Before COVID-19 came along and permanently altered the retail landscape, eCommerce was already growing by leaps and bounds. Highlighting this point, data from Statista shows that, by 2024, eCommerce sales in the United States are expected to surpass $475 billion. For those who are keeping score, that’s more than a $100 billion increase over the next four years.
As a result of physical retail store shutdowns, coupled with the rise in various internet technologies, many brands are driving into the digital landscape. However, in the midst of this surge in eCommerce sales, the industry is changing.
In order for both green and seasoned online merchants to continue succeeding as things shift, closely monitoring eCommerce trends is vital.
2020 changes many aspects of daily life. Based on the shifts that occurred this year (and ones that have been building for several years prior), there are a handful of significant trends that sellers can expect to see emerge and take center stage in the following year.
Here are the top eCommerce trends to prepare for in 2021.
Voice Commerce Continues Its Ascent
As the technology continues to become more sophisticated and refined, voice assistants like Google Home, Alexa, Amazon Echo and others are becoming more commonplace and integrated with people’s daily lives. This statement stands for everything from setting reminders to purchasing products online.
The rapid proliferation of such devices is evident given that Statista data on smart speaker household penetration reveals that:
“Around 28 percent U.S. households owned at least one smart speaker in 2018. That share is projected to reach around 75 percent by 2025.”
But again, it’s not just the ubiquity of the technology that is changing, but the way in which folks are leveraging the tech. As it stands, voice commerce is exploding in popularity. By 2022 (which is right around the corner), voice shopping is expected to generate $40 billion across the United States and U.K.
For this reason, it is critical for online retailers to optimize their online stores for voice search. Not only will this help merchants to remain accessible to all audiences, but doing so will also help them to harvest valuable keyword data for elevating their SEO efforts.
The fact is that there are a variety of ways to prepare eCommerce sites for voice search. That said, one of the easiest ways to begin the process is by optimizing one’s top-level conversion funnel content to feature answers to questions commonly posed by buyers.
Some other strategies that sellers might opt to deploy include:
- Optimize content to increase the likelihood of appearing in Google’s Answer Box for voice searches
- Offer voice-activated on-site navigation features
- Ensure purchases can be completed using simple voice commands
In 2021, we might not have flying cars, but we will be able to shop through our televisions.
While many immediately think of infomercials, QVC and the like, this emerging form of eCommerce is poised to be much more sophisticated than these antiquated forms of shopping.
In 2020, this shopping modality started to come into its infancy when brands like NBC rolled out shoppable television ads that connect programs to a user’s mobile phone app, thereby enabling them to purchase on-screen items. Discussing the new shopping option, TechCrunch reported:
“The new product is part of the company’s One Platform ad offering. As demonstrated for me yesterday, it allows the readers of articles and viewers of videos on NBCUniversal properties to click on a featured product, bring up the listing from a partner merchant and make the purchase… NBCUniversal is launching Checkout in its Shoppable Branded Content, its ShoppableTV ads, in its editorial content (whether digital or on linear TV) and on social media.”
However, NBC isn’t the only company pushing forward with Shoppable TV tech. Amazon is also looking to get a piece of the television-driven eCommerce pie. As Forbes reports on the company’s shoppable television aspirations:
“Amazon is reinventing an age-old and arguably mis-handled concept as its new fashion show, Making The Cut, hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, expands shoppable television. Each week, designers compete to create the best clothing items. The winning designs are then available to purchase on Amazon after the episode airs and all quickly sold out. Part of the prize package for the winner includes an exclusive clothing line sold on Amazon.”
While this concept is still dawning, it is sure to be refined, expanded and explored further come 2021.
Adoption of More Marketplaces and Fulfillment Methods
One lesson that many merchants learned the hard way during the peak of the COVID-19 scare is the importance of diversification.
Before the coronavirus became a household name, slews of retailers relied on only a few sales channels and a single fulfillment method. However, because of the incredible number of sales that went through Amazon earlier this year, the company was forced to temporarily shut down FBA shipments from third-party sellers dealing in non-essential products.
For those who were dependent on Amazon to fulfill their orders, their businesses were negatively impacted. Meanwhile, other eCommerce companies faced similar situations as warehouses or manufacturers froze operations.
As a result of this hard-learned lesson, many have realized the necessity of diversifying their marketplace and fulfillment options. The fact is that those businesses that already leveraged multiple fulfillment centers or manufacturers for their products were in a better position to continue conducting business as usual.
Therefore, one of the eCommerce trends expected to emerge in 2021 is that more online sellers will expand on their marketplace, fulfillment and manufacturing channels.
Social Commerce Increases
The integration of social media and eCommerce is nothing new. There are a panoply of retail-related social media features for merchants to leverage in their quest to connect with customers online.
However, as a result of the struggle that many retailers faced earlier in the year, tech platforms like Facebook stepped up to help out with new offerings like Facebook Shops. As the company explained about this feature:
“Right now, many small businesses are struggling, and with stores closing, more are looking to bring their business online… That’s why we’re launching Facebook Shops and investing in features across our apps that inspire people to shop and make buying and selling online easier. Facebook Shops make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram. Creating a Facebook Shop is free and simple. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalog and then customize the look and feel of their shop with a cover image and accent colors that showcase their brand.”
As things currently stand, many states are looking at a new round of lockdowns and business closures. Thanks to features like these, retailers and consumers have a convenient, accessible portal through which they can still conduct business.
This is one of those eCommerce trends that has been growing over the years. In 2021, social commerce is likely to become one of the hottest industry trends as more shoppers and businesses turn to social media platforms to remain connected.
Proliferation of PWAs
Progressive web apps (PWAs) are another rapidly growing trend in the eCommerce industry. The reason for their ascent is directly tied to the ubiquity and prominence of mobile devices.
For those who are unaware, PWAs take the best of both mobile websites and native applications and produce a dynamic, flexible, lightning-fast experience for mobile shoppers.
This technology is poised to become widely adopted in 2021. The fact of the matter is that mobile users demand fast-loading sites that are easy to use on small screen devices. PWAs provide this kind of experience in spades. Plainly put, PWAs are a game-changer for eCommerce brands, effectively providing a remedy to many of the problems posed by mobile.
With many big-name companies like Starbucks, Walmart, Alibaba and others already employing PWA technology, 2021 appears to be the year this tech breaks into the mainstream eCommerce conversation.
Advanced Product Customization Normalization
Another emerging trend in 2020 that is poised to become a mainstream hit is the ability to personalize and customize products and experiences.
In many ways, this is already implemented by brands through personalized on-site product recommendations, email segmentation and other tactics. However, in 2021, this demand will be elevated to a new level.
The fact is that a recent consumer review by Deloitte revealed that one in five consumers is willing to pay more for personalized items. It is for this exact reason why brands like Nike, Levi’s and L’Oreal have all rolled out various product customization features that enable customers to obtain items crafted to their exact needs and/or specifications.
With the success of such features and an increasing demand for the ability to procure tailored products and experiences, 2021 is the year that customization technology will really take off in the eCommerce sector.
While 2020 brought many unexpected twists and turns for eCommerce retailers, 2021 (while potentially less tumultuous) will likely bring just as many changes.
To ensure that your brand remains prominent and profitable, it is vital to watch these eCommerce trends for 2021, adopt some of these inevitable changes and experiment with others to see what provides your brand with the best results.
Ronald Dod is the CMO and co-founder at Visiture.