Woman leaning back in her chair smiling and relaxing with her eyes closed.
Experts predict that certain cross-category trends, like "bleisure" travel that combines both business and vacation, are going to drive growth for many businesses in 2023. — Getty Images/d3sign

Three cross-category trends expected to drive growth for 2023:

  • Artificial intelligence: This year’s tech mega-trend stands to enhance possibilities for personalization down to the individual customer level.
  • Multisensory experiences: Businesses from wellness to travel will harness technology to enhance the human senses and create deeper digital and physical experiences.
  • Blended categories: Lines blur between traditional and once-disparate categories, changing the way businesses develop and target customer personas.

Every year, the speed of innovation seems to accelerate. While the rate of change can be overwhelming, the near future also promises to open a host of opportunities for businesses and brands of all sizes.

Cross-category trends are driven by technological disruption, such as artificial intelligence (AI), as well as changing consumer demographics. In the face of a changing landscape, businesses will be encouraged to reconsider how they approach their customer, and to take seriously the influence of Gen Z as they age into increased spending power, industry analysts told CO—.

Here’s what they say will drive business this year and beyond.

AI and the potential for personalization

Artificial intelligence is this year’s metaverse, racking up headlines and inspiring rapid adoption of new enterprise technologies. Unlike the vague promises of the metaverse, however, AI is already helping to deliver better consumer experiences and providing valuable solutions for both B2B and B2C marketers, according to analysts.

“AI-powered recommendation engines and personalized product offerings based on customer data can help businesses better understand their customers and tailor their offerings to their needs and preferences,” said Brian Byer, Chief Operating Officer of Emplicit, an e-commerce technology provider. “In the increasingly crowded e-commerce space, personalized shopping experiences can set retailers apart from their competitors.”

In the travel sector, younger consumers are helping to drive demand for more personalized experiences — and pushing the definition of unique to new heights. “One of the things that we found in a survey is that in the U.S., 70% of millennials and Gen Z agree that they're looking for travel experiences that their friends and family may not have thought of,” said Seth Borko, Senior Research Analyst at travel media company, Skift. “We've been saying [they] value experiences over things forever. It's still true, but what's the next step? Now, they want rare experiences and unique experiences.”

[Read: How to Monetize the Metaverse: Big Brands' Tech Partners Share Tips]

AI-powered recommendation engines and personalized product offerings based on customer data can help businesses better understand their customers and tailor their offerings to their needs and preferences. In the increasingly crowded e-commerce space, personalized shopping experiences can set retailers apart from their competitors.

Brian Byer, Chief Operating Officer, Emplicit

Creating multisensory experiences

Alongside the demand for ultra-personalization, experts across categories predict consumer expectations of seamless immersive experiences will rise as well.

In the retail space, advanced consumer-facing and enterprise technology has the potential to enhance the shopping journey as well as drive efficiency for both digital and brick-and-mortar retailers. “Augmented reality (AR) can be used to create immersive shopping experiences for B2B and B2C customers,” Emplicit’s Byer said.

“As AR technology continues to improve, it's likely that more retailers will incorporate it into their e-commerce offerings,” he said, highlighting possibilities like virtual clothing try-on, or more technical capabilities like virtually visualizing and editing potential merchandising strategies.

The trend toward heightened experiences drives the wellness sector as well, holding the potential to break different subcategories out of their siloes and blend into multisensory experiences.

“Brands are accessing multiple senses simultaneously to better support wellbeing outcomes, amplify wellness experience and influence behavioral change—think using multiple sensory cues in a harmonious way to deepen meditation,” writes Ari Peralta in the Global Wellness Summit annual trend report. “From wellness brands to spas to retailers, they are experimenting with playful combinations of light and sound, light and taste, etc., to build connection and more meaningful moments.”

To illustrate, Peralta namechecked luxury resort Six Senses and its partnership with color therapy brand Mycoocoon to create synesthetic dining experiences, enabling guests to “taste” color and sound. Meanwhile, in the metaverse, he writes, “digital sense is becoming a reality, adding scent and touch to sight and sound.”

[Read: Forecasters on 5 Key Consumer Trends That Will Drive All Businesses in 2023]

Blended business categories beget multiuse spaces

Wellness, retail, and travel trends dovetail in 2023, with hybrid experiences that blend all three reaching the mainstream.

The Global Wellness Summit foresees wellness culture continuing to permeate more categories, creating opportunities for businesses that can weave it into their offering – whatever it may be – in an authentic way. “The biggest wellness trend is the development of new spaces and experiences that bring people together in real life creatively and with intentionwhere social connection is the burning center of the concept,” Director of Research Beth McGroarty wrote in the annual report. McGroarty cites the rise of high-end social wellness clubs including Remedy Place and Othership that blend the functions of the spa with the sense of belonging felt in a local bar or membership club.

Skift’s Borko sees the rise of the blended traveler and “bleisure” travel — a single trip that combines both business and vacation — as a key trend for 2023. Hybrid work environments allow employees who may have once gone into an office five days a week more flexibility to build personal travel into business trips or manage to work remotely while on vacation. Though there may be more committed digital nomads than there were before the pandemic, Borko explained, “the real trend is less about extreme changes and more about the subtle merging of work life and travel.”

This shift surfaces new B2B opportunities, he said. As consumer behavior and company policies evolve, enterprise travel will have to catch up to serve the business traveler who wants to book a blended trip end-to-end through their expense management platform.

Real estate trends reflect a similar blurring of boundaries between different types of spaces and activities. The trend is driven by the young adult consumers’ interest in concepts that infuse traditional retail and hospitality spaces with the experiential and distinctly non-traditional.

“The pandemic forced both commercial landlords and residential property owners to rethink how they can make the most out of their empty spaces, with a particular focus on common areas,” said Marbet Lewis, Co-founder of alcohol, real estate and hospitality focused firm Spiritus Law. “We've seen an increase in inquiries from both types of property owners on liquor-licensing options for their buildings, such as adding restaurants and lobby bars. By maximizing their available space, owners not only create a continuous flow of activity throughout properties but also attract new tenants by offering more diverse and unique amenities.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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