August 12, 1994, is of great significance to the history of eCommerce. As reported by the New York Times, it was when a group of internet entrepreneurs celebrated what was then the first online retail transaction backed by data encryption to ensure privacy. The product that exchanged the virtual hands? A music CD of Sting.
eCommerce, along with the world itself, has come a long way since that seminal moment. For example, the industry clocked a shade over $3.5 trillion in 2019 sales and is projected to almost double that figure by 2022. This phenomenal growth was first incentivized by the safety and privacy assured by the aforementioned data encryption.
Thereafter, it has been powered by a string of eCommerce trends such as a wide product catalogue, fast shipping, discounted pricing, multiple payment methods, and excellent service. In fact, as the sector matured, analysing and adopting the right eCommerce trends became the key to success.
As we approach 2021, here’s a look at seven eCommerce trends that you must prepare for to achieve sustained success.
The COVID-19 Factor: 2021 Will Be Good for eCommerce
There’s no disputing that the pandemic has been bad for business, except if you’re into eCommerce. Just ask Jeff Bezos, whose notional wealth swelled by $24 billion on the back of increased demand for Amazon’s services.
eCommerce has grown by leaps and bounds as people around the world were forced to stay and work from home because of the pandemic. More importantly, this spike is not expected to be temporary as people are getting used to the idea of paying and receiving their products contactless-ly.
Analysts corroborate this shift too as they predict eCommerce will be the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic with an increase in the penetration rate from 15% today to 25% by 2025. The penetration rate is defined as the percentage of total households in a specific area that has bought something online at least once in the preceding 12 months.
This is all the more reason why eCommerce sellers need to up their game by adopting these eCommerce trends in 2021.
2021 eCommerce Trends to Watch Out and Prepare For
1) Voice Commerce
People are using smart home speakers for more than just playing songs and turning on the lights. Roughly 20% of them are believed to use smart home assistants for shopping-related stuff such as researching products, ordering them, creating reminders, and tracking deliveries.
This is important because over 55% of American households are expected to use smart home assistants by 2025, representing 100 million households. That’s a huge section of the market that most eCommerce sellers today are either ignoring or not paying enough attention to.
So, how to make your eCommerce store voice search compatible? Start with optimizing your store’s content for voice search. Follow that up by enabling voice search for your website/app and ensuring your products can be purchased entirely through voice commands.
2) Mobile Commerce
Mobile’s share of total eCommerce sales has been rising steadily – from 52.7% in 2016 to a projected 72.9% by 2021. But mobile eCommerce customers are also harder to impress than their desktop counterparts as over 30% of them quit a transaction if they feel an eCommerce store is not mobile-friendly.
The solution though is simple – make your eCommerce store as mobile-friendly as possible to benefit from the mobile commerce trend. Putting your site through the mobile-friendliness test is a good start as it tells you if your store is responsive and if it has any loading issues.
You can also tie-up with a custom web application development company to build a PWA (Progressive Web App), which offers the speed and functionality of a mobile app but within a web framework. You can also implement AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), make the checkout process smoother and faster, and manually test your site.
3) Artificial Intelligence
AI in eCommerce helps you to automate repetitive aspects related to selling, providing support, and marketing, allowing you to focus on more pressing business problems. Online sellers have begun to appreciate this facet of AI, which is why eCommerce AI spend is expected to cross $7 billion by 2022.
Artificial intelligence acts a force-multiplier for your eCommerce operations as it reduces the need for human intervention. For instance, chatbots have grown to the point where 69% of consumers prefer interacting with them over humans for quick communication.
AI also opens up upselling and cross-selling opportunities as it automatically recommends relevant products to your store’s visitors based on their browsing and purchase history. This level of personalization helps you to grow your base of repeat and loyal customers, thus increasing the LTV (Lifetime Value) of each customer.
4) Augmented Reality
AR bridges a vital gap in the eCommerce experience – the ability to feel a product up close and personal before buying it. This aspect was the biggest advantage that physical retail stores enjoyed over their online counterparts, one that was significant enough to override eCommerce’s convenience and attractive pricing.
This capability of AR is even more important COVID-19-affected world where social distancing and minimizing physical contact have made touch-and-feel a no-go. In fact, many physical retail stores selling personal items such as apparel and accessories have been forced to restrict their ‘try before you buy’ policy due to the pandemic.
Your customers too would prefer to avoid the safety risks and hassles attached to buying from brick and mortar stores. You can incentivize this behaviour further by investing in AR technologies that can help your customers get a feel of your product but from the safer environment of their home.
However, AR would’ve been a good investment even if it were not for the pandemic, as proven by ABI Research’s prediction that over 120,000 stores would use AR technologies by 2022. The most notable among these was IKEA, whose AR app launched in 2017 allowed buyers to test the brand’s offerings in real-time with high accuracy.
5) Sustainable Commerce
Thanks to greater awareness about climate change, consumers are demanding more accountability from their favourite brands when it comes to sustainability. Also known as green consumerism, sustainable commerce is when buyers prefer products made in an eco-friendly manner with some level of recycling.
65% of consumers say they would want to do business with a brand that abides by sustainable commerce practices. This is clear proof that eCommerce brands which place a premium on sustainability will dominate the consumers’ mind space as well as their wallet in the years to come.
To make your eCommerce store more environmentally responsible, start with simple steps that communicate your intent to your customer. This includes offering eco-friendly packaging, going paperless to the extent possible, and highlighting the eco-friendliness of your products.
6) Hyper Personalization
As convenient as it is, there’s no denying that there’s an element of coldness to online shopping. The buying experience is tiringly uniform across different eCommerce stores, save for the variation in UI. This leads to a situation where consumers often hop across stores as there’s no hook to make them stay and complete a purchase.
This is exactly the problem that personalization addresses by inducing a human-like warmth to your consumer’s buying experience. Consumers too are aware of this as 84% say that being treated like a person, and not just a number, is key to winning their business.
What constitutes being treated like a person? Something as basic as product recommendations based on purchase history, personalized communication, relevant discounts, and useful content go a long way in making your customers feel valued.
7) Omnichannel Commerce
Omnichannel commerce is the strategy of making your products available across different channels to consumers who are searching for them. For instance, omnichannel includes your online storefront, social media channels, physical kiosks, retail pick-up points, and online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay etc.
A 2017 study that covered over 46,000 consumers had 73% of respondents saying that they used more than one channel when buying a product. With the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, it’s safe to say that more and more consumers are initiating and concluding their buying journey on different devices and channels.
For instance, a consumer may use mobile search to look for a product, social media to read its reviews, YouTube to watch videos about it, a computer to compare prices, a mobile payment gateway to complete the purchase, and a physical store, pick-up point, or doorstep delivery to receive the product.
By investing in an omnichannel setup, you can offer a seamless buying experience across different channels. Things you can do to that end include optimizing your site for mobile, hire dedicated developer to build a mobile app or PWA, personalize the buying experience, and offer multiple purchase options.
Grab the Opportunity that eCommerce Offers in 2021
eCommerce will continue to grow at breakneck pace next year and businesses that want to do well must invest in these 2021 eCommerce trends for guaranteed success. Consumers will prefer the safety and convenience offered by online stores and will actively patronise stores that offer the personalized experience of their retail counterparts.
If you need help with adapting your eCommerce store for these trends, shoot us a message. As an eCommerce website development company, we’ve built and maintained eCommerce storefronts for entrepreneurs from around the world for over a decade, which helps us spot eCommerce trends quickly and integrate them seamlessly.
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