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Insights / 31 Jan 2024

E-commerce Trends 2024: Navigating an uncertain world  

These are tough times. War, climate crisis and political instability make it really difficult to predict what lies ahead when it comes to e-commerce and the whole online landscape. But there are a number of indicators that we can use to make educated guesses about the coming year. 

Gen Z – what are the trends among young consumers? 

Ungdomsbarometern is a trend survey that focuses on the thoughts and feelings of Generation Z in Sweden, with 15 000 respondents between the ages of 15-24. In the latest edition, a few things stood out: One was the range of reactions to the world situation and the other was pretty big differences between boys and girls. If we look at girls, it seems #girlboss (aggressive feminism) is out and replaced by #slowlife (staying home and doing yoga), while popular trends among young males are ”grisch” which means trying to look rich and successful but without spending too much money and ”looksmaxing” and ”monk mode” (focusing on a few skills to increase attractiveness and chances of a well-paid job). So why is this important? Mainly because we need to take a younger audience into account when designing online solutions, and this includes aesthetics and channels where the young – the next big spenders - hang out. 

Fight the fakes 

Grisch is not the only threat to premium and luxury brands. Dupes and fake products abound, and tougher economic conditions mean that this is not a trend that’s going away soon. So how are brands responding to this? One way is to use physical authentication methods in combination with digital. One of the more interesting is the Aura Blockchain Consortium, which is a project whereby a number of luxury brands such as LVMH, Prada, Mercedes-Benz and Cartier are adding unique blockchain tokens and NFC chips that enable authentication and tracking in a new way to products such as fashion, jewellery, watches and automobiles. This is a fairly easy technical solution, and the blockchain framework is already in place. 

Keeping track of digital assets 

 It can’t have escaped anyone that generative AI is challenging our view of reality, and making it difficult to know not only whether or not something is based on reality but also who is actually the original creative behind an image or video clip. This has prompted Adobe, BBC, Intel, Microsoft and a number of other industry players to start The Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI). One of the results of this collaboration is tagging of AI-generated assets in Photoshop and a special tool, Verify, that can show how an image has been changed from the original asset over time. I think we will be seeing more initiatives of this kind, supporting a more critical view of news items and imagery in general. The big social media players are also busy trying to deliver more authenticity in a landscape where fake news has been used to manipulate opinions and affect election outcomes. 

Funky and bold design with a retro flavour

Flat and over-simplified ”clean” web design has dominated for a number of years now, but there are clear indications that a more fun, funky approach is gaining traction. Barbie was a huge hit and also had a huge impact on aesthetics. Fashion is much more eclectic and it seems like people in these harsh times want a bit more colour and ”pop” in their lives. Naturally, this has to be balanced with function, but we will be seeing more bold and funky websites in the coming year. AI-generated images will also stretch the boundaries of what is possible.  

Accessibility is no longer an option, but it will be worth it  

With the European Accessibility Act coming into full effect in 2025, it’s high time to do that accessibility audit to make sure that all web properties comply with WCAG 2.1. If we look at accessibility as a broader concept, there are lots of reasons to make your e-commerce presence accessible to all (broader customer base, better SEO et cetera). A case in point is the rise of voice search in the US, which is likely to make it more popular in Europe soon. 

Omnichannel drives tech 

Consumers expect to be able to shop everywhere and everyone has their unique shopping journey across channels and access methods. This means that the concept of responsivity needs to be expanded to see every digital viewport as a potential Point Of Sale. Merchants also have to embrace store pickup and return, along with a multitude of payment and delivery methods – the latter of course fossil-free. Channel-agnostic platforms use new code libraries and mostly build on modular, composable principles powered by API:s and we will be seeing a lot of pressure to increase speed, not only accessibility. 

First-person data will be marketing gold 

 With the sunsetting of third-party cookies by the end of the year, first-person data such as purchasing history and behavioural data and buying patterns gathered through customer interactions and in CRM systems will be more valuable than ever. We will be seeing a number of effects of this such as new loyalty programmes, even more newsletter signups and omnichannel efforts designed to give a more complete view of each individual customer. This will not be easy, considering how privacy concerns have increased and data security has been put in the spotlight due to data breaches and hacker attacks. 
 
What about VR/AR? 

 Apple just released their exclusive Vision Pro ”spatial computer” wearable device but we won’t be seeing large-scale adoption of VR for e-commerce for a while yet. However, this is the time to start getting acquainted with the principles of keyboard-less input and navigation without a mouse. AR (augmented reality) technology is more mature and is native to several e-commerce platforms and most mobile devices. We will see increasing use of AR in product descriptions and demos. 

All in all, I expect 2024 to be a year of consolidation and experimentation. E-commerce will become more individual and brands will continue to focus on direct-to-consumer sales and pushing authenticity. Social media will continue to be important for marketing and sales, especially among the young. We will also see bolder and more colourful design but with a focus on being accessible as well as converting to the max. 

/David Aler, Strategist 

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