Ecommerce saw healthy growth in 2023, despite a broader slow economic recovery. After a difficult year in 2022, many ecommerce companies saw both their revenues and stock price rebound this year. In particular, offering consumers new payment facilities and greater personalisation has helped counter the offset from inflation and the rise in cost of living.
Amongst the major players, there was a range of results across the year, though by and large ecommerce companies saw growth in revenue. eBay’s revenue recovered in Q2 and Q3 from four consecutive quarter declines, however the company’s stock price remained down on an annual basis (a decline of 1% YoY on 6 December 2023). This slow recovery was attributed to the pressure from major competitors such as Amazon, as consumers cut back on broader spending.
Meanwhile, Airnbnb, Amazon and Booking.com enjoyed strong revenue growth and share increases, reflecting in part consumers’ willingness to spend on personalised experience and travel. Those players also opened or extended partnerships with buy now, pay later (BNPL) companies, helping consumers spend more strategically.
Buy now, pay later is at the heart of ecommerce growth
In the face of rising inflation and pressure on consumers’ discretionary budgets, an increasing number of ecommerce companies partnered or extended their partnerships with BNPL players. Adobe Analytics expects one in five consumers to use layaway to buy gifts at the end of the year, with online BNPL spending expected to see an increase of 17% in November and December compared to the previous year.
Travel-related ecommerce is one sector which has increased its footprint in BNPL in 2023. Airbnb partnered with BNPL company Klarna in Q1, allowing its guests in the US and Canada to pay in four interest-free instalments over six weeks; the company has since announced the rollout of this offering to seven new countries. This partnership, along with the end of Covid-19 restrictions, has contributed to Airbnb’s second profitable year in a row – after a net loss of $352m in 2021.
In September, Booking.com partnered with BNPL vendor Affirm, offering customers the option to pay for a trip biweekly or monthly. In November, Amazon’s B2B segment also partnered with Affirm, giving small business owners flexible payment options for their purchases on Amazon Business. When approved, the instant credit decision at checkout allows businesses to select from customised pay-over-time options of three to 48 months.
The rise of QR codes
Several ecommerce giants also integrated QR codes in their strategy this year, offering customers discounts and promotions but also raising brand awareness and engagement. Amazon used QR codes prompting shopping action during Black Friday’s NFL games, enabling consumers to also interact with the different brands after the game. Such QR code initiatives boost consumer awareness around brands and the different deals ecommerce players are running on their sites.
Monetary authorities also showed increased interest in QR codes, mostly to facilitate fast and secure cross-border payments between markets. In November, the Bank of Indonesia and the Monetary Authority of Singapore launched a cross-border QR payment linkage between Indonesia and Singapore. The initiative enables customers of participating financial institutions to make seamless cross-border payments using their existing mobile banking applications to scan QRIS (Quick Response Code Indonesian Standard) or NETS QR codes displayed by merchants in Indonesia and Singapore respectively.
The launch follows a similar cross-border QR collaboration between PayNow (Singapore) and DuitNow (Malaysia) in March 2023. Most recently, in December, Hong Kong and Thailand followed suit with the launch of the FPS and PromptPay Link.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday set records for global commerce
Despite macroeconomic concerns, Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw record spending in 2023. Adobe Analytics reported $9.8bn in Black Friday online sales, up 7.5% from 2022. For Cyber Monday, consumers spent $12.4bn, an increase of 9.6% from the previous year.
This growth was partly attributed to BNPL purchases over Black Friday weekend. For example, Adobe Analytics reported that British consumers spent £475m through BNPL services between 24 November and 27 November 2023, a rise of 15.8% compared to the same period the previous year.
Looking ahead to 2024, ecommerce is expected to see sustainable revenue growth, as key players continue to develop innovative payment solutions and credit facilities. We are also likely to see more ecommerce players adopting generative AI to achieve more consumer personalisation and gain a competitive edge.