When we sat down at the end of 2019 to share our predictions for what ecommerce would look like in 2020, it’s safe to say that none of us were envisioning the events that have played out across the global stage over the last 12 months.
It’s been quite the year for ecommerce. We’ve witnessed a rapid acceleration in the growth of online retail, culminating in a record-breaking BFCM weekend for Shopify merchants. There was a phenomenal $5.1+ billion in global sales over the famous four-day sales period – that’s 76% up from 2019!
Now, as we look ahead to 2021, who knows where the year could take us. With COVID-19 restrictions likely to be in place throughout Q1 as various vaccination programs roll out, will ecommerce continue its upwards trajectory? And what trends might emerge as retailers continue to navigate their way through a fast-evolving retail climate?
Let’s see what some of our very own ecommerce experts are predicting for 2021 ecommerce trends …
Sean Clanchy, Director of Swanky Australia & Head of Optimisation
I predict that merchants who make the biggest effort to humanise their brands will see the biggest results in 2021. Having had a year of limited human interaction, I think merchants who lean into things like VIP shopping experiences, video concierge shopping and virtual F2F customer service will stand out from the crowd and differentiate their brands – adding a “human element” for a consumer base who are interaction starved at the moment.
Also, expect to see a rise in video chat support and sale systems like UseHero and Talkative throughout 2021 – particularly for premium product lines.
Matt Abbott, Head of Growth
For me, one of the biggest ecommerce trends of 2021 will be ‘reCommerce’. We’re all expecting a severe financial downturn in 2021, but the price of goods won’t be the only driving factor for the second-hand resurgence.
Demand for sustainable commerce is becoming more prevalent because of the environmental crisis we’re facing. Conscious consumerism is rising amongst the younger, cause-led, more tech-savvy market, and with it becoming increasingly difficult to find second-hand items on Facebook Marketplace and Ebay, I predict several innovations coming to market for brands that are able to resell second hand, refurbished or like-new goods; they might even facilitate consumer-to-consumer marketplaces.
2021 presents a great opportunity for retailers to reduce waste and keep their products alive for a bit longer, albeit in another pair of hands.
Suzannah Cranwell, New Build Service Team Lead
I think we’ll see increased use of blockchain technology within the ecommerce industry in 2021. Firstly, to provide transparency throughout supply chains, particularly around the origin of materials and quality assurance of factories etc. Secondly, it’s a way for luxury brands to police counterfeiting, by confirming authenticity of products.
Next up, last mile logistics. Companies will be just as concerned about their logistics strategy as their ad strategy in 2021. There’s no point driving demand if you can’t then deliver against it, so expect to see retailers working hard to optimise the last leg of their supply chain.
Finally, channel synchronisation is surely going to be big news in ecommerce over the coming year. Driven by Amazon (who else!) across Prime TV, Prime Gaming, Prime on-site, I think we’ll see more companies leveraging their entire communication ecosystems to increase spend by merchants across their entire suite of advertising channels.
Amanda Skinner, CRO Consultant
It doesn’t need to be said that 2020 has been a strange and unpredictable year! There was a large shift in the way we purchase goods, and the once sought-after weekend shopping trip became a quick online browse in the midst of our WFH lunch break. As the world locked down, ecommerce opened up and grew faster than we’ve ever seen. This upward trend in online shopping isn’t expected to lose too much traction as we move into the new year. As the world slowly opens back up and bricks-and-mortar sales are making their comeback, the ecommerce space is more competitive and crowded than ever.
A big challenge for ecommerce retailers in 2021 will be keeping up with the higher level of customer expectations. It’s much easier to browse around for a better deal when shopping online, and in a time when getting that sale is more crucial than ever, it’s important to get it right and avoid losing that opportunity to secure a customer.
To meet or exceed ever-increasing customer expectations in 2021, retailers must:
- Provide a consistent experience across all devices – mobile, desktop and app.
- Offer payment options – Apple Pay, PayPal etc, as well as Klarna, ClearPay or LayBuy.
- Leverage personalisation to get the right product in front of the right customer, based on recent buying behaviour. This will reduce decision time and get the customer into the purchase path.
- Offer low cost or free returns.
- Provide high quality customer service.
- Invest in local fulfilment options to cut down on shipping time for cross border sales.
Data driven decision making will continue to underpin ecommerce strategy over the coming year. Retailers should be using customer behaviour to map out trends and respond accordingly. The best people to tell you what your customers want to see are your customers themselves, so ask the right questions and listen to the answers, then combine that with the data and you’re already leaps ahead of the competition.
Another trend I think we’ll see in 2021 is augmented reality. Of course, this was already on the rise before COVID hit, but it’s set to accelerate as a result of brick-and-mortar store closures. Imagine you’re shopping for a new lipstick. You can’t go to the shops to ‘try before you buy’, and purchasing a new lipstick online is difficult as the colour swatches never truly represent the colour on you. Thanks to AR, more and more beauty brands are investing in technology that will allow you to see your face live on screen while the lipstick is applied, bringing the boutique experience in a COVID safe way! Charlotte Tilbury is a great example to check out. This could be a decisive differentiator for fashion brands too – if a competitor shows the customer what the “item looks like on” and you don’t, you could miss out on their purchase.
Basically, expect the unexpected and take an innovative and agile approach to 2021!
Sammy Fraser, Digital Strategy Manager
With the overwhelming impact that COVID-19 has had on the economy, there has been a large amount of focus around shopping small and independent rather than giving money to large and wealthy corporations. Consumers increasingly want to use their spending power to help support a host of good causes. I believe in 2021, consumers will become even more aware of who they are buying from. Small independents or brands that have a strong corporate social responsibility will succeed as customers become more conscious of the impact that their buying decisions have on the world around them.
Consumers are smart and savvy, but they’re short of time and impatient to confusing and un-intuitive digital experiences. Earlier this year, Google emphasised the importance of overall UX by warning the addition of page experience to their latest algorithm for ranking websites in 2021. With this in mind, the ability to understand your customers’ needs when they reach the site and reacting with clear, concise and accessible experiences for your target audience has never been so important.
Finally, personalisation has been increasing in popularity for a while now, and is nothing new. In 2021, I think it will become more of an expectation from customers. Brands who can implement it well and increase relevance with every interaction will benefit from a competitive edge, as well as more satisfied, loyal customers.
Thanks to our Shopify experts for giving their take on trends to watch in the ecommerce industry next year. Will their predictions translate into reality? Only time will tell!
2020 has been a stark reminder to expect the unexpected. Maintaining an agile approach to ecommerce will help your business adapt to industry changes at pace, ensuring you’re not left behind in an increasingly-competitive market.
Your Shopify Plus experts
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