One thing is sure: 2021 will be an unprecedented year for ecommerce.
The COVID-19 situation changed everything the business world and the consumer world knew about ecommerce. 2020 caused financial hardship for millions of people worldwide, and it also saw a previously unimaginable surge of ecommerce adoption. As the worldwide lockdowns set in and people turned to shopping online when confined to their homes, in 2020, ecommerce became all commerce.
The proof of this phenomenon was in the numbers. We watched ecommerce surge: in the United States alone, online shopping had gone up 44.5% by the second quarter of 2020. Several countries are distributing multiple vaccines now, but the COVID-19 pandemic will have left a permanent mark on how ecommerce works.
6 Ecommerce Trends for This Year
1. Players to Watch
The ecommerce trends that we are taking into 2021 have common threads: our world is operating more and more like a global village. This effect has only accelerated by watching a virus change every person’s life on a worldwide scale. Large ecommerce companies are at the center of this change. In this era, many large and influential ecommerce brands have emerged in the market. Companies like Amazon, Zoom, and Netflix saw massive and now globally recognized surges.
However, other brands adopted new market strategies and trends to get more customers and profits. Some industries worth watching are food delivery and workplace solutions. We watched companies like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash gain many customers. Because consumer education has accelerated, we can expect to continue to see consistency in food delivery demand. Workplace solutions will likely benefit from a similar effect: many employees at large companies have now proven that we can work remotely. Work may continue to be done this way across multiple industries. Most notably, Twitter announced that even after the pandemic, the company would remain 100% remote.
In addition to paying attention to industries that will benefit from the consumer learning that happened in 2020, we ought to watch for innovations across all ecommerce. While many companies used techniques in the previous years, such as free shipping, promo codes, and flash sales, to expand their online sales, companies are already adopting new ecommerce trends in 2021. Keep your eyes open for:
2. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality allows the customers to visualize the product they are considering purchasing in real spaces: for example, new furniture upon a picture of a room in your home or online-only prescription glasses on a picture of your face. Virtual reality, on the other hand, provides a fully immersive experience. Although Augmented and Visual reality (AR/VR) is not new, more and more brands started adopting these types of displays for their online shopping experience in the last year. It made sense: there was no longer the “fall-back” of retail locations where customers wary of online shopping could test the products to increase their confidence as buyers. With the proliferation of augmented reality and virtual reality in online shopping due to the COVID-19 crisis, more and more ecommerce brands are likely to follow suit. Before, consumers were limited to product images, and indeed, sometimes, expectations did not match the picture, leading to high return rates and increased costs for merchants. As AR/VR develops as a fast-growing ecommerce trend, customers will get used to the expectation they can see custom views of the products they are considering. Brands like IKEA and Werby Parker have already adopted this strategy.
3. New Digital Payment Options
Commerce is going digital, so this means that digital payments will become a de facto expectation for both retailers and other entities accepting payments online: think donations for nonprofit organizations, consultants, and beyond. As we move into 2021, brands must prepare to offer a digital payment process. Some online presences still lack a proper payment system. As consumer education drives an expectation of easy digital payment options, consumers will quickly become intolerant of low-quality digital payment experiences. A lack of digital payment processing may lead to increases in cart abandonment and canceled purchases. If you haven’t already, consider looking into the long-standing digital payments players such as PayPal, Stripe, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Venmo. For some merchants, it may even be a good idea to begin accepting cryptocurrency. Also, consider the user experience of your digital payment processing: companies like Fast are now smoothing over the process of inputting one’s credit card, shipping address, and billing address into a long form by offering one-click checkout. In 2021, digital payment processing is necessary for an instant, contactless payment.
4. Buyable Social Media Content
Most brands know by now the importance of social media. However, all ecommerce merchants and brands need to be aware of the increasing trend to enable and focus on the option of selling things through social media posts. More and more social media platforms are adopting posts or advertisements that can be shopped directly on the platform. Consider Pinterest’s buyable pins, a feature that has attracted some of the highest value customers by average order to value to online stores, often without them even hitting your site. As consumers grow to expect seamless content browsing to the shopping experience, ecommerce brands should focus on high quality and engaging content and easy and fast ways for social media users to buy the items they see and love.
5. Contactless Delivery and Other Delivery Innovations
The Merriam-Webster dictionary published an article about new words that entered our informal discussions in 2020: social distancing, super-spreader, self-quarantine. Alongside these words, we also developed an entirely new set of terms for our pandemic shopping trends: curbside pickup, contactless delivery, and buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) come to mind. These trends are overwhelmingly popular with consumers and are likely to stay well past the COVID-19 crisis. For example, in contactless delivery, the item – often food and possibly household supplies or even retail purchases – is left at the customer’s doorstep. The delivery person provides notification and ensures pick up. This method is convenient for the customer, who receives a timely delivery without any required interaction. Many companies started offering contactless delivery due to the pandemic and have developed the system to execute it already; they are unlikely to stop offering it. To compete effectively, brands that have not developed their capabilities in these trends should consider its benefits. It may prove essential to gain and retain customers.
6. Cyber Insurance
In ecommerce, your business is dependent on the internet and the reliability of your information technology infrastructure. With these come the well-known threats of cybersecurity, software problems, and hardware problems. As ecommerce proliferates how consumers research and purchase, it may make sense to bring peace of mind to your business continuity through cyber insurance. Cyber insurance works to preserve the safety of a merchant’s technology investment. Securing your technology infrastructure against potential loss is becoming more and more common for businesses that strictly rely on online sales to drive growth and pay staff. Cyber insurance is a fast-growing trend in 2021. We expect it to grow much more as it becomes an essential insurance policy for businesses observing the need for security from potential cyber damage.
Ecommerce was already expanding worldwide, and some experts say the COVID-19 crisis accelerates the ecommerce revolution as much as five years forward. More people buying online presents a valuable opportunity, but this also means that businesses and sellers will need to adapt their strategies to the “new normal” quickly. In addition to this, business owners will have to ensure that we ease our customers into the change we are presenting and continue to find ways to reach out to our customers in an empathetic, connected, and personalized way. Adaptation is critical, and overall, ecommerce in 2021 presents a remarkable opportunity to help many people recover from the COVID-19 crisis and move forward into an ever-connected world.