Online retail success in 2024

The biggest challenges and opportunities for online retailers in 2024

Diya Bag
Senior Content Writer, commercetools
Published 26 March 2024
Estimated reading time minutes

As the retail industry continues to evolve, business leaders must confront challenges head-on and embrace new technologies to seize upcoming opportunities. In this blog article, we'll explore the online retail sector, identifying both obstacles and possibilities specific to the current year, while presenting the composable technology needed to succeed.

From shifts in customer behavior to technological advancements, today's retailers face a critical choice: Maintain the status quo and run the risk of falling behind competitors, or move full steam ahead with a digital commerce transformation. After all, online retail isn't just about selling products anymore; it's about crafting experiences that resonate with modern consumers. 

From the challenge of retaining customer loyalty in an era of ever-changing expectations to the struggle with performance issues like slow website loading and complex checkouts, the road ahead is filled with hurdles. But amidst these challenges lies an opportunity for retailers to innovate, adapt and thrive in the digital age.

Picture this: A world where every touchpoint, whether it's a mobile app or a brick-and-mortar store, seamlessly connects to create a unified shopping experience. It's about finding the balance between meeting customer demands and optimizing operational efficiency. And let's not forget the bottom line — the need to drive ROI while navigating rising costs and time-to-market pressures.

It's a complex journey, but by embracing the right technology, refining strategies and putting the customer at the center of it all, retailers can unlock new avenues for growth and success. So, are you ready to seize the moment and redefine what it means to be a retailer in today's digital age?

Biggest challenges for online retailers

To thrive in the current retail environment, you must overcome the wide-ranging challenges faced by all in the industry — and the first step is to identify them.

Diminishing customer loyalty: The retail industry is experiencing a decline in brand loyalty due to shifting consumer behavior, influenced by social media and online content, which creates a fragmented shopping journey. Economic challenges worsen loyalty issues, as quick shipping expectations impact consumer loyalty.

Performance-related issues: Retailers face challenges such as slow website loading, complex navigation and checkout/payment method issues, contributing to high cart abandonment rates.

Poor mobile experience: With a significant portion of sales occurring on mobile devices, retailers must prioritize mobile responsiveness to address slow-loading pages and clunky user interfaces.

Hitting a growth wall: Retailers encounter scalability challenges due to poor system performance and limited scalability, leading to risks of outages and downtime during high-demand periods.

Getting omnichannel right: Retailers struggle to seamlessly integrate diverse sales channels, resulting in inconsistencies across product catalogs, inventory, pricing and customer information.

Low ROI: Rising costs associated with IT, maintenance, and development hinder the efficient deployment of solutions, necessitating the optimization of financial outcomes to address cost-related challenges.

So, now that you know the challenges, how can you conquer them?

Biggest opportunities for online retailers

Despite the challenges in the retail industry, there are so many opportunities to break new ground and thrive by exceeding consumer demands. With technology playing an incredibly crucial role in the retail sector, businesses must welcome innovations to stay relevant and competitive. 

In the pursuit of retail growth, targeting evolving customer segments emerges as a pivotal strategy. While traditionally focusing on digitally savvy demographics like Millennials and Gen Z, retailers must now broaden their scope to include diverse age groups and multicultural segments. This expansion requires leveraging data analytics to tailor marketing strategies and hyper-personalization, all while respecting customer privacy and delivering real-time experiences.

Integrating generative AI (GenAI) into retail operations presents immense potential for personalization and seamless customer journeys. However, retailers must be intentional about their initial AI use cases, focusing on capturing benefits efficiently while avoiding unnecessary costs. Transparency and a customer-centric approach are vital in building trust and ensuring positive user experiences amidst AI implementation.

Ensuring customer data security stands as a paramount concern for retailers navigating the digital landscape. Robust measures, including advanced encryption, stringent access controls and real-time monitoring, are essential to safeguard sensitive information and comply with data protection regulations. 

Additionally, prioritizing the post-purchase experience and bridging online and offline interactions (also known as a phygital strategy) through seamless omnichannel strategies are key to fostering lasting customer relationships and maximizing growth opportunities in the retail sector.

How to bring it all together: Composable commerce

Sure, the above opportunities look great, but you may be wondering how you can adopt them into your tech stack. The answer is to get on with composable commerce, which implies getting off of your monolithic eCommerce platform.

Monolithic platforms present various roadblocks for retailers, hindering rather than enabling success. Their complexities, high costs, long development cycles, integration challenges, scalability issues and limited customization capabilities often restrain retailers from adapting to new market demands. As a result, many businesses find themselves trapped by their existing technology, unable to innovate and grow effectively.

In contrast, ​​composable commerce, characterized by modular development, cloud-native SaaS and tech-agnosticism empowers retailers to build outstanding shopping experiences tailored to their unique needs. 

With composable commerce, retailers can: 

How to bring it all together: Composable commerce

You can further tailor your tech stack with composable-ready services from best-of-breed vendors for CMS systems, search, shipping services and more. That way, you can accelerate time-to-market, reduce implementation time and effort and — best of all — embrace whatever emerging technologies your customers want effortlessly.  

If you want to learn more about how to thrive this year as an online retailer, download our white paper Reimagining Retail Commerce in 2024

Diya Bag
Senior Content Writer, commercetools

Diya Bag is a Senior Content Writer at commercetools. Previously, she has worked as a Copywriter in advertising for a wide range of brands, as well as an Editorial Manager in publishing for magazines and both fiction and nonfiction books.

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