Top eCommerce Trends in 2021

2020 has come and gone, which means it’s finally time to say hello to 2021! Aside from giving us a little extra pep in our step, ringing in the new year usually signifies a period of regrouping and reassessment for business owners everywhere. 

2021 will be especially significant as the world continues to cope with a global pandemic that has invoked major change across all societal sectors. While the end of COVID-19 is (hopefully) near, its effects will have an enduring presence on the retail landscape and, subsequently, this year’s eCommerce trends. To get up to speed, just keep reading!

Stiff Competition

With a 30.4% YoY growth from 2019, it’s safe to say that eCommerce sales have absolutely skyrocketed, essentially jumpstarting the industry by nearly two years. By now, the reasons can be clearly pinpointed — namely, the physical inability to shop at brick-and-mortar locations has turned everyone with an internet connection into online shopping devotees. 

The result? Millions of first-time entrepreneurs, mid-market companies, and eCommerce giants looking to cash in on the unprecedented demand, thereby facilitating the fierce rise of online competition. 

Marketplace Dominance

Those of you who remember our breakdown of shopping carts and marketplaces can add another pro to opting for the latter, as marketplaces are predicted to edge out shopping carts — a.k.a. standalone eCommerce stores — by a significant margin, mostly due to the sheer convenience of navigating crowd favorites like Amazon and Etsy.

Now, we’re not saying to drop your Shopify store or bid adieu to your beloved shopping cart plugin. Instead, simply diversify your sales channels — the more the merrier! Think of marketplaces as another way to get your products out there, and make sure to adapt to each platform accordingly.

New Buying Habits

Before 2020, there was a clear distinction between online and offline purchases. For most people, a quick trip to the grocery store was such an ingrained part of their daily routine that it was seldom given a second thought.

Of course, all of that changed with COVID-19, which forced the world to rely on eCommerce in order to fulfill basic needs like buying fresh produce or racing to secure a pack of toilet paper. While this practice is expected to subside somewhat, it has introduced a range of possibilities that business owners would be wise to keep an eye on.

Subscribe and Save

Subscription services rejoice! The shift in buying habits means that household essentials, personal care items, and other products of a cyclical nature are having their moment in the digital sun. The ease of “setting and forgetting” these types of purchases is just too good to pass up, and companies like Dollar Shave Club are testaments to this trend’s growing popularity.

Sustainable Consumerism

Green is in, and we’re not just talkin’ cash! According to a study by Nielsen, 81% of consumers worldwide “feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.” Sustainability is not only becoming the latest buzzword, but also a genuine concern for those who are interested in lessening their carbon footprint and contributing to a healthier planet. The spotlight on corporate social responsibility is continuously getting brighter, and eCommerce companies of all shapes and sizes are expected to step up to the stage.

Tip: Why not start with eco-friendly packaging?

AI & AR Drive Personalization

Technology just keeps getting smarter. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality) are transforming eCommerce by creating one-of-a-kind personalization, allowing customers to, among other capabilities, receive customized product recommendations and even try on their shopping cart items virtually. Although not universally adopted by digital retailers, AI and AR are projected to keep pushing boundaries in an attempt to create a fully immersive online experience.

eCommerce Gets Vocal

While shopping using only your voice sounds like a plot device for a futuristic novel, voice commerce is actually one of the biggest trends of 2021 and beyond. In fact, by 2022, voice commerce sales are expected to reach $40 million. Better to be on Alexa’s good side!

Social Media Joins the Fun

If you’re an avid user of Instagram (aren’t we all?), you might have noticed that things look, well, a little different. Most notably, the Activity tab has been replaced by Instagram Shop, which lets users peruse online stores (usually small businesses) and view a curated feed of shoppable products. And, with Instagram Checkout, customers can browse and buy without ever leaving the app. 

Instagram isn’t the only culprit, as virtually all major social media platforms have tuned their antennas to the immense eCommerce potential of their extensive user bases.

Mobile Matters

Did you know that almost half of eCommerce traffic comes from smartphones? By 2022, that number is expected to climb to 68%. Those tiny little screens are here to stay, which makes mobile optimization a top priority for business owners looking to drive conversions

Payment Options Galore

We hope you’ve done your stretching, because it’s time to get flexible. Gone are the days of only accepting debit and credit cards, as digital wallets (like Google and Amazon Pay), BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later), and even cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) become part of the norm.

The Fulfillment Factor

We’ve been evangelizing the fulfillment gospel since 2014, and each passing year is proof that fulfillment does matter. More than ever, online shoppers are becoming increasingly savvy to the wills and wiles of the logistics world, paying close attention to everything from the shipping methods available at checkout to the unboxing experience. So, if you want to lead the pack, partnering with the perfect 3PL is pretty much non-negotiable. 🤷‍♀️

And there you have it! Consider yourself prepped and primed for what’s to come in 2021 – provided, of course, that we won’t be dealt any major wildcards anytime soon. Our final words of wisdom are these: Despite all the newest trends, only incorporate what makes sense for you and your business. After all, you’re your own expert! But, as always, if you have questions, give us a shout!

P.S. Want to always stay up-to-date? Start the year off on the right foot by subscribing to the blog newsletter!