The last several years have proved that there is no sure way to truly know the future, but according to Avalara’s 2023 retail forecast survey, retailers are committed to making investments that will get them as close as possible — both in store and in the metaverse.
In its research, Avalara, the cloud-based tax compliance automation company, conducted a survey of 1,005 retail decision-makers within the U.S., U.K. and India. The survey looked to uncover what retailers are planning for 2023 and what challenges exist. Respondents shared learnings from 2022 and how they plan to get ahead of the 2023 shopping season.
One of the highest areas of investment in Avalara’s findings is “technology to better forecast demand,” as reported by 56 percent of U.S. respondents, 43 percent of Indian respondents and 31 percent of U.K. respondents.
Moreover, automation adoption is set to continue, with 87 percent of U.S. retailers surveyed reporting that they “wish they would have invested more in automation technology before the 2022 holiday season.” When asked about specific investments, 64 percent cited technology and tools to help forecast demand, 62 percent cited streamlined shipping and logistics and 55 percent cited inventory management.
Unsurprisingly, 43 percent of U.S. retailers (46 percent overall) reported they believe the economic downturn will be the biggest challenge for their business this year. One way retailers said they would address this is to make global commerce a bigger priority, with 88 percent of U.S. retailers polled saying that international sales growth was either in line with or ahead of expectations for the 2022 holiday season — the same was true for 73 percent of U.K. respondents and 78 percent of respondents in India.
As such, one of the largest areas in which retailers said they would be making investments in 2023 was “technology to better understand tax and customs obligations.” This was the case for 56 percent of U.S. respondents, 46 percent of Indian respondents and 31 percent of U.K. respondents.
Similarly, 51 percent of U.S. respondents, 46 percent of Indian respondents and 38 percent of U.K. respondents said they would also be investing in “expanding their sales channels.” Almost all respondents (91 percent in the U.S.) said their omnichannel strategy impacts how they think about the future of their business and 96 percent have considered the metaverse as a priority channel when examining their omnichannel strategy.
Retailers shared that as technology changes, strategies are always evolving to keep up. Key attention is being paid to gaming specifically as one way of creating metaverse interactions. Notably, the authors of Avalara’s report referenced research from Gartner that predicts that by 2026, a quarter of people will spend an hour a day in the metaverse.
U.S. retail respondents additionally shared ongoing struggles for labor retention, reporting plans to invest in increasing incentives and benefits aimed at retaining existing employees, increasing hourly wages and hiring seasonal employees earlier in the year.
Authors of Avalara’s report advised retailers to start thinking about the 2023 holiday season now, noting that technology and automation tools, which can help forecast demand, automate customer communications and streamline labor, can take up to nine months to fully implement.