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Future Forward: 6 Retail Trends Small Businesses Should Prepare for in 2024

January 4, 2024

By Terrand Smith, Founder/CEO, 37 Oaks

At 37 Oaks, January is when we put a lot of emphasis and support into helping our small business owners prepare for a winning year. We focus on building strategies, planning execution, analyzing data, forecasting trends, anticipating challenges, and refining financials. We consider these "micro-factors", meaning the decisions we make as business owners that directly impact our business. But, to grow profitable, sustainable, scalable, and bankable businesses, we also need to consider the "macro factors". These are the decisions that are made by entities around us, that impact the environment our business operates in.

Now is when we see many trend reports for the retail industry emerge. The retail industry is vast, just like the retailers that make it up. Considering the size, profile, and distribution channels of the businesses we serve, I wanted to highlight six trends that growing, product-based businesses need to prepare for in 2024.



37 oaks small business trends terrand smith 2024

From the beginning, 37 Oaks was designed to educate and prepare small businesses for growth in e-commerce, wholesale, storefronts, AND pop-up markets. Why? Because we always believed in the power of diversification. Considering the growing influence technology has on customers' shopping decisions, increased retail competition, and the explosion of advertising opportunities, brands must be aware of the many places their customers get to know, like, trust, and purchase from them. Long gone are the days when the sales journey happens in a single channel. We continue to see how different channels play different roles at different phases of the customer's journey to the purchase. 

  • A friend bought a new TV and you check out the retailer’s website. Then you visit the store, price shop on Amazon, and go back and buy it from the store. 

  • You need a shirt for a party this weekend and ask Alexa for shopping recommendations. It directs you to a nearby boutique. You check out their e-commerce site first, find ratings and testimonials on their social pages, purchase online, and pick it up in-store,

  • A friend posts about a BBQ sauce they bought and tagged the business on social. You check out the business' social page and see they will be at the local Farmer's Market. Here you plan to sample and possibly purchase.

Brands that offer an omnichannel experience (three or more channels) have a 287% higher purchase rate than thhose that operate on a single channel platform (source)

The shopper and their buying processes are becoming more and more dynamic. They start in one place, bounce around, and may purchase at another place. Having multiple channels, that create great and seamless experiences helps improve conversion. This also helps a business adapt and prepare for potential market shifts. 

What does this mean for you? 

A very clear and thoughtful diversification strategy is necessary. Small businesses should have both an online (e-commerce) and offline presence (wholesale, storefront, pop-up markets). Each of these areas is vast and there are many options to grow into each, possibly more than you think. Use the first few months of the year to thoughtfully narrow down when, where, and how you should play in each channel. It helps reduce risks, save time, increase efficiency, conserve resources, and grow sales. 

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No surprise that e-commerce continues to be a top retail trend. In 2024, this channel is expected to grow by 10.5% vs last year, representing about 16.6% of total retail sales*. It will continue to drive retail growth over the next few years, mostly due to social commerce and mobile optimization. This is not only where customers are, but where they continue to go. 

E-commerce is not one-size-fits-all and we talk a lot about the importance of understanding this and the options in our 37 Oaks University Introduction to E-commerce course. There are many ways to launch and grow online. So, limiting your growth strategy to what you currently do, currently know, and what you see others do may not give you the full picture of opportunity.  Take time to understand the pros and cons of your e-commerce options.

Should you have a direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, participate in an online marketplace, or invest in a social commerce strategy? Or a combination of each? Each channel plays a strategic role in e-commerce, which means it plays a strategic role in your business. Not giving adequate time and consideration to this decision is a disservice to you and your business. Once this is outlined, which platforms and tools are best for your business and why? How do you create a seamless experience with your retail presence? How does this all fit into your budget, capacity, and goals? 

Knowing where you should play and where you can play online is just as important as the great execution of that plan.

What does this mean for you? 

Dedicate time to strategically planning a winning e-commerce strategy. This includes the research, coaching, and education around the channels and platforms that are best for your business; how it complements your retail strategy, and the marketing, operational, and financial implications of it all.

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E-commerce will represent 16.6% of total retail sales in 2024. This means approximately 87% of sales will take place in a physical location (storefronts, wholesale, and pop-up markets). Although 2024’s offline growth is projected to be less than e-commerce's, at about 3%*,  it still represents the lion’s share of where industry sales will occur. For small businesses to compete and win in retail, experience continues to be the key this year. 

Experience is the result of all the interactions and feelings a customer has with your business during their purchase journey. It is what motivates them to close the laptop and walk into your store. Making investments in customer service; technology; product interactions, displays, and sampling; personalization; visual merchandising; elements that stimulate the five senses, and a seamless e-commerce integration are ways to deliver the experience customers look for.

Retail stores are not only a place to transact, but play a critical role in helping customers determine IF they want to transact. Terrand Smith, Founder/CEO, 37 Oaks

Customers may or may not convert within your store, but a positive store experience will encourage conversion, wherever it may be. To us, retail is defined as a storefront, wholesale, and/or popup market business. So use these spaces to your advantage - to build awareness, credibility, trust, and conversion.

What does this mean for you?

Similar to e-commerce, the ways you can grow into retail comes with many options. Use the first few months of this year to thoughtfully outline your retail growth plan for 2024. Understanding the financials, marketing, labor, and operational implications is critical.

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Marketing is such a broad topic and we can talk about it for days. There are cool technologies, platforms, and trends released each day. In addition to trends from 2023 that remain relevant, such as email marketing, SMS campaigns, videos, and paid ads, here are a few more we want to add to our small businesses’ radar for 2024.

  • Retail Media Networks: Retail Media Networks are platforms that allow retailers to sell ads by leveraging their retailer and/or shopper data. It is like an owned retail channel that sells media advertisements to a third party, such as your brand. This can be delivered through a retailer’s website, mobile app, streaming services, email, stores, and social networks. Retail media networks are effective because these ads influence shoppers at a time when they are most impacted - while they shop and close to the point of purchase. This is why it already represents about 11% of the US ad spend in 2023. Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, eBay, and Etsy utilize retail media networks. If you are growing through wholesale or an e-commerce marketplace, exploring their retail media network opportunities (if available), can be a win for your business.

37 oaks small business trends terrand smith 2024 sokoni
  • Live-Streaming: Livestreaming is the streaming of video or audio in real-time or near real-time. Businesses use this marketing tactic to engage customers, build awareness, build trust, drive sales, and increase credibility. 37 Oaks’ has a platform called SOKONI. This e-commerce learning lab had over 100 small business owners nationwide selling over 500 products this past holiday. To introduce the livestreaming concept to some, and increase comfort levels to others, we hosted a Live Holiday Shopping Event for 21 business owners to showcase their products to a live audience. Sales were made, and it helped them with the concept, and technology and overcome fears of public speaking and presenting live.  

  • Retargeting: Retargeting is a marketing tactic that reminds your e-commerce site visitors of your products after they leave without buying. When they visit other sites, it allows you to retarget them by showing an ad that reminds them about your brand. We are excited about seeing this tactic come more to the forefront as it is a way to optimize marketing budgets and leverage existing assets for improved return on marketing investments. 

What does that mean for you? 

With all the marketing options, use the first few months of this year to define a tight and effective marketing strategy for 2024. Focus, optimize, measure, and be open-minded. 

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As technology integrates more into consumers' day-to-day' lives, there is a type of dependency being formed. Through personalized product recommendations, making payments more simple, and directing to the quickest way to buy, technology will continue to play an integral role in influencing shopper behaviors. It impacts what products they see, where they see it, and when they see it. 

A top trend in 2024 for our small businesses to tap into is, you guessed it, Generative AI! Tools such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard generate information and content based on data. Small business owners can use these tools to not only influence customer behavior but also operate more efficiently and create great user experiences. Examples include: 

  • Create copy for website, product descriptions, sales presentations, marketing content, and courses

  • Summarize product reviews

  • Write meeting agendas

  • Respond to customer inquiries

  • Research competitors 

  • Much more…

It may take time to understand all the ways AI can help your growing business. While you are learning, reading, testing, and becoming more comfortable in developing a comprehensive technology strategy, at the least, utilize the tools mentioned above. You will see simple and quick ways to use them to operate more efficiently.

What does this mean for you?

The impacts and benefits of AI on small businesses are endless. This broad technology landscape can be intimidating, but don't let fear paralyze you. At the least, begin using the AI tools in the way we mentioned, so you don't get left behind as this trend continues to grow. 

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We can’t talk about retail and e-commerce trends if we don’t consider macro-economic trends. What we do in our business is impacted by what’s going on around our business. Although unemployment rates are low, consumer spending and wages are strong, inflation is easing, and the U.S. managed to dodge a recession in 2023, there are reasons to keep your eyes open in 2024.

We now see auto loan and credit card delinquencies rising, the reinstatement of student loans, and the depletion of household savings. This past holiday's sales rose about 3.1%, which was in the forecast but was also significantly lower than the prior year, at 7.6%. Purse strings are tightening and although we may not be in for a recession, the economy is projected to slow down.

Many other trends will impact the retail landscape in 2024, such as personalization, sustainability, health and wellness, automation, and more. The six noted in this article are a great starting point for those taking the next 30 days to tighten up their 12-month growth plan. These trends, along with new market insights, news, technology innovations, and customer behaviors will be discussed in our courses, workshops, Growth Lab events, and through our exercises and activities. Stay connected to 37 Oaks to stay abreast of what is going on in the retail and e-commerce world for small businesses.

Terrand Smith

Founder/CEO, 37 Oaks

terrand smith prepare to shift
Growth Lab 37 Oaks Membership terrand Smith



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