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The 6 Biggest Ecommerce Trends in 2023 You Can't Afford to Ignore
Most ecommerce trend guides focus on what retailers should be adopting to improve their online experience. And that’s definitely part of this guide, but we wanted to take a different look at things by focusing on the consumers themselves and the forces in their lives that may shape how, where, and when they shop in 2023.
We also think a comprehensive guide to 2023 ecommerce trends wouldn’t be complete without looking at both emerging and current trends in ecommerce. This means circling back to the biggest ecommerce trends 2022 and ecommerce trends 2021, and seeing how much of an impact they’re having today, or what the overall adoption rate has been.
This isn’t like any other ecommerce trends 2023 guide you’re going to read, we’ll put it that way. So let’s get started.
Want to read our guide later? Click below to download a PDF copy.
Ecommerce trends 2023 that every brand needs to consider
First, let’s look to the future. These are trends that are just starting to emerge, and quite often, are related to this very moment in time as opposed to a slower evolution. With each trend, we’ll tackle what it is, why it’s emerging, and ideas to bring it into the fold for your business in 2023.
1. Instant gratification: Convenience and spontaneity reign supreme
Omnichannel retail has been an ecommerce trend to watch for years now - the idea that shoppers use multiple channels to shop and expect a seamless experience between them is nothing new.
But when it comes to 2023 ecommerce trends, expect the stakes to be raised. Shopping inspiration can take place anywhere, at any time, and brands need to be ready to provide service well beyond typical ‘mall hours’ or customer service windows.
The goal of eliminating friction in the purchase journey should no longer be about ‘convincing someone to buy’, but about making it as easy, fast, and seamless as possible to buy, right when the mood hits.
Key points on instant gratification in ecommerce
- According to Google, searches for ‘near me in stock’ have increased by 90% over the past year
- Brands like Sephora (which already offers same-day delivery) are experimenting with delivery services like DoorDash to bring shoppers their beauty needs on demand in under an hour
- Standalone same day delivery startups are seeing mixed results - companies like Gopuff have seen widespread layoffs, while Ohi continues to attract interest and several others have shuttered their doors
- According to a McKinsey survey of European consumers, shoppers are willing to pay up to 10% of an item’s cost to have same day delivery
- Searches on Google for ‘store open’ have increased 400% globally YOY
- While Meta shut down Facebook Live Shopping in October 2022, Instagram Live Shopping is still going strong, with an average of 24.4 watch minutes per livestream where shoppers can instantly checkout while watching a show
How to respond to consumer demand for ecommerce instant gratification
- Treat retail locations like mini fulfillment centers: Brands with brick and mortar stores should always leverage local inventory first; bringing the buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) model to shoppers without having to leave their homes
- Offer on demand support: Turf the chatbots and let shoppers connect to live associates on demand (we like live video co-shopping for that) for personalized product recommendations, advice, and a close-up look at products they’re interested in to drive more conversions.
- WFH goes retail: Office workers have had plenty of time to adapt to flex working schedules or even permanent work from home scenarios. New innovations have made it possible to bring work from home to retail employees and help overcome the great resignation in retail. Namely, retailers can hire team members that work from home, answering online shopper calls or live chat sessions from home, allowing brands to expand their workforce with product experts and superfans, no matter where they reside and across a wider range of timezones.
2. Shopping seasons are changing: Catering to both early birds and late bloomers
Supply chain challenges are continuing to spook shoppers into getting their shopping for certain events, or even certain seasons (i.e. fashion), done earlier than ever. While the scarcity principle has some advantages for retailers, such as motivating purchases without discounting, it also means it might be time to reevaluate the standard promotional and shopping seasons we’ve all become accustomed to.
At the same time, promoting Christmas gift ideas in July (without a wink) runs the risk of irritating a large percentage of the consumer base that doesn’t start holiday shopping until December. Expect this trend to continue in 2023, given many supply chain bumps in the road that have yet to be paved over, and the economy (more on that later).
Key points on how shopping seasons are changing
- 40% of U.S. holiday shoppers surveyed by Google say their holiday shopping experience has made them consider shopping much earlier for other milestones
- In a Bankrate.com report, more than 1 in 10 consumers started their holiday shopping before September 2022; half of them plan to start before Halloween
- In 2021, 1 in 3 U.S. shoppers had already started their holiday shopping by September, and 37% of holiday shoppers overall wished they had started their shopping earlier.
- According to Google, as many as 50% of shoppers are willing to buy an item earlier to avoid it being out of stock
How to respond to consumer demand for earlier shopping seasons
- Quietly launch gifting collections: Just because a collection is in your navigation, doesn’t mean it needs to be screamed about from the rooftops (or your home page banner). Early birds will still be able to easily find what they’re looking for without irking shoppers adhering to more traditional shopping seasons.
- Promote seasonal collections earlier as ‘early previews’ or ‘pre-season’: Make it clear that any items you’re adding as part of a seasonal collection - from Mother’s Day to Christmas Day - are there as a sneak peek only. Tap social media influencers to echo ‘early access’ sentiment in any promotional content to give these previews an exclusive vibe.
- Let personal shoppers do the talking: Instead of promoting gift ideas, let customers pull them out of you. Customers on a live video shopping call can advise that they’re shopping for a gift, and shopping associates can leverage gift guide knowledge to suggest what’ll work - even without any gift guide content or merchandising.
3. Affordability: How inflation and a looming recession will shape spending
The forces are all there: Inflation has led to a spike in prices across all categories, including essentials like fuel and groceries. Shoppers with limited budgets are getting less for the same amount. Add to that major layoffs happening throughout many industries and you’ve got the perfect alchemy of forces that could lead to yet another 21st century recession that upends ecommerce as we know.
It’s no surprise then that shoppers are changing how they shop. There’s the basics, like shopping less and limiting discretionary spending. But there’s also a shift in how they shop. Consumers are more likely than ever to shop secondhand, whether on dedicated resale online shopping platforms like Poshmark or ThredUp, through retailer-owned resale marketplaces, or private communities.
The trend we mentioned earlier about shopping earlier? That ties into the recession as well. Eagle-eyed shoppers are jumping on items when they’re put on sale, or when they can afford them.
There’s also a longer buying cycle at play for many consumers as they undertake research and wait for reviews before deciding to part with their hard earned cash.
Signs retail may be impacted by the economy in 2023:
- 58% of shoppers surveyed by HubSpot in July 2022 suggested a possible recession is making them spend more consciously or purchasing less
- Compared to 2021, Deloitte has seen a sharp upward trend in the number of shoppers who are focused on buying ‘just what they need’
- Google searches containing ‘cheap and best’ have grown globally by over 40% YOY
- A recession is not certain: Only high inflation and declining GDP are metrics commonly held between our present moment and past recessions
- 87% of shoppers surveyed by BCG state they’re concerned about recent price increases, and only 18% of households have reported an increased income over the past six months before September 2022
- 38% of shoppers have paid extra for a more durable or longer-lasting product
- Canadian grocery giant Loblaws announced in late 2022 they would freeze prices for at least a quarter to keep grocery costs reasonable for consumers throughout the holiday
How to respond to consumer demand for affordability
- Support the buying journey with additional content: There’s a difference between affordable and ‘cheap’. 76% of shoppers are still willing to pay, and even pay a premium, for a product that’ll stand the test of time. Promote a product’s materials, production process, or warranty. Or give customers the option to speak with a live shopping associate to get their questions answered about the durability or reliability of any item they’re interested in.
- Get creative with pricing and promotions: Not every brand is interested in discounting, even if having an ecommerce sale is the shortest route to supporting shoppers in cash-strapped times. But there are ways to incentivize consumers without sacrificing (much) profits. Bounceback coupons are one example - give shoppers a credit to use on a future order with a minimum spend during a promotional period. Or offer up gifts with purchase with a minimum spend.
- Bundle up for bigger AOV: Shoppers might be shopping less often, which means it’s paramount to drive the biggest order values possible when they are able to buy. Bundles are a simple way to boost order values while saving shoppers a few dollars.
- Lean on loyalty programs: Encourage shoppers to trade in loyalty program points for percentage or dollar value discounts. Create promotional periods where they get more bang for their loyalty program buck to increase spending.
4. Beliefs matter: Retailers need to put their money where their mouth is
The Covid-19 pandemic arguably gave the commerce industry a brief hall pass from solving the problems with retail that many consumers have increasingly demanded action on: Climate change, sustainable manufacturing and packaging, worker conditions from production through to warehousing and front line, inequality and more. But those issues are becoming increasingly at the forefront of where shoppers are choosing to buy.
Remember how we noted shoppers will likely have less money to spare in the coming year? That means more careful research will be done before every purchase, and the commerce brands that come out on top are going to be the ones that can not only establish a reputation for listening to consumer feedback, but delivering a differentiated experience.
Signs a brand’s values and actions are just as important as their products:
- As of February 2022, more than half of 16,000 consumers survey by IBM stated sustainability was more important to them than it was 12 months earlier
- According to Deloitte, the top 3 concerns consumers have about business practices are around producing sustainable packaging and products, reducing manufacturing waste, and committing to ethical working practices
- 49% of consumers say they’ve paid a premium (on average, 59% more) in 2022 for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible
- The primary reason for not adopting a more sustainable lifestyle is cost (52% of respondents)
- 66% of Millennials stated sustainability was an important factor when deciding where to shop online
How to respond to consumer demand for better business practices
- Communicate your commitment - regularly: A once-a-year charity drive isn’t cutting it when it comes to better business practices, particularly for younger consumers. Big ecommerce brand names like Everlane and Reformation build entire digital marketing campaigns around their ongoing ethical manufacturing processes and problems with the ‘way things are done’, for example, Reformation’s faux fashion show during Fall Fashion Week 2022.
- Get recognized for tangible results: There’s been plenty of exposés about the likelihood of ‘greenwashing’ (or charitable initiatives like ‘pinkwashing’) that have boosted customer skepticism. B Corp certification or participation with programs like ClimatePartner, rePurpose, and 1% for the Planet are gaining in popularity with consumers, while watchdogs like the Fashion Transparency Index and GoodOnYou.eco are keeping brands honest.
- Don’t boil the ocean: We mean this literally, but also, baby steps help. Acknowledge what you need to improve and highlight the steps being taken - and the results - on a consistent basis. No single retailer is going to solve the climate crisis, but every measurable contribution helps.
5. Video is king: Get ready for your closeup
Meta made waves in 2022 when it was announced Instagram’s algorithm was going to start prioritizing video content - a drastic shift from the app’s photo sharing origins. While Meta (kinda) backtracked their declaration, the message from the top was clear: In order to stay relevant, Instagram identified a need to start putting video in focus.
Video content consumption is up everywhere, thanks to many of the other trends on this list - from work from home (WFH) and distributed workforces to increased interest in augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse.
Curiously, most online shopping experiences are still devoid of video, apart from static videos of a model showing off a product or promotional videos. The time is ripe to bring the interactivity of video shoppers are used to seeing elsewhere in their buying journey to the actual ecommerce site experience.
Signs video is a key e commerce trend for 2023
- McKinsey is projecting social commerce - which includes video selling - will increase to $56.2B in 2023, up 23% from 2022 projections.
- 66% of consumers rely on video content as their #1 source of information.
- Half of social media users prefer video over other types of content; and 1 in 4 marketers believe live video is the most valuable type of social media content.
- U.S. consumers are spending less time watching TV and more time watching video content on digital devices or a mobile device; projected to be up to 80 minutes a week in 2023.
- The amount of online video consumers watch has almost doubled since 2018.
- Livestream commerce jumped from 3.5% of all retail ecommerce in China in 2018 before soaring to $300B or 12% of retail sales in 2021. eMarketer is projecting it to grow to $600B in 2023 - and $25B in the U.S.
- TikTok’s ad revenue is projected to increase by 153% in 2022, from $4.6B to $11.6B. It’s also the social network consumers spend the most time on, and has the fastest-growing adoption rate of all social platforms, suggesting it’s one to watch for social commerce growth as well.
- Also on the social commerce front, TikTok has launched TikTok Shop across Asia and parts of Europe; a service which allows brands and creators to host livestreams and sell products directly to users. Social commerce is projected to account for $53B in sales in the U.S. in 202, or about 5% of total ecommerce.
- 87% of marketers surveyed in 2022 believe video gives them a positive ROI (up from 33% in 2015).
How to offer more video through ecommerce:
- Offer live video shopping for personalized on-demand support: Give customers answers to their questions right when they have them by serving up live shopping support (like the kind we power here at Ghost). Simulate the in-store experience by connecting shoppers with associates to deliver a tailored product recommendation, give tailored advice, share product ideas, and checkout within a live co-shopping call.
- Create buzz with livestream shopping: Generate awareness with event-based product or collection drops. Engage with shoppers, bring on influencers or celebrity hosts, and make a splash that cuts through the clutter of online marketing or even typical influencer marketing campaigns.
- Tap into shopper video-based UGC: Go beyond customer photos and text reviews and encourage shoppers to leave video reviews for more immersive insights.
- Use shoppable video: Pretty promotional videos are great and all, but we’re guessing you want to motivate sales. Tag products in video or share shoppable videos that shoppers can use to get to the exact products that catch their eye.
6. Authenticity always: Why ‘being real’ isn’t just a moment in time
In 2022, the app BeReal saw significant viral growth. If you’re unfamiliar, BeReal randomly picks a time each day and prompts users to shoot a dual-capture photo of both their face and wherever they are, with no time for posed lifestyle shots like the ones creators on Instagram are coming under scrutiny for.
BeReal’s sudden popularity isn’t coincidental. Over the last few years, the younger generations in particular have become more critical of the ‘curated life’ that was long de rigueur on social media. And with it, critical of brands or celebrities that are unwilling to present anything but a glossy, perfected front. Celebrities like Lizzo have built up a fan base largely on their talent of being down to earth but owning their authenticity in a confident way. Brands like Old Navy are now releasing 100% of their women’s collections in all sizes, from XS to 4X, and virtually every product is shown on models of varying size ranges.
The breakdown between ‘private life’ and ‘public figure’ as never been thinner, and savvy brands will need to follow suit if they want to stay relevant to a large enough audience.
Why authenticity is going to trend big in 2023:
- 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support (and 50% of them say it’s very important).
- There are over 139 million Millennials and Gen Zs in the U.S. alone, and research has shown they’re more into brands that are ‘real and organic’, not ‘perfect and well-packaged’.
- While 91% of marketers feel like their content is authentic, 51% of shoppers state that less than half of the brands they’re exposed to create content that resonates as authentic.
- Downloads of the BeReal app have increased by 315% since the beginning of the year, landing it in the top 5 of most downloaded social media apps alongside titans like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
- 83% of shoppers feel like retailers need to provide more authentic shopping experiences to customers like them.
- According to Edelman, 64% of today’s consumers are belief-driven buyers.
How to offer a more authentic shopping experience in 2023:
- Leverage more user-generated content (UGC): 84% of consumers say they trust peer recommendations over all other advertising. Short on UGC? Consider tapping into the power and potential of associate-generated content (AGC).
- Be as inclusive as possible: Showcase models with different physical body types, skin tones, and physical features.
- Step away from the chatbot: Most shoppers find them frustrating and the antithesis of tailored support. Instead, offer live, on-demand video co-shopping to answer questions and drive up to 12x more conversions.
Ecommerce trends 2022: What happened this past year?
We’re writing this article in 2022, so it makes sense to do a quick retrospective of how things have changed from the beginning of the year to the end when it comes to online shopping.
Augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse
These three horsemen are often grouped together as the future of online shopping, although each trend has its own unique contribution. Augmented reality (AR) refers to manipulating a customer’s physical space or appearance with digital overlays. Adoption of augmented reality has mostly been limited to fashion - brands like Warby Parker and Moscot let shoppers try on glasses, adidas and Nike does the same for shoes - as well as furniture.
Virtual reality (VR) involves immersing a consumer into a virtual world. The metaverse is similar, but more unlimited - instead of immersing themselves in a virtual experience created by a brand, metaverse participants can also shape and build the world. In fact, the metaverse is considered by some as an amalgamation of AR and VR - which explains why the three of them are so often lumped together.
Metaverse adoption by ecommerce in 2022 has been patchy, at best, although there are some early experiments that have certainly made a splash. For example, in June 2022, Meta announced the ability for Metaverse avatars to pick up new fits from the likes of Balenciaga, Prada, and Thom Browne through their Meta Avatars Store.
Brands like Nike and Vans have also integrated experiences into popular games like Roblox, allowing avatars to browse and try on products (and realistically, tracking to see if those some interests are carrying over to purchases).
Trend status: Limited adoption, largely on an experimental or pilot basis by larger brands. We project more of the same in 2023, unless Meta can make major in-roads with their product’s adoption.
Retention is the new acquisition
Customer acquisition costs (CAC) continued to be a hot topic in 2022 as ecommerce brands looked to take the surge in pandemic-driven online shopping sales and turn those shoppers into repeat customers. So much so, 57% of retailers identified rising CAC as a threat to their sales goals for the year.
Increased competition (and competing ad spend) coupled with stricter privacy safeguards like the dissolution of Google’s third-party cookies (not to mention GDPR-related filtering for necessary cookies) and Apple’s online tracking privacy update, created a perfect storm where brands were encouraged to give every virtual customer walking through the door the red carpet treatment.
Evidence of rewarding shoppers popped up all over the place this past year:
- Amazon turned up the volume on their annual Prime Day sale (an event that’s previously come under fire) by hosting a second members-only shopping event, the Prime Early Access Sale, in the leadup to the 2022 holiday season.
- Sephora offered loyal customers the option to turn loyalty points into a discount code between their semi-annual sales events
- Gap expanded their integrated rewards program to new markets like Canada in September 2022
Trend status: Widespread adoption of enhanced customer retention programs and efforts - something we only expect to increase in 2023.
The Great Resignation and labor shortages
What were emerging trends in 2021 became real pain points in 2022: From manufacturing and supply chain issues all the way through to the in-store shopping experience. The Great Resignation kicked off in 2021 (with 4.3 million workers resigned during peak season November 2021 alone) and carried through in 2022. Cruise through a mall or drive down any U.S. street and you’ll probably see ‘Help Wanted’ signs.
The actual impact here for ecommerce shoppers is somewhat limited. Their favorite store might be slow to pick a ‘Buy Online Pick Up In Store’ item, store hours might be more limited if they start their shopping journey online and then head to the store, and of course, customer service in general might be in short supply.
But where the Great Resignation isn’t such good news for brick and mortar, it does present an interesting opportunity for ecommerce brands: What if you could create work from home (WFH) jobs for retail employees? Ones that are way more engaging than folding jeans or checking out customers?
It’s possible with platforms like GhostRetail. Brands can bring on live shopping associates to function in a similar customer service role that they would have in store, but with online customers. This includes sharing and recommending products, adding them to a customer’s bag, and helping them check out. The live shopping associate gets to function as a personal shopper and can work hours that fit their schedule - and from home! Plus performance is trackable on a by-associate basis, allowing brands to see real ROI from every associate. That’s certainly one way to overcome the major resignation and retention trends we’re seeing with many retailers.
Trend status: Ongoing. While most people who were going to quit have already quit, retention is the new challenge for retailers, who need to look for ways to make their roles more engaging (and financially beneficial).
DTC might just be a ‘channel’ and not a business model
Over the last few years, DTC (direct-to-consumer) has been synonymous with ‘ecommerce darling’. Beloved by investors and catching fire with younger audiences (particularly Millennials) alike, DTC brands were lauded for well…mostly buzz. And branding. And major capital investments that rivaled tech companies.
Over 2022, the cracks began to show in the DTC space, most notably with the Peloton story. Long hailed as a champion of the DTC model, Peloton’s stunning pandemic growth fell off sharply (naturally!) over the past year, leading to massive layoffs and major stock turbulence. Add to that Peloton’s arrival on Amazon that led many naysayers to suggest DTC might just be a way of getting products to customers, but certainly not the only one.
Peloton is far from the only brand to be in the DTC scrutiny spotlight. There’s been an overall downturn in DTC dealmaking; less IPOs, less splashy acquisitions, and less major capital investments overall. DTC brands that have gone public are definitely showing uneven performance at best, with many of them operating at a loss.
It’s worth noting that not all is doom and gloom in the DTC space. If you view it as an online shopping channel and not a business model unto itself, a number of interesting brands and categories have also entered DTC over the last few years - such as snack foods (check out Pepsi’s Snacks.com and PantryShop.com, to use a couple of examples).
And conversely, while some digitally native brands are testing other channels - like marketplaces, retail, wholesale - other omnichannel brands are scaling back. Nike made major waves when it announced it was pulling out of some of its biggest retail partners to focus on DTC efforts; and Under Armour and adidas have made similar moves.
Trend status: DTC is far from dead, but the idea of DTC as the sole channel a business can rely on to be profitable and long-term sustainable is definitely questionable after this first year of (mostly) post-pandemic results. We expect to see more channel diversification for DTC brands, and will be keeping a close eye on brands that reeling things back in to a more DTC-focused model.
Ecommerce trends 2021: How far we’ve come
2021 was, in some ways, the year most thoroughly embedded in the impacts of the pandemic. While 2020 was mired by all out shutdowns and social distancing requirements, 2021 wasn’t quite the rebound everyone projected (or at least, wanted), with large portions of the typical shopping season thrown into turmoil.
The good news is, necessity is the mother of invention, and 2021 pushed many brands to push their digital innovation plans forward on turbo speed. And consumers responded accordingly: According to McKinsey, online shopping sales in U.S. retail jumped 40% year over year in 2021.
Here were some of the top ecommerce store and retail trends projected for 2021 - and signs of how adoption actually took place.
- Personalization: Of messaging, promotions, timing, and products. Adoption has been pretty much universal - some level of personalized experience is de rigueur - but more advanced personalization strategies are definitely still being tested and explored. Considering how the ecommerce industry has typically relied on artificial intelligence to deliver personalization at scale, one interesting area to follow is a more manual approach to offering a personalized experience, such as live chat or video chat.
- Post-Covid ways of shopping: Contactless payments, pickup lockers, click and collect, and last mile home delivery services were all initiatives stemming from the pandemic. While they were created out of necessity, we’d say many of these trends have stayed in place for customer convenience.
- Virtual / remote shopping: When retail stores closed their doors, many tried offering video shopping appointments to help customer navigate their online store presence. In 2021, brands were taking the lessons learned out of necessity and applying them to ongoing personal shopping appointments. We’ve gathered over 30 examples of virtual shopping experiences you can still book today (including some of the world’s biggest retailers) which suggests the trend isn’t going away - but we also see an opportunity to skip the tedious appointment booking process and offer live video shopping on demand.
- Payment diversification: There are new ways to pay popping up all over the place, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the world of commerce. 2021 was a year to explore new payment options like buy now, pay later (BNPL, like Affirm), mobile payment apps (like Venmo), and cryptocurrency payments. While the world’s biggest retailers aren’t exactly jumping on the bandwagon with all of these, BNPL market adoption is pretty deep at this point, even for lower-ticket items.
- Omnichannel everything: The rise of creating seamless omnichannel experiences definitely kicked off in 2020 and carried into 2021. Platforms that combine ecommerce channels with retail management systems, ERP systems, marketing software, and more saw a rise in adoption and are continuing to be adopted by some of the largest retailers around. According to Google in 2022, customers can easily flip between 5 channels for a single purchase, meaning the need for data consolidation is greater than ever.
- Social commerce: Social platforms first started boosting their social commerce capabilities around 2021, largely as an outcome of the pandemic. While some experiments during this era failed (Facebook Live Shopping was shutdown in October 22), Instagram and TikTok have only further expanded their social commerce features and reach, and many brands are along for the ride with them.
Conclusion: What to focus on in 2023
The obvious answer to this question is: What consumers want. And in particular, why they want those things. Like we mentioned above, there are outside forces, often beyond a consumer’s control, that will directly shape shopping patterns. Major commerce leaders can invest all they want in technologies and campaigns to entice a shopper to buy, but sometimes it’s simplest just to look at why they aren’t buying and work backwards from there.
As for our space here at Ghost: Live shopping. Trend-wise, all signs point to it growing, whether looking at one-to-one live co-shopping, or one-to-many livestream events.
But to zoom out a little, we left out customer experience (CX) optimization as its own unique ‘trend’, even though it’s been a much buzzed about topic when talking ‘ecommerce trends’ for the last few years. That’s because almost every item on this list ties back to the customer experience, including adding live shopping to your site.
CX should always be the number one priority on any ecommerce marketer or strategist’s list. We happen to believe having on-demand live shopping associates is pretty much the pinnacle of an amazing CX.
So let’s talk about where your head’s at for 2023 - book a call with us to learn more.