The only thing sure about retail in 2023 is that there will be unexpected twists (because that’s every year now) and some bumps in the road. But some trends have emerged, giving retailers a roadmap for a successful year ahead.

  1. Sustainability is on-brand

One of the most sustainable trends in retail for the past several years has been sustainability. Consumers increasingly want proof that their purchases have a light footprint. Expect movement toward more sustainable packaging, environmentally friendly supply chains, and reusable products.

Your green brand image could be ruined if your products arrive wrapped in non-recyclable packing materials or excessive packaging. Rethinking product lifecycle, including packaging, for sustainability is not only kinder to the planet; it will increasingly drive customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

2. Resale surges

Brands including Allbirds, IKEA, and even Rolex have developed verticals to sell returned and gently used products, following online retailers like The RealReal that specialize in “pre-owned” items. 

Resale is especially vital for online retailers with generous return policies because it allows them to recoup some of their costs on items that can’t be resold as new while giving consumers a bargain. 

The resale trend fits with the movement for sustainability in retail, giving products a second life and turning around some of the negative press online retailers received for sending returned items to landfills. The discounted prices will also appeal to consumers feeling frugal in uncertain economic times.

3. Economic uncertainty dents consumer confidence

The Australian economic outlook for 2023 is mixed but generally positive. Inflation is expected to slow, unemployment should remain low, and housing prices are expected to fall. However, while those factors should give shoppers more spending power, consumer perception of economic uncertainty is likely to affect spending. Hence a predicted slowdown in GDP growth from 3.6% in 2022 to 1.9% in 2023.

Retailers can beat the average by understanding consumers and offering them what they need to feel comfortable. That might mean discounts, coupons, or free shipping. However, if you don’t want to squeeze your already tight margins even further, markdowns aren’t the only way to lure wary shoppers. Read the zeitgeist and craft marketing messages that show you understand and that your products deliver durable value.

4. Ecommerce and traditional retail rebalance

During the pandemic, ecommerce grew fast, putting a strain on supply chains and order fulfillment. In 2022, online shopping remained lower than its peak in 2020 but began to rise and grab a more significant share of retail sales than pre-pandemic. 

Expect more rebalancing of consumer shopping habits in 2023. Online shopping habits forged during the pandemic won’t disappear. Still, shoppers will continue to sort their spending between the convenience of clicking to buy and the high-touch and immediate reward of in-person retail. 

5. Omnichannel selling becomes essential

Further to the flux between online and retail shoppers, brands need an omnichannel approach to come out on top in 2023. Omnichannel can include live online shopping experiences, allowing customers to buy online and return in-store, creating seamless returns processes for offline and online purchases, and developing a unified brand approach across in-store, online, and social channels. 

A sub-trend in omnichannel sales is the opening of digital retail spaces and the gamification of online retail. Look for more opportunities to sell in the Metaverse and beyond.

6. Retail media networks grow

The online retail ecosystem is increasingly a hybrid of branded retail and retail marketplace. In the same way that Amazon sells its own products and provides a marketplace for third-party vendors on its website, many big box stores are taking a similar approach to their eCommerce platforms.

Enter retail media networks, where etailers sell advertising space on their websites and shopping apps to consumer product brands. Retail media networks function much like other large online marketplaces, where consumers can browse a variety of products on a retailer’s website in a seamless experience that feels like shopping at that store’s online retail. The consumer may not know whether they buy a product from the store or a third party. 

Retail media networks are a low-risk revenue stream for retailers with no inventory buys, warehousing, or fulfillment. They provide the gateway, and third-party sellers ship orders directly to consumers.

As we move into 2023, versatility and nimbleness are increasingly vital for successful retail. For most retailers, sticking to what worked in the past isn’t an option. Pursuing sustainability, offering bargains to entice consumers, and offering a seamless omnichannel experience is essential to attract customers.

Geoff Whiting is senior writer for Red Stag Fulfilment.