In this post, we’ll look at the various prominent ecommerce trends you should remember in 2021.
For entrepreneurs in every nation, ecommerce has proven to be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
The term ecommerce is far-reaching and includes any transaction that happens over the internet. This makes it difficult to put a finger on how big the pie really is.
For 2018, the last year for which detailed and verifiable reports are available, the figure stood at $25.6 trillion at least (only the top ten economies are included).
2020 has been an unforgettable year for the ecommerce industry. The Covid-19 pandemic shifted a significant slice of retail sales from physical stores to online. The trend had been clearly visible for many years, but 2020 cemented online shopping as the way forward.
The other milestone was largely unnoticed – Amazon, the world's first online store, became a quarter of a century-old.
No longer can even the staunchest Luddite claim that online shopping is a fad. Fads don't last this long and rack up hundreds of trillions in sales.
For the global ecommerce market, future has come early. The pandemic has speeded up the way the market is morphing, and you need to be aware of the trends that would dominate 2021.
Without further ado, we present our list of the ten hottest ecommerce trends of 2021.
What Are the Key Trends in Ecommerce For 2021?
1. Expect more competition as offline businesses embrace ecommerce in 2021
The cost of setting up a website varies considerably depending on the complexity of the design and the degree of customization you have opted for.
But recent years have seen prices drop significantly to the point where a WooCommerce or Shopify store costs around $1,000.
This includes the cost of developers and the first year running costs (some costs recur annually including hosting plan) but, of course, does not include the cost of holding stock, warehousing, digital marketing.
If you are willing to use premium off-the-shelf templates and outsource coding to freelancers instead of a reputed web development agency, you could set up a site for a quite small sum.
Do people pay a lot more? Yes, if they want a lot of paid plugins and want to make their website look as bespoke as possible they could end up spending $25,000.`
The differential is the cost of hours of development, 10 versus 300 hours, and subscription to paid plugins.
Some of these can cost quite a lot. The OptinMonster Pro version is priced at $400 (yearly), and Yoast SEO Premium at $130.
The barrier to entry has gone down significantly. There is a huge competition, and everyone is rushing in to fill the void.
The only way to beat the crowd is to get better/smarter at marketing and retain your customers.
Make the deals more lucrative and offer deep discounts. It would eat into your bottom line, but that is the cost of doing business.
2. Independent brand e-stores will surge
Ecommerce trends 2021 suggest that Walmart and Amazon would be exceptions and not the rule.
Going forward, specialization would be the name of the game. Your shop could sell flowers or clothes or funky jewelry, but it's doubtful if it will sell all three.
The scale that Amazon has achieved with its 25-year history, and Walmart has reached with its nearly 60-year long existence is going to be hard to replicate.
There are never too many giants in any domain – Airbus and Boeing, Coke and Pepsi, Visa and MasterCard, Macintosh and Windows being great examples.
Inevitably duopolies or very small oligopolies have the advantage of scalability.
You could try and be a Bombardier (LearJet) or General Dynamics (Gulf Stream) – fill a niche space not served by Boeing or Airbus.
Even Jeff Bezos started off by selling books. Today his business empire spans from the online marketplace to web hosting.
There is a definite advantage to starting a single product store.
You can focus single-mindedly on making the product line more refined, cutting down delivery time, growing the website, and making the buying process streamlined.
Aiming at a narrow set of demographics while marketing increases ROI on advertising dollars.
The more the specialization, the greater is your ability to retain customers.
3. Better, less intrusive AI will be a game changer
The greater adoption of AI will transform the online shopping experience.
There are two main points where AI would be making a difference – the first is better product suggestions, and the second is widespread use of chatbots and various automations.
Search is going to become more customer-centric. Nothing is more bothersome than going through dozens of pages of the product catalog.
The use of AI vastly trims down the excess fat from this process.
From previous purchases, AI tools can understand what would entice a customer to click the Buy Now button.
It is not that such technology did not exist before. But it was unavailable to smaller retailers who did not have R&D.
The use of Google and Bing has made consumers use everyday language such as “red polo shirt” when using site search.
An ordinary search tool cannot help with such queries that use colloquial language. But that is easily handled by AI-powered search.
Twiggle, for instance, delivers a natural language search of your e-commerce site.
Tools such as Phrasee can make your marketing emails far more appealing. Used by Sephora and Virgin Air, it is one of the best tools to make an email subject line catchier.
4. Master the social media sales funnel. It’s here to stay.
Social media is playing an ever-increasing role in generating leads through the sales funnel.
Online stores cannot afford expensive traditional advertising channels and are dependent on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat to reach new customers.
Of course, old fashioned paid advertisements on search engines remain but are being increasingly supplanted by social media.
The reason for the latest trends in ecommerce has been the immense ability of social media platforms to collect data and target the advertisement at exactly the right customer.
This reduces cost and increases the conversion rate. Moreover, marketing through these platforms is relatively easy to master.
They have dashboards and metrics that are easy to understand.
Of course, it requires creating content, at least an image, something not needed with Google's sponsored search result. But rich media is always better for grabbing eyeballs.
Moreover, most social media have influencers who have a wide following. It is relatively easy to have them promote a product.
You are sure that a million subscribers they have would see the placement.
From fitness supplements to perfumes and body scrubs – there is an influencer for every product on every social media platform.
5. Subscription rather than one time sales for retaining customers
Subscription services are nothing new. It has existed ever since newspapers have been around, and the ecommerce sector adopted it with the launch of Amazon Prime.
For a small payment (monthly or annually), Amazon provides free, fast shipping, access to video streaming and music.
Moreover, members of Prime can avail of bumper discounts during Prime Day.
Here are other models of subscription, such as Dollar Shave Club that offers access to shaving products at a discount.
It is an online version of the business model Costco adopted offline four decades ago.
Michael Dublin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club, made the company into a major disruptor by offering shaving blades usually priced at $4 for only $0.25-$2 to paying members.
The great thing about the subscription model is customer stickiness.
The biggest headache of entrepreneurs is retaining a customer after spending several dollars to acquire him in the first place.
It is simpler to predict demand and place orders earlier with vendors.
One of the factors that plague ecommerce is unpredictability, which is done away with using the subscription model in one of its avatars.
6. Use of messaging apps for sales and support
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are near-ubiquitous on most smartphones. According to Statista, there are 2 billion WhatsApp users as of October 2020.
The use of WhatsApp for sales began with the launch of WhatsApp for Business in 2019. Companies can now have verified business accounts, which can be used for messaging customers.
The most significant appeal is now you can have a chatbot working for you 24x7, replying to any query the customer may have, helping them locate a product, providing valuable assistance, and accepting orders.
You can use WhatsApp for sending short videos and images as well as links to specific product pages.
CRM has never been so easy. Chatbots made by firms such as Verloop and Yalochat make it possible to reach out to a customer without incurring any expenditure, receive feedback, and provide support seamlessly.
Of course, WhatsApp is not the only messaging service. QQ, WeChat, Snapchat, and Telegram have their own niche.
Nevertheless, none of them have the size of the leader.
Unlike social media, messaging apps have very similar features.
The same type of campaign can work on all of them, and the only change needed is a different Application Programming Interface.
The sheer number of subscribers on messaging apps and the amount of time they spend daily make them immensely useful for marketing.
7. Buy Now Pay Later for growing topline
The name says it all - Buy now, Pay later. As usual, with most current trends in ecommerce, it was pioneered by Amazon.
It is a completely hassle-free way to get access to credit. The best part is unlike credit cards, it carries no interest, and unlike financing, there is no processing fee.
The options range from pay next month to pay in 3—12 months, depending on cart value.
Of course, a business would need deep pockets to finance such a scheme, and that is why everyone cannot utilize it.
Its benefits are two-fold – retention of customers and reducing abandoned carts.
Though loyal customers return time and again to the same site, they are often hamstrung by not having enough cash to spend.
If you are able to sponsor them for at least a few weeks, sales and topline is bound to skyrocket.
The vexing predicament faced by online retailers is an abandoned cart.
The buyer creates an account, selects products but at the last moment, when the payment page appears, they close the browser.
It is indeed frustrating since the marketing department has clearly delivered on its promise, but the final step did not materialize.
Financing the purchase in an easy, hassle-free manner could do wonders for circumventing this obstacle.
It is difficult to check the credit worthiness of a customer without access to their credit score. The best way is to use past behavior as a predictor of future tendency.
8. Ads with click through purchase would become more common
The rollout of smart TVs has created new trends for sales. NBC kicked it off with shoppable advertisements in 2019.
The model is in its nascent stage, but quick adoption is expected in 2021 and beyond. Basically, a viewer would be able to buy what they see.
You like the dress the actress is wearing? Just click and order it.
This is made available both through interactive advertisements and placements in television shows.
Given the millions of viewers, some of these draw in, the time is ripe for them to be used as a sales funnel component.
Amazon has jumped on the bandwagon with Making The Cut, a fashion show hosted by none other than the gorgeous supermodel Heidi Klum.
Available on Prime Video, MTC is a reality show where the dresses are immediately available for purchase on Amazon.
If it is adopted widely remains to be seen, but the concept is refreshing and unprecedented.
9. Readymade SaaS solutions will empower smaller businesses
Using premium Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools, ecommerce companies would grow faster than ever before.
SaaS is indispensable because SaaS makes complex services affordable.
In its fundamental sense it is renting software instead of buying it.
Take, for example, Shipstation.
It makes shipping so much more effortless.
Using Shipstation, you can import prices and carts from a hundred different marketplaces, print labels with barcodes, track your order with state of the art GPS technology and manage returns.
SaaS extends in all spheres of online sales today. The top-end website builder Wix is a fine example.
For a small charge, every month, they offer you a full-fledged website builder, an ecommerce solution, a premium theme, a plugin store, and SEO tools.
Not only can you rent a fully functioning website, but you can also host it on Wix servers and get the advantage of the best tech support in the world.
Suppose you want to know more about what your competitors are doing look no further than Prisync.
It keeps track of what your competitors are offering and the price. With emails, you would be updated up to four times a day about your competition.
By knowing about best online sales right now you are able to offer competitive pricing.
SaaS would give access to all varieties of advanced tools for a small fee and allow small ecommerce owners to leverage technology to grow.
10. Buy online, delivery offline model may stay on
O2O or Online to Offline commerce is here. Buy online, deliver offline, also known as Buy Online Pick Up in Store or BOPIS, has gained currency as the pandemic spread.
One of the hassles of online retail is someone has to be present at home to receive the package. It is inconvenient to say the least.
Social distancing during the pandemic has forced the O2O model to become widespread, and it may become the biggest ever change to the sales process since online retailing began in 1995.
The process is the same as online retail except that the buyer picks up the goods at a nearby store.
This allows them flexibility of movement. With one of every three households being non-family O2O would remain popular in years to come.
BOPIS also allows physical stores to take advantage of the internet.
It is essentially a hybrid model that is particularly suitable for products such as clothing and furniture.
An offline store can share all features of an online store apart from shipping.
All they need to do is share a product catalogue online that indicates the price and availability.
Using chatbot messaging they can be informed when the package is ready for delivery. An entirely hassle free way for offline stores to move partially online.
The ecommerce revolution has received a major shot in the arm due to the pandemic. In November of 2020, online Black Friday sales grew by a whopping 22% to touch $9 billion.
The momentum would not stop.
The rate of growth may slow (double-digit growth cannot be sustained for long), but absolute numbers would continue to rise.
At the same time, an increase in the number of ecommerce businesses would drive up competition and the cost of acquiring a new customer.
The need of the hour is to continue to streamline the business, aim for maximum customer satisfaction, and utilize bleeding-edge technology for maintaining an advantage over the competition.