5 eCommerce Trends Your Brand Needs to Harness in 2021

Looking at the eCommerce trends for 2020 provides a roadmap for 2021

It’s now a cliché to observe that 2020 saw a decade’s worth of digital transformation crammed into six months. But what exactly does that mean for eCommerce directors and heads of digital? What exactly do the eCommerce statistics for 2020 prove? Looking back at eCommerce 2020, what are the key trends brands need to respond to if they want to remain competitive in 2021?

(1) The rise of interactivity

In mid-2020, Forbes contributor Jia Wertz observed, “The COVID pandemic has shifted eCommerce maybe more than any time in history”. 

In the same article, she identified three emerging growth trends eCommerce businesses could no longer risk ignoring. One was interactivity. Wertz noted, “In 2020 online reviews are not enough to convince a customer to buy… consumers need to trust the company, product and experience”.
Long story short, even if they are unable or unwilling to physically examine goods, consumers still want to somehow size them up.

Wertz merely recommends online retailers provide 360-degree viewing images to meet this demand. But more innovative companies are experimenting with AR and a handful of multinationals have even been testing out VR-facilitated immersive adventures. 2020 also arguably represented a tipping point where smart speakers went from a novelty to a household fixture. 

So, what does all this mean for eCommerce players? 

First, consumers will increasingly expect to be able to try (in cyberspace) before they buy. If your website only has static images, you’ll need to up your game. Secondly, if you want Siri-and-Alexa-dependent consumers to find your site in the first place, they’ll need to optimise it for voice search.  

(2) Customisation as the key to customer success

Another trend that has taken the eCommerce industry by storm is personalisation tech, which has brought customisation to the masses. Done well, personalisation boosts sales. Two types of personalisation seem to be particularly effective at getting consumers spending are: 

Customisable products 

Henry Ford famously told his customers they could have their car in any colour they liked as long as it was black. Smart operators now let their customers choose any colour they want

Personalised customer journeys

The likes of Netflix and Facebook have trained consumers to expect businesses will expertly profile them. Then provide them with a pleasingly bespoke customer experience (and, ideally, bespoke goods and services.) Even when dealing with a corporate behemoth, consumers want to feel like they're chatting with their barista. Corporations such as Target, IKEA and Walmart that use powerful AI tools to better understand their customers have long been reaping the rewards

Smaller eCommerce businesses can’t and don’t need to push the personalisation envelope the way corporate heavy hitters are. However, they do need to respond to changing consumer preferences. More than ever before, businesses need to leverage the data they possess (via things such as their CRMs and transaction systems). They then need to pair data analytics with human insight to determine where personalisation should occur in the user experience. If your business can’t offer work out ways to offer bespoke experiences at scale, it will struggle to remain competitive.  

(3) The growth of flexible payments

In 2021, unnecessary friction at the checkout will, more than ever before, cost sales. If they don’t already, consumers will soon expect to be able to pay however they want to pay. That might mean Apple Pay, PayPal, a credit card or even a buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider. 

BNPL is to Generations Y and Z what credit cards were to Boomers in the 1970s. If you don’t offer a BNPL option during the checkout process, you’re going to lose revenue, especially if your customers skew young. While there is ordinarily nothing native about the payment plans offered by most BNPL providers, Limepay allows consumers to checkout directly with their favourite brands without signing up to a third party account or installing any new apps - right there on the merchant's site. 

At a minimum, eCommerce businesses should now be providing the widest range of payment options they can, including a native BNPL option. If they can implement a solution like Limepay's that also provides a native payment processor for credit cards as well as a complete white-label BNPL solution, - then we say  "all the better." 

(4) Increased sustainability as consumers become more environmentally conscious

The big news stories of 2020 were Coronavirus and Greta Thunberg. People will eventually stop worrying about the pandemic. But their concern about the planet is only likely to grow. eCommerce product trends 2020 show consumers respond positively to the following: 

Reduced carbon delivery
Consumers want eCommerce businesses to decarbonise. They want them to use trains rather than trucks, embrace renewable energy and electrify the last-mile delivery of goods. 

Eco-friendly materials 

Consumers are now turned off by excessive packaging, especially of the non-biodegradable kind. They also say they prefer products made with recyclable materials

Sustainable supply chains
Bare supermarket shelves prompted many consumers to think about supply chains. Unsurprisingly, they now want them to be ethical and environmentally sustainable as well as reliable.  

Implementing all of the above will be impossible in the short term for most eCommerce businesses. So, it’s a matter of demonstrating to consumers your business is doing what it can. For instance, switching to 100% renewable energy in 2021 will likely reassure customers that your business shares their commitment to sustainability.  

(5) The evolving role of social media

Many pundits jumped at the chance to declare the Coronavirus killed influencer marketing. But Wertz, who nominates ‘Social Commerce through Celebrity Endorsements’ as one of his three significant eCommerce trends, points out companies are increasing their influencer marketing budgets. Which makes sense in an economically turbulent era given influencer content is usually both cheaper and more effective than content created by agencies.  

Consumers are more likely to buy if they can do it on the social network they are browsing, rather than clicking through to an online shop. The more innovative influencers are now making it possible for their fans to buy merch without leaving Instagram (or Facebook, YouTube, Tik Tok etc).  

The takeaway? Don’t believe the hype about the death of influencer marketing and ensure you make it easier for your customers to buy from you by disintermediating the online shop.

Adapt and prosper

Those eCommerce businesses that give consumers what they have increasingly been demanding in 2020 -  more interactivity, customisation, payment options, sustainability and social-media facilitated purchasing opportunities - will be well-placed to enjoy a bumper 2021.

Keen to see how Limepay is transforming the eCommerce industry? Check out our free demo today.

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