Brand Innovators 2023 Outlook: Retail

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‍In the first installment of our new 2023 Outlook Series, Brand Innovators talks to Retail CMOs and marketing leaders for insights into what to expect next year, and how the category will innovate.

Despite high inflation, supply chain issues and interest rate spikes, consumers are still spending at retail with sales up around 9% for the first half of 2022, per NRF. And these figures were up from a record $4.3 trillion in retail sales in 2021. By 2027, Forrester expects total US retail sales to reach $5.5 trillion and US online retail sales to reach $1.6 trillion. 

“As we head into 2023, the roles of in-store and ecommerce will continue to diverge for a much more discerning, price-conscious set of consumers,” said Kristin Harrer, global chief marketing officer at Vans, a VF Company. “While brick-and-mortar continues to be a space for inspiration, immersion and discovery, ecommerce is increasingly expected to be a personally curated experience rooted in on-demand convenience and efficiency.” 

Retail spaces will have to be more immersive and interactive in order to draw consumers into physical locations. “We're going to continue to reinvent experiences in immersive ways to delight consumers,” said Carole Diarra, global vice president of marketing at UGG. “People are looking for moments to feel good to express themselves to get out to be seduced. The retail experiences are going to consistently build upon that to win consumers back and to excite them.”

Forrester is predicting that online retail sales will grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate over the next five years to account for 30% of the market by 2027. With the growth in digital sales, brands will need to show up in the spaces that consumers inhabit virtually from the metaverse to online reviews sites.

“It is more important now than ever that brands take a digital-first, consumer-centric approach to serving consumers with what they want, when they want it, wherever they spend their time – whether that’s in a physical retail store or on a social media or gaming platform,” added Harrer. “Anticipating consumer needs in this way will be fundamental in establishing the trust required to develop authentic and meaningful consumer connections which in turn drives brand love, brand loyalty and ultimately brand demand.”

“2023 will intensify the focus brands need to have on their online ratings and reviews,” said Doug Zarkin, chief marketing officer at Pearle Vision. “To the point of qualifying it as reputation commerce…driving comp customer count vis-a-via the strength and significance of your commitment to embracing the good, the bad and even the ugly of consumers take on the experience factor within your brand value equation. For long term brand salience, brands must have a platform in place to listen and take action on this in order to lead if they are going to affirm their place in the evolved ecosystem of off/online retail opportunities.”

Brand values will continue to play an important role in appealing to consumers in 2023. Red Wing Shoes Co.’s chief marketing officer Dave Schneider said that predictions are hard especially when the world's future has proven itself to be uncertain. “What I know for sure though is that consumers appreciate values as much as anything,” he said. “We stand for enduring craftsmanship. We stand for premium product and the ability for consumers to build a legacy built on the backs of our products. The notion of a more integrated omnichannel ecosystem, the ability to sell socially and ultimately looking at brands through the lens of their corporate social responsibility, sustainability and DEI initiatives are all much more fundamental. There's some shift in values that consumers have towards brands and how we go to market will continue to evolve over time.” 

Diarra agreed that demand is “We're going to see more brands lean in on finding their voice on social causes as consumers demand it, especially Gen Z, who want to shop their values,” added Diarra.  

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