E-commerce is ascending with a projected growth of reaching 5 trillion dollars USD in sales in 2021. And according to Forbes, just last year, e-commerce sales rose by over 30%. Since the global pandemic drove unprecedented consumer demand, this e-commerce growth can be attributed to it. Many businesses shifted online, consumer shopping behavior changed, and the e-commerce market found new trends.
Now that we’re in 2021, it’s time to understand the e-commerce industry a little better for the year. And to do that, we are going to share some of the e-commerce trends that you need to keep a lookout for in 2021. But before that let’s do a quick overview of the e-commerce platforms you need to keep in mind for starting your online venture.
E-commerce platforms to watch out
Before getting started with your e-commerce store, it is extremely important to choose the right e-commerce platform. Online businesses might appear to be a simple process that can be figured out with a few clicks, but that’s just not the case. A lot of things need to be considered for it and the number one thing that should be your priority on this list is selecting the correct e-commerce platform.
You will find various e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce, Wix, Shopify, and Magento. But for us, WooCommerce comes first. It’s an extremely versatile platform because firstly, it is an open-source e-commerce platform that is customizable, and secondly, it is free. You can even check out these stats and facts about WooCommerce that speak for its achievements. Built on WordPress, this plugin will help you set up your store in minutes. And since it is customizable, you can incorporate a ton of other WooCommerce plugins that are specific to your needs.
Now that we’ve had this covered, it’s time to take a deep dive into the e-commerce trends for 2021 as promised earlier.
E-commerce trends for 2021
1. Increased digital advertising
We’ve all seen promotional content a.k.a advertisements in our day-to-day life in newspapers, magazines, or even billboards. But recently, the trend of digital or online advertising has found newer avenues. We’re seeing adverts in different forms such as displayed ads, ads on social media, ads through influencers, and everything else that occupies a space in the digital realm. That’s why in 2021, e-commerce sites will be tapping into this pot of gold & expanding their digital advertising.
One such newer and innovative means of display digital advertising is the Interactive advert model. Let’s say one of your customers is watching television and wants to wear the exact outfit they see there. E-commerce platform linked Smart TVs will be able to display the brand’s information right there on the television screen. Research also found that by 2024 more than 110 million, or nearly 84%, of all U.S. households, will own a connected TV. This means that the amount spent on connected TV ads will also grow. Shopify predicts that it will grow by double digits for the first half of the decade.
This just shows how digitally inclined the e-commerce space will become in the following years to come.
2. Increased emphasis on API security
Application Programming Interface, a.k.a APIs, are used by businesses to allow their applications to share data and connect to services using a simple set of commands. In 2020, The State of the API Integration Report found that 83% of respondents considered API integration a critical part of their business strategy. To add to it, 77% of respondents have invested in API Management. This only shows the scale at which businesses are using applications.
However, using so many applications can come with its own set of vulnerabilities. In 2019, around 16% of organizations said that their APIs face daily injection attacks. While another 15% experienced data leakages. Due to these factors, there will be increased attention to API security in 2021. To give you an idea of how platforms are incorporating this, we can have a look at the recently (December 2020) released Application Passwords for REST API in WordPress 5.6. If your e-commerce business is built on WooCommerce, then it can benefit directly from these WordPress security updates.
In 2021, you can expect an increased emphasis on API security for smoother functioning of e-commerce businesses.
3. AR and VR Marketing
As consumers, the idea of using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in our daily lives fascinates us all. Testing out products before the purchase has been one of the major advantages of using AR and VR. In 2020, VR was used by nearly one in every five US consumers. But that’s not it. The VR sector is on a constant rise because according to Grand View Research, it is expected to grow at an average rate of 21.6 % every year from 2020 to 2027. Even mobile users are utilizing the AR facilities on shopping sites. According to statista.com, in 2021, there will be an estimated 1.96 billion mobile AR users worldwide.
If you’ve built your e-commerce site on WordPress with WooCommerce, you’re bound to find AR & VR solutions such as CartMagician PRO Augmented Reality for WooCommerce AR, WooCommerce AR Quick Look, WebAR, and WooCommerce Product Configurator.
Whether you want a virtual tour of a house, or try how a specific shade of lipstick would look on you. AR and VR marketing has made all of it possible for shoppers at home. In 2021, we’re expecting newer and more innovative developments in the way e-commerce websites use AR and VR marketing.
4. Demand for new online product categories
As a result of the pandemic, new online product categories are emerging because of lifestyle changes and consumer habits. The top priority for consumers has become online product categories such as health, food and beverage, hygiene/sanitation, home essentials, and entertainment. Just to illustrate, in 2020, the sales for food and beverage saw a growth of 11.3%.
Since the e-commerce playfield is changing, you can look forward to low traction niches to occupy a larger place in 2021. For example, according to e-commerce entrepreneur Kevin Zhang,
“Consumers will think about sanitation in a completely different way, likely fueling the demand for products focused on keeping individuals safe from future outbreaks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a popular subscription box focused on sanitation become a dominant player.”
You can continue to expect such innovative ideas that add fuel to the demand for home-related niches in 2021.
5. Tech-savvy deliveries
We’ve all heard of Amazon’s same-day delivery, and we’ve all benefited from it at some point or the other. But that’s just not where it all ends. As the marketplace keeps changing, the invasion of newer technological tools has occupied the forefront in making the e-commerce experience faster and smoother.
According to the Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020, 41% of shoppers are willing to pay some amount for same-day deliveries. While 24% of customers are willing to pay more to receive their order within a one-or two-hour window of their choosing.
In 2021, we can expect e-commerce sites to use several technological means in order to fulfill such delivery-related consumer demands. You can expect one-hour deliveries, deliveries by autonomous goods vehicles (AVGs) and drones, back-end warehouse prep by robots, and so much more in the coming years.
6. Customer personalization
According to Salesforce Research, in 2018, up to 80% of customers agreed that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. The amount that is being spent right now on customer experience (CX) can be seen as a direct result of this data. Global spending on CX technology is predicted to rise from 500 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 to over 640 billion by 2022.
Customer data gained through analytics has become very crucial for several e-commerce sites. That’s because they want to make the customer’s experience as personal and curated as possible. Whether it is user experience, logistics, customer preferences, pricing strategies, website design, or even the loading page speed. Everything becomes a deciding factor for a customer’s experience. Offering great customer support is also a key factor for customer experience. Customer service is an important thing in an eCommerce business and should be given before the purchase, during the purchase as well as after the sales. For example, if your site takes more than 3 seconds for a page to load, around 57% of customers will abandon your site. 60% of them will even leave it if they can’t find what they were looking for in the first place.
This data makes it apparent that e-commerce sites are using and will continue to use consumer data in 2021. So that they can create a hyper-personalized shopping experience for their customers. Whether it is proximity marketing (using adverts when your customers are in the same vicinity as you), or giving out personal product recommendations on your site or on search engines, everything will cater towards this experience. After all, 90% of shoppers return to a site that provides personalized recommendations and that’s exactly what e-commerce sites want!
7. Increased voice shoppers
Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are the household names when we think of voice search. And shopping is one of the reasons why voice searches are used. According to Emarketer, in 2020, in the US, 34.7 million consumers were expected to shop using the voice search feature on their smart speakers. By 2022, voice commerce will reach $40 billion in the U.S.
This just shows how voice commerce has been a game-changer for e-commerce sites. Even a whopping 93% of consumers agreed that they’ve been satisfied using their voice assistants. So, now’s the right time to offer and optimize your voice search tools on your e-commerce websites. Because it’s been predicted that by 2021, if your store has adapted this technology by redesigning your website, then chances are that you’ll be increasing your revenue by 30%.
8. Increased social commerce
If your e-commerce business does not have a social media presence, you’re missing out on a lot of customers. Social networking sites have become so intrinsic to people’s lives right now that even shopping is possible through it.
According to emarketer.com, it is because of social commerce that retail e-commerce sites have enjoyed an increase of referrals by 110% from 2017 to 2019. US sales from products sold via social networks in 2019 were $1.4 billion and in 2020 the sales were likely to reach $23.3 billion.
If we’re to look at the other side of the world, then in 2019, the retail social commerce sales in China was $186.04 billion. It occupied 10.3% of total eCommerce sales for the nation.
As illustrated through these stats, social media has become a boon for e-commerce businesses. And e-commerce businesses are thriving because of it. Social commerce is bound to increase and prove beneficial even in the year 2021.
9. Focus on the mobile experience
Around 40% of people exclusively search on a smartphone. And according to Shopify’s Future of Commerce Report, mobile devices occupy 50% of the global e-commerce sales. Mobile commerce has been so crucial that it accounts for 92% of e-commerce growth.
This growing preference for using mobile phones for shopping has brought with it immense growth for e-commerce sites. E-commerce sites need to take mobile experience into consideration because that’s exactly how they will gain more customers. By 2021, we will see that the global mobile commerce revenues will account for 53.9% of all e-commerce revenues. If your e-commerce site wants to have a share of this revenue, it’s time to focus on the mobile experience.
10. Scaled omnichannel strategies
In 2021, your e-commerce store needs to recognize the different channels through which it can reach its customers. There’s fierce competition in the market, and one of the ways to overcome it is to use an omnichannel strategy. It can be understood as a strategy where the brand’s presence is the same across different online (website, app, social media, email, SMS, etc.) and offline (retail store, events, etc.) channels.
With this strategy, you will be offering your customers a seamless shopping experience through any of the channels that are used by them to approach your store. That’s also why e-commerce websites should be paying close attention to customer’s mobile experience and social media content.
According to Oberlo, on average 52% of online stores have omnichannel capabilities. And in 2020, marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign. This was a 14.8% increase from 2018’s 250% earnings via the omnichannel approach. These stats are a clear indicator that customers prefer omnichannel campaigns. In 2021, we can expect e-commerce sites to scale their omnichannel strategies to create an immersive experience.
11. Live-streaming on e-commerce platforms
Live-streaming shopping events have been popular for quite some time with platforms such as Shopee and Lazada. In countries like Singapore and Malaysia, the total hours streamed on ShopeeLive increased by 200% within a period of just four months (from February to June 2020). Whereas in China, Forbes estimated that the sales from live streams in China were expected to grow more than 100% in 2020. That’s right, in 2020, a projection of 560 million people watching these live streams was predicted!
These live-stream shopping events have proved to be a successful phenomenon. That’s why other e-commerce platforms from all around the world are planning to take it up. Amazon and Facebook have tested these live sales platforms and such events are expected to generate $25 billion by 2023 in the U.S. So, in the year 2021, expect many e-commerce platforms to adopt live-streaming.
Small businesses can definitely try their hand at this. All that’s needed is a video camera, a stable internet connection, & your social media account that offers live streaming tools. You can try live streaming on Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Youtube, and even Instagram! Include tutorials, Q&A sessions with an expert, event promotions, product reviews, and more. The more you experiment, the more ideas you’ll get about your live-stream content. And lastly, don’t forget to engage with your audience, and make your live-stream engaging yet straightforward!
12. The rise of re-commerce and green commerce
In 2021, we’re going to see a shift from the sale of luxury goods to second-hand goods. Along with this, customers are also buying more sustainable products. This is because consumers are becoming more conscious of what kind of purchases they’re making and how sustainable they are. According to Harvard Business Review, 65% of shoppers said they want to buy products from brands that advocate sustainability. To top it off, 90% of millennials have also said that they are willing to pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients.
The best thing for your e-commerce brand would be to target this specific need of the consumer. Promote your site through the sustainability front. Whether it’s through the resale of products or creating a special sustainable product section on your site, nothing is off-limits. That’s because the resale market is estimated to double from 2020’s $24 billion to $51 billion by 2023, according to the annual resale report from online resale marketplace ThredUP.
Even Vice-president, Fresh/H&W Growth & Strategy for Nielsen, Sarah Schmansky says that
“We’ve found that sustainable shoppers in the U.S. are 67% more likely to be digitally engaged, which means they are used to having the products and knowledge they want right at their fingertips. With their devices playing a significant role in their purchase decisions, a simple and frictionless shopping experience between on and offline is critical.”
Now’s your turn
The ever-developing e-commerce sector will also be witnessing the use of blockchain technology in the far future. However, this would only come into play for small businesses if it’s been proved successful for e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba. With blockchain technology, we can expect secure payment transactions, seamless delivery, and reduced administrative tasks. This is just one example of how the future of e-commerce can look like even after the year 2021.
However, for the year 2021, if you want your e-commerce business to grow now’s the time to follow the 12 trends that we’ve outlined for you. Even though a lot of these trends might seem overwhelming, a good focus on your target audience will help immensely. You can choose one trend at a time, see how well it does, and then further experiment with other trends. So, which e-commerce trend are you planning to implement first?