Of the many ways to describe 2020, one phrase unlikely to be used is “business as usual”. Businesses the world over have been forced to make significant changes in their operations or risk closing doors permanently. This has ushered in an era of impressive growth and ingenuity within e-commerce. While retail slowed down, with customers being unable to physically visit stores, online sales smashed projections and broke records.
Emerging E-commerce Trends for 2021
E-commerce in 2021 shows no sign of slowing down. The following trends are examples of the innovations pushing e-commerce adoption and sales forward:
- Extending experience beyond the website
- Bringing an in-store experience online
- Expanding loyalty programs.
- Diversifying payment options.
- Improving website performance and core vitals
Extending the experience beyond the website
The most prominent and impactful trend in e-commerce of late is the move toward what’s known as omnichannel commerce. Previously, as brick-and-mortar retailers expanded into different digital avenues for selling, they employed a multichannel approach, meaning different options for shopping (e.g. physical stores, e-commerce websites, mobile apps) had their own infrastructure, with very little interconnectivity between them.
Omnichannel solutions on the other hand offer a unified, seamless experience across all purchasing platforms to better serve the customer. A customer, for instance, can make a purchase directly from a social media ad, arrange for curbside pickup at a physical store, and coordinate a return through a seller’s online portal.
Bringing in-store experiences online
Many consumers, despite major shifts in behaviour, still prefer aspects of an in-person retail experience, such as tangible interactions with salespeople and with products themselves.
Retailers are consequently turning to unique technological solutions that bridge this gap. To approximate the experience of speaking one-on-one with a sales representative Live Chat Functions or Video Conferencing Software have been gaining popularity. AR (Augmented Reality) is helping shoppers visualize larger purchases in their own spaces.
Expanding loyalty programs
Loyalty or Reward programs have been a growing trend for retail in recent years. They’re a benefit to retailers in the way they can encourage repeat business and accumulate detailed customer data. Establishing a strong e-commerce presence means extending these benefits (for buyer and seller alike) to the online experience.
A diverse loyalty program is an extension of an Omnichannel Commerce environment; if a customer is confident using such a program across more platforms, they’re more likely to shop with this company.
Providing diverse payment options
Another way that e-commerce entities are evolving, in ways similar to traditional brick and mortar stores, is how they offer growing numbers of payment options for customers.
Services like Apple Pay and Google Pay are being integrated into online shopping carts for transaction simplicity. For bigger ticket purchases, online financing providers, such as Afterpay, Paybright, or Flexiti, provide a relatively short-term alternative to store-specific financing and credit cards.
Improving website performance
At their core, e-commerce websites are still websites. They must be optimized for search engines as well as customers.
Google’s upcoming major algorithm change, with its focus on Core Web Vitals, is going to impact e-commerce sites in a major way. Managing and optimizing these sites presents unique challenges when compared to simpler websites. Some common performance enhancements don’t apply to shopping cart sites for instance. Content structure is generally more complex, and needs to be streamlined for mobile devices without sacrificing usability. We have to be very mindful of such hurdles when working on data and layout elements.
Overall, the prevailing theme across e-commerce trends is lowering the barrier to entry for customers still reluctant to adopt online shopping.
The Future of E-Commerce Post Pandemic
While restrictions in place due to COVID-19 have pushed consumers to adapt, it’s up to businesses to make the transition as comfortable and inviting as possible to gain a competitive edge in a rapidly expanding market. Learn more about the effective digital marketing strategies businesses have embraced to pivot in uncertain times.
As we eventually transition into a post-pandemic world, we may see other factors influence change and growth in e-commerce. There is little doubt though, that we’ll continue to see businesses pivot to the online marketplace confidently, using increasingly advanced technology to succeed.