Franchise Marketing and Website Trends For 2023
by Carin Oliver, CEO of Angelsmith
We are finally coming out of an exceptionally tumultuous time for franchise organizations. But there is no time to relax and settle in; there is a new normal with many organizations feeling like they are in the “upside down” world of Stranger Things.
As we finish planning for 2023, there are a few critical social issues that have the potential to trip up even the most seasoned organizations. Additionally, the rapid acceleration of technology advances is a cornerstone of many of the 2023 web and marketing trends.
One bright spot for health and wellness franchise organizations is the increased consumer awareness around the benefits of fitness and self-care. A recent Harrison Co. survey revealed that 37% of US respondents say they plan to work out more often due to a renewed appreciation for their health and well-being.
This article touches on both the macro-environmental forces impacting franchise growth and the web and marketing strategies and tactics that need careful consideration to avoid pitfalls to maximize revenue throughout 2023.
The Macro Environment
Politics have become highly polarized, with consumers drawing hard lines between themselves and their perceived rivals. But it isn’t just politics that are divisive. As Americans become unyielding around public policy, that sentiment also seeps into their selection of brands. Franchise organizations will increasingly need to declare what they stand for and how their values play out in everyday interactions and throughout the organization, not just during campaigns. Nothing angers savvy, affluent consumers more than empty statements.
Social Sales Channel
Social media became primary channels not just for discovery but also for direct sales. The number of social sales technology tools has skyrocketed. Brands are scrambling to fortify their sales efforts and explore how to sell more efficiently through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others. Revenue for Instagram alone in 2021 was an estimated $47.6 billion.
Anecdotally, our most searched-for pieces of content on our website include articles that illustrate how to sell through social channels. Many are more than five years old but have recently witnessed renewed interest.
With the most senior members of Generation Z entering their peak spending years, we can expect that social channels will continue to deliver impressive sales for health and wellness franchise organizations.
After the isolation of COVID and the increased work-from-home movement, health and fitness enthusiasts are looking for a community. That can take the form of group classes, member social events, education, and more.
According to IBIS World, group events can also increase member retention. Notably, 85% of fitness club members visit their facility twice weekly to engage in group classes.
Creating a community through online members-only content or creating a group name – á la Taylor Swift’s fan base, the “Swifties” (can you tell I have a tween?) – can provide more buy-in from members. This desire for community will encourage brands to reconsider elements of their loyalty programs to accommodate the desire for community.
Lastly, the elephant lumbering about is the economy. Rising interest rates, higher utility costs, gasoline prices, and overall inflation is squeezing consumers and potential franchisees.
The economic uncertainty has already had a cooling effect on spending. In a recent study by Numerator, 60% of respondents reported being “highly concerned” about the economy. Franchise prospects may be hesitant to buy in when money is more expensive.
Buyers of all types are beginning to pull back on ongoing commitments. Although Angelsmith has had no long-term contracts and flexible payment plans for years, it is now a priority discussion with potential clients. We are seeing some health and wellness franchise companies soften their membership agreements to be more flexible.
With the economy on uneven footing, we hope that the halo of renewed interest in health and wellness may offset declines as consumers continue to prioritize self-care.
2023 Web & Marketing Trends
There are eleven trends on our radar that we are both implementing for our clients and witnessing throughout the franchise world. While this article doesn’t consider every 2023 trend for franchise organizations, the below are the ones we frequently evaluate and implement because they deliver the best return on investment.
The throughline for most of these trends is:
People first, not brand first.
This is a continuing paradigm shift from asking the question, “What would be good for the brand” to “What problem are we trying to solve for our customers, and how can we most efficiently help THEM?”
And it isn’t just altruistic. According to Hanover Research, B2C businesses that leverage data to be customer-centric increased profitability by 60 percent. As you review the following trends, keep in mind that they should be implemented with a “People first” paradigm.
Digital Integration Trends in 2023
First and foremost, creating a seamless brand experience across the digital universe is essential for your franchise organization.
Whether you have bricks and mortar locations, online-only experiences, or make house calls, all companies must embrace that they are chiefly digital organizations.
Your potential buyers’ experience with your brand’s digital footprint contributes to their first impression. They might discover your brand on social, check your reviews on Yelp, look at images on Google, and more, all before booking their first visit from their mobile device on your website or app.
The digital extension of your business must not be perceived as something separate but as a truly integrated part of your organization.
Managing your entire digital ecosystem is essential to getting the relationship between brand and buyer off on the right foot. Before ever visiting your website or opening the front door of a franchisee location, they’ve already established their expectations and assumptions. There is a financial payoff for brands that do this well.
Consumers’ ability to seamlessly move around the web and accomplish their desired actions is not simply a nice to have; it’s a must-have for franchisors.
Deep Digital Talent
The labor market is expected to remain competitive across all positions; however, with the need for franchise organizations to fortify their web and digital presence, staffing will remain a struggle in 2023.
Rise of the Marketing Technologist & Digital Specialization
With the increase in digital channels and marketing technologies, team specialization is now a critical piece of your marketing infrastructure. Gone are the days when one marketing generalist could cover multiple channels. While digital unicorns do exist, they are elusive!
The knowledge needed for each channel is now miles DEEP. The rapid pace at which each technology changes and how consumers devour information has pressed the marketing department into a near 24/7 cycle of playing catch up.
Filling your organization with all the talent needed to compete would require a budget that is prohibitive for many franchise brands. Accurately evaluating talent will be a significant hurdle to digital excellence in 2023 for organizations.
Seasoned C-level digital strategists are routinely called in to provide a broad objective perspective to pull all the pieces together. Fractional CEOs, external digital plug-and-play teams, and internal chief marketing technologists will continue to be in high demand throughout 2023.
Optimizing for mobile dominance across channels is crucial to increasing revenue now and in 2023.
Americans bring their phones everywhere, spending almost 4 ½ hours on their phones daily (Clario.co). Everything from ads to your email and your website needs to be mobile-optimized.
In the past, if buyers could not purchase from their mobile devices, they would fire up their laptops to complete the conversion. When consumers can’t fulfill their desired actions now through their mobile device, they will get frustrated and try a competitor.
Buyers need to be able to book an appointment, call or get directions with one click, purchase directly, and more, all from their mobile devices. Customers expect health & wellness brands to have seamless mobile experiences.
Top Level Mobile Usage Stats
Web Performance Is The New Pretty
The “fire and forget” website development approach is dangerously outdated in 2023. Websites haven’t been static eye candy for years, but we regularly inherit sites from clients with little to zero web optimizations. It kills me to think of all the money that’s slipped away. Websites without optimization programs leak money like a drunk rock star in Vegas.
Viewing your website as if it is an elite-level athlete that just needs modifications to perform at the Olympic level can make your site deliver more revenue in a shorter time.
Brands with robust conversion optimization programs will outpace their competitors in 2023 because they track and optimize the ever-evolving consumer behavior. Franchise brands that can deliver an excellent consumer web experience should be well placed to steal market share and increase their user base in 2023.
The consumer expects to have a frictionless buying experience. Forrester Research reports that 50% of ecommerce sales are lost because of poor UI/UX.
While beautiful web design is incredibly important, it doesn’t convert unless it’s proactively designed to do so. No amount of hoping and wishing after the fact will make it so. Designing and optimizing to better help your buyer achieve their desired actions before you build your website in 2023 will help your franchise achieve its financial goals without increasing your advertising budget.
Peer Reviews Pack A Punch
Consumer reviews will continue to be impactful in 2023. While we’ve seen a steady increase in their power, what makes them essential now is that consumers must check reviews before opening their wallet. Peer reviews on websites increase sales conversions
Peer ratings and influencer reviews reassure buyers and help build confidence not just for their initial purchase, but also for repeat purchases. With an increasingly fractured media landscape, peer reviews on social platforms can help extend into audiences who are otherwise extremely challenging to reach through traditional methods.
According to BrightLocal, 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 93% of consumers of all ages say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.
Search Trends 2023
Search is always a hot topic and ever-evolving. Google continues to update and change its search algorithm, and the tech powering voice and visual search allows consumers to use it more effectively.
While different search practices require diverse strategies, I’ve listed them under one umbrella to demonstrate the increasing value across multiple platforms in all forms.
Content Search Trends
The latest Google update, released in late August, further emphasizes the importance of creating helpful content for consumers.
Not surprisingly called the “helpful content update,” it will actively downgrade content that doesn’t return beneficial signals to the algorithm. Keyword stuffing is an example of a widely utilized practice that will downgrade your site visibility. Currently practiced by many SEO companies, it will actively harm the search results for your website.
Keyword stuffing has never been a good idea, but brands that now employ this content tactic will suffer. If the content on your site is created primarily to attract search engines first and humans second, your site will have a problem in 2023.
As voice recognition technology improves, so does adoption. According to a recent Microsoft survey, more than 7 out of 10 (72 percent) of respondents used a digital assistant in the previous six months.
According to BrightLocal, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information. Nearly half (46%) use voice search DAILY.
Many of the same tactics used for local SEO will put your franchise on the right path to take advantage of voice search.
Image-dominated platforms are changing how consumers search for products and services. We anticipate that adoption will continue to increase as platforms get better at delivering relevant results. Instagram is reportedly testing image search. However, savvy users already use hashtags to search the visually driven social media site.
Visual Search will be a leading SEO trend for 2023Google Lens has experienced exponential growth since launching in 2018, allowing users to search what they see, find similar products and menus, identify structures, and more. Since its launch in 2018, Google Lens has recognized in excess of 15 billion products and has an estimated base of more than 3 billion users each month.
Look for visual search options that use enhanced AI to provide uber-relevant shopping experiences and suggestions throughout social platforms.
You need a healthy SEO program to optimize for visual search in 2023 (or now). To get started, check your Schema.org markup; relevant hashtags on social are utilized; you have multiple images for each product and service, alt text on every photo, image sizes and file types are appropriate for mobile.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include AI as a leading trend for 2023. It is a dominant feature in visual and voice search, email marketing, advertising, web development, and more. According to Geektime.com, voice activated shopping which is powered by AI technology, generated $40 billion in revenue in the U.S. and the UK in 2021.
AI voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby, are leading the way to better results for consumers. Fully-managed AI recommendation and personalization engines like Amazon Personalize are bringing exciting new possibilities to the web, increasing brands’ abilities to put the right product, message, or content in front of customers at the right time.
However, AI goes wrong when used to create lower-quality consumer experiences. One example includes using AI to develop poor content for the express purpose of search engine optimization. As I outlined above, this will actively harm your business.
Franchise operations are just beginning to scratch the surface of what AI can do. There should be lots of new learnings (both positive and negative) about AI in 2023.
The sale doesn’t end when the consumer enters their credit card and hits “buy.” Franchise organizations will still need to reassure customers that they made the right decision way past the initial purchase.
The psychology behind buyer’s remorse is connected with cognitive dissonance, a discomfort an increasing number of shoppers experience.
In 2023, to reduce returns and member cancellations, brands will need to have a post-purchase strategy that addresses common consumer questions such as I wonder if I have made the right choice.
Employing automated email series and what we coined ‘Boffo Advertising’ are excellent tools to include in 2023. Boffo is the entertainment industry slang for very good, essentially using social proof to reinforce the idea that they made the right decision.
Returns, Returns, Returns
In 2021, 16.6% of merchandise was returned, up 10.6% compared with 2020, per a report by the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail.
Although 12% of all new gym memberships happen in January (IHRSA, 2020), most gyms lose 50% of their new members within six months (IHRSA, 2020). In 2023. I believe we will see increasing pressure to help members realize the benefits and reassure them of the value of the relationship.
Multiple Ways To Pay
Flexible payment options are key. Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Shop Pay, Zelle, Venmo, Affirm, and more. Along with selling through multiple channels, consumers expect that there will be many ways to pay.
Ecommerce consumers expect multiple ways to pay. This will be a key trend for 2023As consumers get squeezed by rising prices, providing them with options will increase conversion rates and customer loyalty while reducing your cart abandonment rate. Multiple ways to pay is all about making it easier on the consumer by reducing as much friction as possible in their final steps to book appointments, sign up for a membership or buy products either online or instore.
Anecdotally, I do a significant amount of shopping at night while I’m getting ready to go to sleep. If I have to get up and get my credit card, I will always abandon cart. I bow to the Shop Pay goddesses who’ve facilitated my shoe collection.
Store Design Delivers
Great design is key to attracting the Instagram-savvy consumer. The NOW Massage, a rapidly growing wellness franchise, is one of the most beautiful spaces to arrive on the scene. Its growth has been driven not only by great pricing and a unique service offer, but also by the throngs of millennials and influencers who share the boutique’s design-driven aesthetic on a daily basis.
Providing plenty of opportunities for pictures at your location can help drive both user-generated content that in turn draws people through the door.
Without impacting revenue per square foot, even if 2023 isn’t the time for a complete interior redesign, having a beautiful spot for photos can increase awareness of your franchise through user-generated content on social, reaching new consumers who can benefit from your services.
Further, RetailCustomerExperience.com, a company devoted to helping retailers differentiate on experience, suggests that poor retail design actively suppresses sales.
Unique Equipment & Services
Brands with exciting equipment and one-of-a-kind services have seen a surge in popularity. Upgrade Labs, created by the father of biohacking, Dave Asprey, has combined some of the hottest pieces of technology-driven equipment into a relatively small footprint. Booked nearly solid, it is an excellent example of this emerging trend.
In 2020, CreditDonkey reported that almost 4 in 10(38%) said they kept their gym membership because they believed the equipment was worth the expense. As COVID-19 drove the demand for homes large enough to house personal gyms(Alexander Hermann, Senior Research Analyst, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University), the need for health & fitness organizations to differentiate increased.
Attracting consumers back into your bricks and mortar franchisee locations is helped by equipment and services that consumers can’t replicate at home or outdoors.
Franchise Marketing And Web Trends For 2023 Summary
As we move into Q4 2022 and put the final polish on web and marketing plans for 2023, I hope this article provided an exploration of how to stay in step with emerging consumer buying trends.
Much of 2023 will be getting back to basics to ensure your franchise organization puts its customers first and that every step you take makes your buyer’s journey easier.
From Google’s ‘helpful content update’ to having a consistent brand experience around the web, and of course, making your website as frictionless as possible, are all meant to deliver a better experience for your customers. In return, it will increase revenue for your business.
Of course the oversimplification of ‘customer first’ doesn’t fully recognize the frequently daunting technology stack that franchise brands need to reach your ideal customer at the ideal time. Give yourself and your teams plenty of resources and time to fully flesh out needs.
Consumer expectations have markedly changed in the last three years, and we expect more changes in 2023, likely not at the rate experienced previously.
Health and wellness brands need to stay on top of these whether it’s booking classes, appointments, managing memberships, or buying gift cards, customers expect to be able to perform critical actions with the company from the ease of their mobile phones across channels. The goal is a seamless ecommerce experience.
We hope that 2023 will be more right side up versus upside down. Please let me know if there is anything I can answer or if you want to dive deeper into any specific topic.
Let me know if there are any critical 2023 web and marketing trends that you believe should be included. I would love to hear your thoughts.