The effects of the global pandemic pushed eCommerce to new heights during the year 2020. Billions of buyers opted to shop online, and many entrepreneurs satisfied this need by amping up their own internet operations.

Though experts anticipate in-person retail shopping to resume somewhat normal operations by the third quarter of 2021, there is strong evidence indicating eCommerce won’t see a diminished role anytime this year.

So, what can business owners expect to encounter in 2021 as an eCommerce provider? And, how can you leverage these industry leanings to stay current and competitive? Today, we’ll discuss ten of the hottest eCommerce trends you should familiarize yourself with now for online success in 2021.

10 of the Hottest eCommerce Trends to Utilize in 2021

  1. Voice Search
  2. Augmented Reality (AR)
  3. Customer Retention
  4. Focus on Fulfillment
  5. Green Consumerism
  6. Personalized Customer Experience
  7. Omnichannel Commerce
  8. B2B to D2C
  9. Social Advertising
  10. Marketplace Prominence

Voice Search

Speaking to smart devices is not something new, but market research indicates that purchasing directly through voice search will increase greatly in 2021. In fact, by 2025, Loop Ventures predicts that over 75% of households will own - and regularly use - a smart speaker. Many of those owners will utilize voice search to shop online, order goods, and organize their schedules.

To help consumers reach your store through voice search and other aspects of the Internet of Things, you’ll need to take advantage of headless eCommerce.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality is a visual, real-world experience, enhanced by digitally-generated information. Initially popular in the video-game world, business owners have begun to utilize this futuristic technology to augment the online shopping sensation.

Shoppers utilize AR in certain industries to gain a better feel for an item without actually seeing it in person. For example, a potential customer may be undecided on a certain home good, but, after seeing it virtually in their own living room, feel confident enough to make the purchase. In fact, studies indicate that 35% of people would shop online more often if their favorite stores utilized AR technology.

This year, experts anticipate AR usage to rise in the eCommerce world - and, not just among the fashion and design industries. Give some thought to the benefits your customers could gain by the implementation of an AR shopping experience.

Customer Retention

Though reaching new shoppers is always important, the cost of customer acquisition is soaring. This heightened competition in advertising has started to reinforce the importance of retaining current clients.

In fact, improving retention rates by a mere 5% increases company profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. It’s with good reason, then, that for many forward-thinking companies, customer retention has become a higher priority than customer acquisition.

Here are a few methods you can consider to increase customer retention during 2021:

  • Implement a loyalty program. In fact, 78% of consumers say a loyalty program encourages them to shop from a store again.
  • Offer product subscription services. Automatic re-purchasing programs are a profitable way to increase revenue and retain clients.
  • Focus on email and text message marketing. Customized email campaigns foster 18 times more revenue than other aspects of advertising, and a whopping 90% of text messages are viewed within only minutes of receipt.
  • Map current customers’ journeys. Identifying the conversion paths they took in the past can highlight your most profitable marketing methods. Plus, finding patterns among consecutive purchases made by the same shopper can help you better tailor cross-selling and up-selling endeavors to accelerate future customers’ second and third purchases.

Focus on Fulfillment

In 2021, customers will expect their packages to arrive faster, in sustainable packaging, and at no cost. In fact, 64% of all recorded consumers desire free shipping and take that factor into account when contemplating a purchase. Further, 67% of shoppers expect same-, next-, or two-day shipping. Unfortunately, soaring eCommerce demand, difficult postal cut-offs, and the sheer cost of fulfillment make fast and free shipping a point of pain for many entrepreneurs.

In 2021, the online businesses that will succeed are those using fulfillment as a strategic asset. Shipping cannot be left to chance, and, instead, must be automated and moved closer to the consumer. Free shipping thresholds must be instated in order to protect profit margins from the demand for quick and no-cost delivery.

Green Consumerism

Sustainability is another movement trending in the upward direction. As more shoppers become aware of their carbon footprint, they expect retailers to do the same. A study by Harvard Business Review found that 65% of buyers want to purchase from companies that promise some aspect of sustainability. Thus, consumers reward companies going above and beyond to focus on green consumerism.

Consider some of the following ways to incorporate sustainability into your business model:

  • Environmentally-friendly publications and packing materials
  • Refilling ink cartridges and other in-house utilities
  • Sustainable construction and building materials
  • Reduction of chemical usage
  • Repair/refurbishing programs
  • Energy auditing/green consulting
  • Non-profit, environmentally-focused donation program

Personalized Customer Experience

The increase of online activity during the pandemic heightened the competition among eCommerce stores. For that reason, during 2021, entrepreneurs need to work harder to engage with customers - not just to complete a purchase, but to create a lasting partnership.

A study by Smarter HQ shows that 72% of customers only engage with personalized messaging. So, this year, the focus is on providing a better, more targeted experience for new and past shoppers.

Experts encourage online entrepreneurs, when allowed, to save data on customers and use it to better-tailor marketing in the future, such as the due date of an expecting mother and appropriate time-line events thereafter (post-partum, baby’s first birthday, and so on). Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also trending upward. After all, since AI can adequately learn to speak with customers, it can aid you in better targeting specific shoppers for certain marketing campaigns.

Omnichannel Commerce

Omnichannel selling has been on the radar for a while, as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow ever larger. However, online expert Lauren Davis explains, “2021 will be the year this moves from something some are doing to something most are doing.” Considering the boom in online activity during the pandemic, businesses venturing into the world of omnichannel selling will have a strong edge over their competitors.

So, how can you leverage the power of omnichannel commerce? Begin by analyzing where your target customers are. Not just where they shop, but where they are. Ask yourself if they primarily work or take care of household business. Are your customers in their vehicles or their kitchen more often? What internet-based devices do they utilize frequently, and where do they spend free time? Once you identify certain devices where it would make sense from which your customers could shop, look into headless eCommerce to begin your omnichannel journey.

B2B to D2C

In 2021, more businesses are expected to transition from Business to Business (B2B) to Direct to Consumer (D2C) commerce. During the pandemic, consumers began to shop online out of necessity, rather than just luxury. Studies indicate that, though in-person consumerism will regulate itself again, more customers will prefer to shop online for goods that they need.

If you’re a current manufacturer selling B2B and want to take advantage of online traffic, start by setting up a small catalog from which users can shop. You can reach out to our eCommerce experts with any questions about what it takes to get started!

Social Advertising

Last year, Instagram rolled out their “Shops” feature. Tik Tok partnered with Shopify. All studies show that in 2021, social advertising will be more impactful than ever before. Social media isn’t just about getting likes and making your clients laugh anymore (though - both of those things are good, too). Social media has evolved into a platform where consumers go to search out new brands and explore innovative products.

Wield the power of social media to your advantage by placing your product directly in your customers’ view. Whether that means advertising through the platform or with the help of hired influencers, show your potential customers what you have to offer. Shoppable media performs exceptionally well on social media, so consider creating How-To’s, unboxings, or styling videos to captivate your audience and gain new shoppers.

Marketplace Prominence

In an interesting movement, eCommerce experts are finding that online customer behavior favors the convenience of shopping in a major marketplace, as opposed to a singular store. While small sites may have difficulty handling increases in traffic and heightened shipping fees, marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy have the backend experience and support to satisfy customers. Plus, the perks like free, next-day shipping have set the standard high.

So, what’s the take-home from this information? Well, don’t discard your Shopify store or close your Magento site just yet. The key to leveraging this trend lies in a proper balance. Expand your store onto some of the major marketplaces, offering limited-time deals or only a few product options. Then, with the promise of uniquely customized products and additional options, funnel that traffic back to your site, which presents as a well-planned, immersive experience, adequately representing all your brand has to offer.

Marketplaces help you reach more customers, but you shouldn’t rely on them as your main selling platform. As only a user, not the owner of the site, you don’t own the data collected from your purchase. This could become a road-block to your own growth down the line. Rather, balance selling a few items on the popular marketplaces to gain customers and then drive them back to your site as repeat customers.

Utilize eCommerce Trends to Surpass Your Competition & Solidify Your Online Legacy

Due to its inherent capabilities, online commerce is progressive and always evolving. Staying current with the industry’s trends and movements can help you to - not only stay afloat - but flourish. Consider carefully these ten, hot eCommerce trends, paying heed to how they may benefit you in 2021 and beyond.