Prepare your brand to succeed in 2024 with the help of our expert predictions in all areas of online commerce. Don’t be surprised, be prepared! Read more…
While it’s impossible to say for certain where the whims of various megacorporations will take us over the next 12 months, one of the benefits of being immersed in a particular specialism is you develop an understanding of the general direction of progress. As one of the only dedicated Shopify commerce agencies, Velstar is uniquely positioned to offer an overarching set of predictions that can help you be prepared for the year ahead despite the various ambitions of Shopify, Google, Meta or any of the other companies that can seem to hold our future in their hands.
All that being said, let’s meet some of our experts and see what they have to say about the year ahead…
Richard Parnaby-King: - Senior Web Developer here at Velstar, and back-end development specialist, Richard has a decade and a half of top-level development experience across a broad range of languages and platforms. There are big changes ahead in the development space according to his 2024 predictions:
- AI and Machine Learning: - tools such ChatGPT and other LLMs, will continue to be used by developers to generate code for specific problems. Although AI won't be building entire apps on their own, LLMs will play an even greater role in helping developers build them in 2024.
- AR commerce: - I've been predicting that "this will be the year for AR on mobile" for years… this year is no different. This will be the year for AR on mobile. More businesses on every platform will add AR to their product media, not only is it a useful and engaging addition, it will also be assisted by tools such as Shopify AR in 2024.
- Passwordless and SSO (Single Sign-On): - a hot topic at the moment, I’d expect more stores to be implementing this as a feature when registering and logging into accounts to provide a more frictionless shopping experience across the web.
Social Media Advertising
Georgina Chalk: - with more than ten years experience in paid social, Georgina is an expert in the things that make for a successful social media ad campaign. Velstar’s Head of Social and Performance Marketing is the consummate professional and has the following expectations for the new year:
- AI and Machine Learning: - all platforms are already using AI as a data prediction source, and Meta specifically has been harnessing their AI capabilities for years. In 2024, I expect to see an increase in AI use across copy, creative, data and tracking.
- Tracking problems: - proper attribution has always been difficult, but these difficulties will be compounded by increasing desires for consumer privacy, the implementation of non-trackable browsing, and new data privacy laws - specifically in the EU, though California’s adoption of a GDPR-lite set of regulations could see issues expand to the US.
- TikTok: - despite issues at home and abroad for ByteDance, TikTok will continue to grow as an organic and paid channel in 2024 as more and more users look to the app as a knowledge and social sharing source.
- Video content: - we expect video to become even more important in 2024, with brands needing to adopt a variety of creative angles across paid social campaigns to enable them to make noise across paid social platforms.
Sam Fagan: - Velstar’s email marketing expert, Sam has racked up impressive ROI for clients big and small since graduating with a first class degree in 2020. The last few years of developing awesome email campaigns has led him to the following predictions about 2024:
- First party data: - with a clamp down on cookie tracking across paid channels, owned data will become far more valuable in 2024, so expect a focus on better segments for owned customer data to improve both automation and campaign targeting.
- Increased adoption of BIMI and DMARC: - short for Brand Identifiers for Message Identification and Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance, these are techniques that seek to aid brands in improving trust and inbox visibility and will be more needed than ever in 2024. As spam filters and inbox segmentation continue to make it difficult to make it to the right inbox, brands will need to do everything possible this year to make sure their emails are being seen.
- AI for email personalisation: - it will be more common to take all aspects of your customer data and apply AI to the lists/segments to provide you with improved personalisation of automations and campaigns.
Elisha Sketchley: - Velstar's Content Marketing Manager, Elisha’s five years of experience don’t quite provide the full picture of this excellent wordsmith, who has delivered sensational results while maintaining an obvious and inspiring love of the English Language. In full prose, she has the following to say of 2024:
What will 2024 bring for the world of content marketing? Somewhat counterintuitively, it's likely to be a year in which it'll be easier for your content to stand out.
With AI tools such as ChatGPT being used to flood the internet with generic, pooterish, copy and tools such as Dall-E pumping out cookie cutter visual assets, those brands that invest in human-created, artisan content will be the ones that differentiate themselves from the competition.
Coupled to this, we're likely to see a swathe of algorithm updates from Google as the search giant seeks to find and reward genuinely useful content, rather than the click-bait tier content that's filling up the SERPs.
I expect that the content creation process is going to undergo some significant changes in 2024, too. The key phrase to look out for will be 'information gain'.
Think of it like this; AI tools such as ChatGPT are trained on data scraped from the Internet (with no respect to intellectual property rights, I might add). As such, anything generated by these tools is information that's already on the Internet.
The world doesn't stand still, and new developments are always occuring. Let's consider a tangible example; say you're an eCommerce retailer that sells home appliances. Appliances are always being launched with new features and technology; but, AI tools don't/won't know that (unless they are retrained at great expense and time). In other words, if you want your copy written on any topic in the most accurate, up-to-date way, you can't trust AI to do it.
For content creators, the rise of 'information gain' means that we have to put in much more effort at the research phase. Interview subject matter experts, reading the latest journal entries, keeping up with technological developments and innovations - these are just a few of the tasks that should become a normal part of content creation in order to create content that will deliver results in the SERPs.
Paid Search (PPC)Shubham Sharma: - Velstar’s Head of PPC, Shubham’s decade of experience and PPC wizardry has delivered phenomenal results for clients across Europe and the US. In short, everything hangs on one development in PPC in 2024.
From the PPC side, next year is going to be all about how brands manage the struggle against the loss of 3rd party cookies. With the majority of mainstream browsers set to drop 3rd party cookies at some point through the year, we’re expecting a lot of brands to be focusing on last minute preparations and working toward better collection of first-party data. So early work on data tracking will become the thing that sets successful campaigns apart in 2024. It should go without saying, too, that this doesn’t just apply to PPC, but all other channels.
So, get focused quickly and start preparing a robust first-party tracking setup!
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Kerry Mullin: - bringing a decade of digital marketing experience to the role, Velstar’s Head of SEO and Content is a go-to expert for all things Shopify SEO, a conference speaker and has delivered SEO results on three continents.
- Structured data: - structured data has been growing in importance for years now, as Google’s algorithm increasingly relies on machine learning. However, with the sharp increase in generative AI and large language models, knowledge graphs and structured data are going to be key to stopping spam content, improving the detection of helpful content and making sure the internet remains a place where we can trust at least some of the information we find.
- Google crossroads: - it may seem a strange thing to say, but Google is going to need to make some big moves this year. Growing discontent with the opacity of their paid offering and fear around brand security, a huge increase in spam in the SERPs, and an underwhelming generative search offering, all make for tough reading for an increasingly reactive Sundar Pichai. Expect to see some big algorithm updates in the same vein as this year’s HCU, some efforts to reassure brands about the safety of their ad offering, and some big revamps of their generative search UX and UI.
- Shopify SEO: - with Shopify making moves to capture a larger part of the enterprise commerce market, SEO performance, and SEO related announcements in Editions roadmaps, have definitely increased. I’d expect another big push on this in 2024 as they look to balance reduced human support with improved performance and AI support at lower levels and improve organic returns for migrating enterprise brands.
Kieran Sheridan-Lawler: - Velstar’s head of strategy, working with brands across the UK and Europe, Kieran prides himself on keeping up-to-date with all of the latest comings and goings in digital marketing, he goes into more detail here, but has the following five actions for brands to consider in 2024:
- Continued rise of the smartphone: - check your Analytics to see where your conversions are coming from (not sessions, conversions!). If it’s telling you you’re making most of your revenue from mobile, then make sure your website is optimised for mobile first.
- Humanise chatbots: - check out your top three competitors, and see how they’re running their chatbots. Try to purchase an item on their website and see how the chatbot helps with the user experience. Take the best bits and share them with your customer service and sales team.
- Sustainable & ethical brands: - think of ways you can lean into these ethical concerns with your messaging and creatives, showcasing your ethical and sustainable positioning to customers along different parts of the eCommerce journey.
- Cost of living: - put yourself in the shoes of your customers and ask yourself, is your product or service really worth it? Make a note of all the reasons why they should buy and why they might not. Use this to form answers to key questions that your customers may have.
Richard David: - Velstar’s Senior UX/UI Designer, Richard has been designing at a lead/senior level for more than six years, and producing phenomenal designs for some of the UK and Europe’s top brands. There are four key things to look out for in design in 2024 according to Richard:
- Mobile-first designs: - while the concept of ‘mobile-first’ has been on trend reports since 2012, it’s only recently that brands are truly recognising the dominance of mobile users. In 2024, I expect this to persist, with Desktop continuing to be secondary, and Tablet shopping to become completely obsolete. User Experiences will be amplified for mobile users, reflecting the evolving landscape of user preferences.
- Less AI generated designs: - I anticipate a shift away from the AI-generated designs that dominated in 2023, I’m hopeful 2024 will bring us towards a “built by humans” approach to design. Despite AI’s capabilities in generating content like Product Photography, Banners, and complete User Interfaces, its skill is often outweighed by a lack of authenticity, and authenticity in ecommerce is worth its weight in gold.
- Improved accessibility: - more than a buzzword, trend, or compliance, accessibility is paramount to ensuring your design and digital experiences are inclusive and usable by everyone, regardless of abilities. Investing time and resources to ensure websites cater to everyone, regardless of abilities, is not just a current need but a forward-looking investment. If you want to learn more about accessibility in ecommerce stores, read my blog post.
- Shoppable Video Content: - as TikTok evolves into the modern-day QVC, the trend of ‘QVC-ifying’ video content is on the rise. Imagine your hero banner, how-to videos, and even testimonials seamlessly transforming into a ‘one-click-done’ shopping experience! Velstar’s partners, VideoWise, are at the forefront, championing this technique with their comprehensive end-to-end video platform.
It’s going to be one of the most interesting years in a long time - while I was personally unimpressed with the various generative search offerings, there is huge scope for AI to properly integrate with search, but also with commerce more broadly. I’ve been predicting a mid to long-term arrival for a proper digital personal assistant for a while now, but last year was the first big move in that direction.
Commerce brands are likely to be one of the first big adopters of AI assistance in the form of digital concierges - bots that will be trained on individual interactions to make better recommendations (rather than you’ve bought this, so here’s twelve more of the same you’ll see something approaching the level of you’ve repeatedly looked at interesting patterns but bought their plain versions, here are some more subdued patterned pieces to help you take a step in becoming more adventurous); while we might not reach peak maturity for this in 2024, we will see it begin to be implemented in a basic way by more brands.
Relatedly, it should also be a huge year for human produced content - probably the second half of the year as brands realise the true cost of AI content. We’ve already seen some big drops for sites pumping out AI content at scale, and there’s been a lot of discussion that 2022 might be the last year from which AI models can pull data for training due to extensive pollution by LLMs from 2023.
There will also be growing calls for major tech companies to improve brand safety and also for greater controls on personal data. 2024 is, therefore, going to be, if not the most testing of the current ad ecosystem, then certainly one of the top three. There will need to be big changes for reasons of legislative compliance and to avoid action from brands that spent 2023 looking on in horror at the findings of investigations by the teams at Adalytics and Check My Ads Institute (and others).
Overall, while we may not see sea changes in 2024, we will begin to see how companies are going to handle some long term trends and the changes we do see will have extremely far reaching consequences.