuable online feedback and queries from customers.

“Beyond limiting online visibility, ‘ghosting’ severely hampers a brand’s overall digital performance,” said Monica Ho, CMO of digital marketing company SOCi. “In 2024, advancements in AI and automation will address this issue. These technologies exist now and enable retailers to offer prompt, personalized responses at scale, boosting customer satisfaction and improving the online experience.”

Using AI for optimal tone and brand consistency

Ecommerce brands can only approximate the human warmth experienced by a successful in-store purchase. But brands can go a long way with AI-powered chat and content creation if the models are trained right.

“Tone is critical when it comes to communicating with consumers and it can truly make or break a brand,” said Joscha Koepke, head of product at conversational marketing company Connectly. “Emojis, humor, empathy — these are all nuances that must be incorporated into retail and ecommerce communications to ensure messages come across as authentic in addition to personalized.”

He added, “AI models will need to be trained to codify and operationalize brand tone. In 2024, achieving the right tone via AI will be a major priority for brands, particularly as they increasingly use channels like conversational commerce. This will lead to stronger conversations, an increased customer base, and more loyal customers.” 

More shoppable ads will drive ecommerce sales

Creative programming tie-ins and better buyer experiences will lead the way to more shoppable ads in 2024.

“Consumers want an omnichannel experience and the arrival of Shoppable Ads in streaming environments brings this closer to reality,” said Michael Scott, VP of sales and ad operations for Samsung Ads.

In a recent survey, Samsung Ads found that shoppable ads produce great brand recall, in addition to interaction with the brand. Not only did 55% of respondents recall seeing the ad, but half of those who remembered the ad also interacted with it.

“In 2024, we don’t see this slowing down,” Scott said. “When consumers see a product on TV, they want to be able to quickly learn more or purchase that product and increase the ease of access along their path to purchase.”

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Shoppable ads will connect the dots for retail and beauty, especially among Gen Z

Shoppable ads on Roku have gained heavy involvement from traditional retailers like Walmart, along with traditional and direct-to-consumer brands in health and beauty, electronics, home and consumer packaged goods. A main target is Gen Z.

“A whopping 96% of Gen Z adults subscribe to at least one streaming service, and 46% spend two hours or more each day streaming TV,” said Peter Hamilton, senior director, ad innovation, at Roku. “If we pair this viewing data with the impact this audience group has had on the beauty industry — including their adoption of strong brand loyalty and their commitment to support accessibility and inclusivity in beauty — we can expect the beauty market to play a big role in the growth of shoppable ads in TV streaming in 2024.”

Brands that are available through traditional retailers will be the most likely adopters of shoppable ads over the next year.

“Walmart as a brand is leading the charge with explorations of checkout experiences coming from bespoke content such as the most recent holiday RomCommerce Show,” Hamilton said.

He added: “While the concept of shoppable ads is not new and is a feature the industry has been talking about for more than two decades, the technologies that support them have advanced considerably in the past few years. Building on the backs of social commerce, we are able to connect the dots between product catalogs, checkout APIs, and authentication to create frictionless buying experiences on the largest screen in the home.”

Dig deeper: Roku partners with Shopify to allow purchases direct from TV

Consumer and B2B marketers adopt composable commerce systems

Marketers will opt for more flexible, composable ecommerce systems, especially in the context of product discovery, according to Andrea Polonioli, senior product AI marketing manager for enterprise software company Coveo.

“We’re seeing composable commerce gaining momentum not only in B2C but also in B2B with an increasing number of brands, retailers and manufacturers shifting away from monolithic commerce platforms to modular, composable services,” said Polonioli. “As we head into 2024, more retailers will lean on composable commerce and the flexibility, agility and support it affords, as well as its ability to transform complex customer journeys into connected experiences across multiple touchpoints.”

Retailers in DIY, electronics and other categories will use this approach to enhance customer experience and create seamless journeys. This becomes crucial when there is an extensive product line and catalogs are complex.

“There is a growing demand for innovation and agility in these domains, coupled with an increasing expectation for greater ROI from successful implementation,” Polonioli said.

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