Retail technology predictions for 2023
By Guy Hanson, VP of customer engagement at Validity
Technology-led strategies will be at the forefront of many marketing campaigns in 2023, as brands attempt to better connect with their target customers. As retailers aim to combat challenges such as the reduced purchasing power of their customers and evolving data privacy regulations, it is expected that there will be a redirection of advertising spend in favour of more traditional channels, such as email, which is expected to double by 2027.
A top concern for brands in 2023 will be inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, which is causing 61 percent of consumers to cut back on discretionary spending. Ultimately, these events will play a big role in determining marketing methods. Brands will turn to tactics that generate the best return on investment (ROI) such as email, which is widely considered the most effective channel during a recession or economic downturn.
Marketers will have to cater to a customer base that has considerably less disposable income available, and are likely to be changing their buying habits to focus on necessities and own-branded products. As the number of goods consumers are considering is reduced, the read-times of marketing emails will also decrease. This is because customers will be more focused on quickly finding the best deals. However, brands can’t just race to have the lowest prices; they need to make a profit, or they will go bust. They will also need to use tactics that don’t simply involve reducing prices.
Right now, it is a good time for brands to connect with their customers through empathy-based marketing. To maintain their connection with their customers, brands will have to empathise with those who may be in difficult situations while using less space and maintaining good accessibility practices. Considering this, we will see ‘value statements’, practical advice in emails on how to make money go further, and the resurgence of daily deal programmes, such as those offered by voucher codes. If brands fail to connect in this way, customers may feel taken advantage of and loyalty to that brand could decrease.
Additionally, brands themselves will have reduced budgets, so we will see them going back to basics with their marketing strategies. There will be greater focus on customer retention and re-engagement, rather than growing their customer base, due to reduced budgets. Marketers will also have to learn to do more with less. Email designs will have to be more intentional, and brands will have to keep their customers’ priorities at the forefront of all they do.
Email carbon footprint
It is expected that the number of worldwide email users will reach more than four billion by the end of 2023. Although the number of email users is expected to continue increasing, there is not enough awareness around the environmental impact of sending an email, as well as the equipment recipients use, such as laptops, tablets, and mobiles, which also have a carbon footprint. Becoming more sustainable will be essential for brands wanting to prove their authenticity. Even the more price-sensitive customers want the brands they buy from to be socially responsible.
Research has found that a standard email without an attachment has a carbon footprint of 4gm of CO2e. Unsurprisingly, every email requires electricity, and if a small attachment is added, it can dramatically increase the carbon footprint to 19gm CO2e.There are several ways that an individual can reduce the carbon footprint of email, such as getting out of the habit of using ‘CC all’. In addition, people who are out of office should always make sure they define the timeframe they are away for, so out of office emails stop sending after a certain point.
However, sending fewer emails is only part of the solution. The infrastructure for sending emails exists whether or not those emails are sent, and every part of the email process has a role to play. Email Service Providers (ESPs) could stop operating with cost per thousand (CPM)-based pricing models, mailbox providers should make their server farms more energy efficient, and telecommunications companies should commit to carbon neutrality.
Data privacy in 2023
2022 saw tech giants hit with some of the biggest fines ever seen for data breaches or the mishandling of consumer data, with GDPR fines totalling £731 million for the year. For many smaller brands, this will have brought a greater focus on data privacy and now we are starting to see smaller brands being fined for relatively low-level breaches, such as sending an email to the wrong person. Additionally, the imminent deprecation of third-party cookies, and a shift to first-party data, will diminish the whole programmatic marketing model, meaning a redirection of advertising spend.
In light of these fines, it is important for brands to ensure that all their customer data is collected and managed in line with data privacy regulations. A shift to first or zero-party data will be beneficial, as it can provide clear consumer preferences to help tailor content better aligned with their needs. Data accuracy is vital and accurate data drives relevant content, meaning a better chance of increasing sales for the business. This means re-visiting customers on a regular basis, to ensure the data collected is up-to-date and still valid.
Additionally, using first or zero-party data provides retailers with the opportunity to build advertising platforms on top of their own data, putting them in direct competition with the established paid media providers such as Meta and Google. Retailers already have an advantage over the established platforms because they know when consumers have purchased specific products, and when they are likely to do so again. This means the timing of replenishment ads become far more accurate. When these strategies are executed successfully, organisations will reap the benefits in both the short and long-term, and hopefully reduce the risk of any fines.
AI in marketing
Generative AI, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, will be a game changer for email marketers in 2023. This technology can be used to assist a whole range of tasks, from copywriting to customer service. As marketers become familiar with this capability, the ability to create artificially generated copy is going to see widespread adoption, with massive benefits in terms of time savings and improved productivity. What will really be useful to email marketers is the option to create AI generated images. Most consumers take in information better, and more quickly, through visuals. However, finding original images for each piece of content can be time consuming and expensive. Essentially, generative AI allows marketers to create new images quickly and at a low cost, that they can use in email content.
However, as is the same with any new technology, people fear that generative AI could replace jobs as it can complete creative tasks at a higher level. It is expected that these new developments will only create new jobs in the coming years. For example, one can imagine an entire industry will come into being focused on the optimisation of queries that are submitted to ChatGPT to ensure they provide the best answers. AI, no matter how developed, does not have the same ability to convey empathy and loyalty as humans can, which are essential skills for marketers.
Technological developments in 2023 are certainly set to benefit marketers. However, they will have to be aware of the economic uncertainty many of their customers are facing and ensure they can adapt to these circumstances.
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