Father and child smiling inside their home decorated for the holidays looking at a tablet.
From understanding intentional buying habits to creating an easy return policy, there are several current trends that small businesses can benefit from learning about and using. — Getty Images/bernardbodo

As the 2023 holiday season approaches, small businesses have an opportunity to take advantage of e-commerce trends that can help boost sales, enhance customer experiences, and carve out a competitive edge. By capitalizing on these trends, small businesses can position themselves for success during this critical time of year.

Here are seven ways your small business can leverage e-commerce trends this holiday season to help grow your profit margin and loyal customer base.

[U.S. Chamber of Commerce members get exclusive access to big shipping discounts from FedEx (Limitations may apply.) Learn more about the FedEx Advantage® program.]

Understand intentional buying habits

The economic stress of the last few years has transformed shoppers into more intentional and strategic consumers. A 2023 FedEx survey found that 62% of shoppers cut down on buying things impulsively or just for fun. Instead, shoppers' mindsets shifted away from their favorite brands and what is on the market as the “cheapest buy” to seek quality products from businesses that align with their values.

To best market to these “intentional” buyers, offer value-driven products and transparent pricing. Highlight the quality and uniqueness of your products/services to assure consumers they’re making a worthwhile investment.

Take steps towards sustainability

Sustainability is a large priority for today's consumers, particularly younger generations. A 2023 social media trends report found that 82% of consumers are looking to brands to adopt eco-friendly practices, and 32% are willing to spend more money when they know they are making a sustainable purchase.

Small businesses that are not currently focusing on sustainability can consider using eco-friendly packaging, creating recycling programs, and partnering with other environmentally conscious businesses to stay current with this trend. For example, your company can choose a shipping provider like FedEx, which is working towards a goal of converting its entire pickup and delivery fleet to electric vehicles by 2040.

Embrace social commerce

Social commerce is on the rise, and small businesses can leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to help create a memorable shopping experience. This trend of making purchases directly through social media platforms provides an opportunity to reach a wider audience and drive sales without a significant upfront investment.

You can encourage social commerce through video marketing, livestreaming, stories, user-generated content, and collaborating with influencers to captivate your audience. Hashtags and trending music can be used to tap into consumer-driven social searches, as well.

Offer a variety of payment options for convenience

Having convenient payment options is key for today's shoppers. In fact, a Santa Clara University (SCU) study found that 25% of consumers have reportedly abandoned a purchase because they couldn’t pay how they wanted.

An astounding 52% of consumers across the U.S. used a new payment method in 2022, including digital wallets. Additionally, “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) options are expected to increase in popularity, as three in five shoppers have used this payment type in the past.

By supporting a variety of digital payment options, such as digital wallets like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, your small business can attract a wider range of customers and streamline the checkout process. Promote your business’s flexibility with digital payment and BNPL options through marketing to address growing frustration and attract new customers.

By supporting a variety of digital payment options, such as digital wallets like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, your small business can attract a wider range of customers and streamline the checkout process.

Create an easy return policy

Small businesses should strive to strike a balance between providing easy returns for customers and managing return-related costs. While it's important to maintain customer satisfaction, implementing clear and fair return policies can help prevent abuse of the system. Hassle-free and fast returns are more likely to make a buyer a repeat customer in the future, regardless of their reasoning for returning the product.

Providing return solutions like no-box, no-label can help take the guess work out of the return for your customer and allow you to provide convenience as a business, said Elizabeth Wisdom, Sr. Marketing Specialist, FedEx.

Small businesses can enhance the returns strategy by using creative approaches like introducing fees in exchange for added convenience or sustainability. Additionally, reducing returns by improving product quality and customer service tools and seeking feedback on returned items can uncover valuable opportunities for enhancement.

Expand into international markets

With the ability to sell and ship almost anywhere in the world, you don’t have to limit your small business to local customers. A reported 57% of online shoppers are shopping globally, which can open up new avenues for business growth.

Small businesses wanting to go global should research international markets, adapt their website for global audiences, and offer competitive shipping options. Use search optimization tactics to help international shoppers find your products and offer various payment options for different currencies.

Your deliveries around the world are an extension of your business, so you want them to reflect the level of service you offer. When it comes to your shipping strategy, teaming up with a reliable logistics provider for international shipping is critical. Choose a provider that will represent your business consistently. Make sure they’re easy to do business with and have the local and global knowledge to grow with you and match your ambitions.

At FedEx, for instance, we have decades of customs knowledge, great tools and resources, and a range of international services to help facilitate both cross-border and global growth, said Dionne Noisette, Digital Marketing Principal, FedEx.

Elevate the delivery experience

Delivery experience is more important than ever for customer satisfaction. Consumers want to receive their products fast and with ease of mind. According to the SCU study, 75% of buyers have paid for faster shipping when making purchases in the past, bypassing a retailer’s free or standard shipping.

Small businesses should offer multiple shipping options, real-time tracking, and convenient delivery time slots. Enhancing package tracking and clearly communicating processing times to consumers through SMS, email, and in-app messaging can also go a long way. Collaborate with your provider to improve visibility options and keep customers informed after their purchase as an easy way to seek feedback post-delivery through the open line of communication.

FedEx values our small business customers and looks for ways to help them be successful. We provide solutions, tools and insights tailored for their needs. In many ways their success and growth is ours as well. The great thing about how we work with our small businesses is that we learn from them. Understanding their challenges helps FedEx better serve them as they grow, said Kevin Chung, Digital Marketing Principal, FedEx.

Ready to elevate your small business delivery experience? Visit FedEx’s Small Business Center to explore shipping solutions you can implement for the 2023 holiday season. U.S. Chamber of Commerce members get exclusive access to big shipping discounts from FedEx. Learn more about the FedEx Advantage® program.