September 28th 2023

AI on the rise: MCI examines trends of online commerce

Online Retailer Study 2023 by MCI and ZHAW investigates e-commerce | Specialist shortage and artificial intelligence

Staff shortages and increasing competition are among the current challenges in online retail. ©MCI / Christian Kasper
Staff shortages and increasing competition are among the current challenges in online retail. ©MCI / Christian Kasper

MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® and the School of Management and Law of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) took a close look at online retailing. The online retailer survey was conducted for the sixth time in a row, involving 598 online retailers from Austria and Switzerland. The survey was published by Prof. Dr. Claudia Brauer of MCI together with Dr. Darius Zumstein and Carmen Oswald of ZHAW.

Corona E-commerce boom is over

Half of the online stores are still reporting growing online sales, although slightly slower than in the previous year. The other half has returned to "business as usual". Nevertheless, nine out of ten retailers agree: the corona e-commerce boom is over. "Customers shop like they used to, and they are increasingly shopping in stores again," says Prof. Brauer, explaining the decline. In addition, the majority of retailers confirm that the consumers' mood and purchasing power have declined due to prevailing crises such as the Ukraine war and inflation.

Staff shortages and competition predominant

The biggest challenges for online retailers have shifted since last year's survey: while the delivery problems of the previous year are returning to normal, the shortage of qualified staff is becoming more critical. Around half say they are suffering from a shortage of skilled employees. Meanwhile, competition continues to rise, with two-thirds of companies reporting a drop in sales due to increased online competition. "In order to keep up in highly competitive markets, companies are forced to invest in cost-intensive marketing measures. For many online retailers, this poses a massive problem due to tight budgets and complex contents," adds Prof. Brauer.

Digital trends

For the first time, the study investigated the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in e-commerce. According to the online retailers, they use AI, especially ChatGPT, most often to create text and graphics in their online stores. In addition, chatbots are increasingly being used to provide digital customer support. In online marketing, too, AI assists in controlling, analyzing and optimizing advertising campaigns. Laut Prof. Brauer eröffnen sich hier wertvolle Chancen: "Even if artificial intelligence does not fully compensate for the existing shortage of employees, the rapidly growing AI tools can now provide high-quality support."

When it comes to payment, customers also tend to use digital solutions: Mobile payment, especially Apple Pay and Google Pay, is gaining in popularity. The market for installment payments and "Buy Now Pay Later" providers such as Klarna is growing.

Practical relevance in MCI studies

For the third time, Prof. Dr. Claudia Brauer has played a key role in the annual research study. At the Entrepreneurial School®, she teaches in the Department of Business & Management and has been researching Internet technologies and measuring the success of Internet-based business models for more than 13 years. She conveys her highly topical and practical research results to students at national and international universities and advises companies in their digital activities.


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 Patricia Pichler, BA | Marketing Manager Marketing & Communications
Patricia Pichler, BA Marketing Manager +43 512 2070 - 1527
Prof. Dr. Claudia Brauer | Digital Marketing & Analytics Bachelor's program Business & Management
Prof. Dr. Claudia Brauer Digital Marketing & Analytics +43 512 2070 - 3139