eCommerce Trends in 2021
The evolution of online business has seen huge developments over the past 10 years. As we move through 2021, there has never been a better opportunity to capitalize on a growing eCommerce market and ride the wave of online business in a globally connected landscape.
From 2015 to 2020, global eCommerce sales as a percentage of total global retail sales have more than doubled from 7.4% to 16.1%.
In June of 2020, online sales were up 76% to $73.0 billion year over year. Projections for eCommerce growth over the next 3 years are set to grow by a further 6% to make up over one fifth of all global commerce.
In line with growing eCommerce trends, the tools and technology available to build and advance online businesses has grown in tandem.
There is now an entire ecosystem of tools that allows for the creation and design of websites, Apps, Web Apps, eCommerce stores, Membership Communities and a whole host of other digital first businesses.
Benefits of Online Commerce
Creating or moving your business online has a whole host of advantages. That is not to say it is better than brick and mortar in every sense, but it offers some economies of scale that traditional businesses struggle to match. This is why we have seen so many large brands and businesses investing in online commerce and building out their digital presence.
- Lower Costs
Lower costs is probably one of the most tangible benefits of online commerce. Pay per click digital advertising, automation of checkout and billing processes with technology and no physical real estate presence are all areas that hold savings when conducting business as an online merchant.
The overhead of your online real estate is minimal compared to what you would be spending on a brick and mortar outfit. Parts of these lower costs can be in turn passed on to your customers to create a virtuous cycle of growth for your online business as we will see later in this guide.
- 24/7 Business Potential
You are not limited to strict business hours in the traditional sense. Your digital store front is available to anyone, anywhere at any given moment in time. You do not have to be limited to confined operating hours. An eCommerce store allows you to attract consumers who are busy and seek the convenience of being able to access your products and services at a time that suits them.
- Overcoming Geographic Restrictions
As we mentioned above, having an online business allows you to access consumers and businesses in other markets, at a time that is convenient to them. This means you can access people who are part of other geographic markets. The ubiquity of the internet and mobile devices has dissolved any remaining limitations on geography.
- Targeted Marketing
Again, the ability to market and segment customers based on data from your online business means that you can better understand their needs and re-target advertising campaigns to get in front of those who are most likely to resonate with your product or service. Facebook have built an extremely powerful tool with targeted advertising and lookalike audiences that eCommerce businesses are leveraging to garner extremely insightful and precise data about their customers.
eCommerce Trends for 2021
A growing number of trends throughout 2020 set the precedence for what shoppers are coming to expect when doing business online. Some of these trends are continuing throughout 2021 and are evolving with an ever growing and dynamic consumer market. Traditional retail sales have declined but e-commerce has seen a 129% year-over-year growth. Most brick and mortar stores have had no choice but to take their businesses online to survive the pandemic.
Here are some of the top trends that will continue to aid online business growth into 2021.
- Artificial Intelligence
- Data Analytics
- Augmented Reality
- Individualized experiences
- Mobile Shopping
- Shoppable Video
- Brand Partnerships
There is a growing number of AI tools and resources available to assist businesses with enhancing the customer experience. AI tools go hand in hand with Data Analytics and Chatbots in that they help businesses learn more about their customers. Machine learning and AI can be used to make recommendations for what customers should purchase next based on their history.
Amazon has reorganized around machine learning and AI to great effect with their recommendation engine and flywheel approach to growth. Not only this but ML and AI also power Amazon Alexa and the Amazon Go Store.
By taking advantage of AI advancements and applications in your business, you can offer more personalized shopping experiences for all types of consumers.
Think of data as the fuel that you can feed Artificial Intelligence to aid in creating better personalized shopping experiences for your customers. Demand for more personalized shopping experiences is only increasing as millennial internet shoppers become more savvy. With millennials now the biggest online spenders in the US, businesses are having to follow their lead and get as close as possible to these consumers.
Harvesting data associated with any interaction consumers have with your online store, website or social media is going to allow you to garner insights and further refine your customer personas and target audience.
Becoming data rich is also not solely reserved for large internet businesses. You can start the process of good data collection today and garner insights into your customer’s biggest pain points. As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being agile and hands on when gathering your initial data. The feedback loop that you create from gathering data and using it to iterate your initial product or service will set the foundations for quality decision making as you grow.
At the end of the day, being data rich gives you the ability to make better informed decisions. This is a trend that is not going anywhere and the businesses that can leverage data for high frequency decision making are the ones who will continue to succeed in 2021.
The trend of augmented reality (AR) is having somewhat of a comeback in a year where businesses are having to be more creative than ever before. AR enhances the reality of online shopping for consumers and brings the feel of real world shopping experience to them through digital means. It helps online shoppers to visualize the products they are interested in, whether it is clothing or furniture.
AR is allowing shoppers to see how they would look while wearing certain clothing or how nice their home would look with a certain piece of furniture, all before hitting the “Buy Now” button.
Burrow, a Direct to Consumer (DTC) furniture brand, uses AR to help customers visualize how their couches will fit in their living rooms.
The possibilities to leverage AR to enhance user experience are vast, and they’re only going to continue to improve as demand for better experiences grows.
The ability for businesses to craft individualized experiences for shoppers relies on some of the trends we have already mentioned such as data analytics and artificial intelligence. AI can also be leveraged to gather information about visitors and then adjust your site or store to their wants and needs.
As humans, we value experiences, and the more personalized the experience, the more likely we are to remember it. Businesses that can tailor their store’s experience to individuals have a natural advantage over those that do not. This can be done through crafting individualized experiences based on user data, but it can also be as simple as offering your store or site in the native language of the user who is browsing it.
Implementing personalized experiences on-site or in marketing efforts has been shown to have a strong impact on revenue. One study found that personalization had a 25% revenue lift and could also reduce bounce rates by 45%.
Crafting individualized experiences is the next level of retail personalization to watch in 2021.
In line with wanting to get as close as possible to consumers, Chatbots are a great way to communicate with customers while giving them that feeling of personal attention. Chatbots can be leveraged to answer simple customer queries and one report found that more than 60% of customers report preferring having websites, apps, or chatbots answer their simple questions.
Seeking a more bespoke customer experience should be your driving force and Chatbots give you the ability to create seamless live chat, a smoother customer journey and personify your brand, all the same time.
There’s a whole host of tools you can use to implement this very easily for your business. Intercom and Crisp are two that you can leverage to get ahead on this trend as we move into 2021.
One of the overarching advantages of eCommerce vs retail is the ability for consumers to shop from anywhere. This has never been more possible thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile shopping.
Statista estimates that by the end of 2021, 73% of ecommerce sales will take place on a mobile device.
What does this mean for online businesses?
Having a mobile friendly and responsive eCommerce store is paramount in today’s environment. You typically have less than 3 seconds to make a first impression when a user lands on your site. With so much traffic coming from mobile devices, having a store that is optimized for mobile will improve conversion rates, use time and lower bounce rate for your business.
Another response to ever-increasing mobile users is the use of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). This is when businesses build out specific web apps for their customers to use instead of just a mobile version of their site. Asos are a prime example of an online retailer leveraging a PWA to power enhanced search features and Augmented Reality try-on tools for their online store.
Mobile centric online shopping is only going to continue to grow as we move into 2021.
The power of video is continuing to inform consumer purchase decisions as we move into 2021. In 2019, video was shown to increase conversion rates, with 62% of consumers saying they watch product reviews before making a purchase decision.
People love to watch videos.
Informative videos, educational videos and promotional videos are all ways of conveying high density information about your product or service to end consumers. If you are not leveraging this already 2021 is a great place to start. Videos also help to drive more organic traffic, which is one of the biggest drivers of visitors to any ecommerce store.
This also extends to shoppable video via social media. As we move into 2021, video consumption is not slowing down and brands will continue to advertise in different ways on channels such as TikTok and Instagram.
As growth initiator Eduard Klien describes it:
“Zoomers spend hours scrolling TikTok and Instagram feeds; video is the perfect channel for reaching this curious young target audience. Gen-Z can make buying decisions literally from their social media feed, and videos let them shop straight away.”
This year we have already seen Facebook launch Instagram Shops and Shopify announced a partnership with TikTok.
Shoppable video is on the rise, and you can catch the wave in 2021.
There is a whole host of brands that are already leveraging partnerships to directly grow their businesses. As a B2B strategy, it is always astute to be connected with other businesses that provide natural synergies to the products and services you offer. The same can be said for direct to consumer brands, but they often need to be more creative in how they approach this. Leveraging a B2B2C model can help direct-to-consumer businesses gain access to large pools of ideal customers and acquire early users.
Creating brand partnerships is really about maximizing growth opportunities for you and your business. There are several ways you can go about doing this but it is helpful to think about it in 4 easy steps:
Identify businesses that have naturally occurring blind spots that your product or service can fill for their existing customers.
Establish partnerships with these businesses that produce mutually beneficial outcomes.
Over deliver on value creation once you gain access to your new target customers.
Nurture these new customer relationships to create a Flywheel Effect for your business.
Influencers as brand partners / ambassadors is an additional route to market that is continuing to flourish in the digital world. Influencer marketing is becoming increasingly popular for eCommerce brands for a number of reasons, but Jordie Black of ZINE breaks it down nicely:
“Many eCommerce brands have a content problem – in that they are unable to create enough content at scale to support their marketing efforts. In 2021, a trend we will see is brands looking to influencers as content creators to support the content creation process in lieu of a content agency. We’ll also see brands add paid media spend to this content so that they can control the reach and audience.”
Are you ready to start your DTC mobile-optimized online store?