Having long been a growing space, the profitability of eCommerce continues to explode. Global B2C eCommerce sales amounted to nearly $3.53 trillion in 2019, with those figures expected to nearly double by 2023. If anything, we’re likely to see an even bigger increase in sales than predicted by these pre-COVID-19 estimates, as eCommerce sales have seen massive growth and transformation since early 2020.
The pandemic has had an immediate impact on buyer behavior that has accelerated the digital transformation for many businesses. COVID injected nearly $107 billion in eCommerce sales in the US alone, with a 169% increase in eCommerce purchases coming from new or previously infrequent users.
Aside from a rapid shift to online buying behavior, COVID-19 has also increased the consumption of mobile and digital media. As people have turned to devices to fill the social gap, the consumer demand for personalized shopping experiences has increased. Consumer expectations for value have translated into many of the eCommerce trends we’re seeing in 2021.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe.
When figuring out how best to capitalize on this rapidly-changing consumer space, it’s worthwhile to consider the trends we’re seeing in digital commerce today.
eCommerce Trends for 2021
1. Sustainability Concerns
Sustainability is about balancing the needs of today against the environmental or social impacts on future generations. Customers today increasingly want to know about the environmental impact of their purchases — and they’re looking far beyond packaging alone. According to Nielsen, 73% of consumers would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.
While sustainable practices can increase business costs, consumers are willing to pay a premium for these practice, including:
- Product ingredients or source farming practices: Non-GMO, organic, no artificial ingredients, preservative-free, antibiotic free, paraben/sulfate-free
- Packaging: Recyclable or reduced packaging, and instructions on how and where to recycle materials
- Returns: Transparent returns practices, in light of increased scrutiny over returned products being destroyed
- Manufacturing: Ethical or sustainable manufacturing processes, as well as support of more local outlets
- Shipping: Products shipped as available or grouped to reduce packaging and the environmental impact of transportation
- Values: Brands that give back to their community (social or environmental) or demonstrate ethical responsibility and strong values in their marketing.
- Transparency: Product details (dimensions, weight, materials) to help consumers make the right decision and reduce returns
Brands must be careful not to “greenwash” in their marketing and be able to stand up to scrutiny on their advertised practices.
2. The Global Consumer Base
Thanks to the global nature of search, easier shipping and currency services, and the influence of social marketing, local companies are able to reach an international audience of consumers. Internationalizing your product or service reaps many benefits, helping you grow your customer base. 67% of online apparel shoppers have made recent cross-border purchases, with global eCommerce expected to grow at a CAGR of almost 20% to reach $18.89 trillion by 2027.
The desire for live customer service, ever-present language barriers, and compliance with data security laws add complexity to a global customer base — none of which are insurmountable, but all of which must be dealt with thoughtfully.
3. Use of Video and Interactive Content
Shoppable photos and interactive videos are the new frontier in eCommerce. Taking off on social platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, these interactive marketing elements (“shoppertainment”) allow viewers to purchase featured products directly through a pop-up.
Shoppable video experiences meet the viewers where they are, have the potential to unlock valuable user data, and empower brands to connect with consumers through more meaningful interactions. – Rose Tsou, Venture Beat
Shoppable content can be presented with a “swipe up” or embedded links to the product overlaid on videos on social media, but interactive content and videos can be used anywhere in your marketing. Interactive content can include quizzes, polls, interactive emails, webinars, contests, interactive product demonstrations, product customization features, or calculators.
4. The Rise of B2B eCommerce
eCommerce has mostly been B2C since it began some two decades ago, but B2B eCommerce is on the rise. In fact, Global B2B eCommerce sales were estimated to reach over $6.6 trillion for 2020 — nearly double the estimate for B2C.
B2B eCommerce is shifting away from the heavy use of sales reps to introduce greater self-service options, as well as a growth in up-sell and cross-sell products and services. As the Millennial workforce ages into the role of B2B purchaser, B2B eCommerce experiences will need to mirror B2C experiences to meet consumer expectations.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe.
5. Selling through Social Media
Brands are moving toward where users are spending their time: social media. This social discovery is helping to create a new path to growth that doesn’t rely on search rankings.
In 2021, we are moving past simple “social media marketing” (this paid and unpaid marketing on social media) toward “social commerce,” a more direct selling of goods and services on social platforms. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook can connect to your eCommerce platform to start tagging products in your posts for direct purchase. Having “Buy” buttons on Facebook and Instagram make it easy for consumers to purchase your products.
6. Omnichannel Ad Spends
Most retailers today are multichannel: they sell products across many different channels, whether retail, online, or social. In this framework, each channel is supported independently by different staff. In 2021, retailers are shifting toward an omnichannel experience that shares a single inventory and buying platform and customer support experience. The purpose of omnichannel is to keep customers moving along the buyer journey no matter where they are at the moment.
Omnichannel advertising reflects this same continuity of experience for the consumer. For example, a customer abandons their cart on your eCommerce website. You opt to target that customer on Facebook with a coupon or incentive to re-engage. Omnichannel advertising creates a seamless message that adjusts to your customer based on the behavior of the sales funnel, providing a personalized experience.
7. Customized Packaging
Beyond the need for “green” packaging, the trend toward customized packaging highlights one way to make your products stand out from those of your competitors. Customizing may be specific to your brand or even directly tied to your customer with personalized touches. These trends are particularly acute with subscription boxes to add the “premium” factor to the experience.
Customized packaging can enhance your brand value, draw attention to environmental practices, or encourage online “unboxing” experiences that translate into social proof.
As noissue has put it,
Premium eCommerce packaging has therefore evolved into a clever post-purchase marketing strategy to inspire brand loyalty.
8. The Rise of Voice Shopping
Powered by digital home assistants such as Shop with Alexa (Amazon) people are starting to shop online via voice commands. It is projected that voice shopping will reach $40 billion in the US by 2022, a number still in its infancy. Already, voice searches represent an important step in the omnichannel experience, with 30.7 million US consumers projected to experience some stage of shopping with a smart speaker in 2020.
9. Minimalist Design
Consumers are responding to increasing online clutter with a desire for products (and product pages) that look clean and simple. Most of the Top 9 Winning eCommerce Designs for 2020 included a minimalist design, with 2021 introducing minimalist color palettes that include white, tan, grey, and other neutrals. Minimalist design focuses on:
- Neutral backgrounds
- Centralizing the navigation menu rather than a hero image
- Plain text and simple graphics
- Minimal navigation items
- Central search
- Clean product pages with pop-under descriptions
10. The Growing Importance of User-Generated Content
Word of mouth has always been a powerful force in marketing, with online reviews and other user-generated content (including photos) directly influencing buyer confidence and trust. In 2021, many online consumers won’t even purchase a product if they can’t read user-generated reviews about a product.
Types of user-generated content include:
- Organic social photos & content boosted by brands
- Online reviews (text, photos, ratings)
- Embedded social photos on product pages
- Influencer marketing
- FAQ forums and discussion boards
11. The Need for Mobile eCommerce Sites
Consumers are shopping on their phones in increasing numbers, with mobile eCommerce anticipated to claim 73% of the global eCommerce market in 2021, up from 59% in 2017. Given this growth, eCommerce must become increasingly mobile-oriented by design, rather than as an afterthought.
Given the limitations around mobile browsing, many brands are investing in mobile apps for eCommerce to add greater value, demonstrated to increase conversion, revenue, and loyalty.
Get Ahead in 2021
eCommerce has never been more important than it is today. Understanding the latest trends in retailing, consumer expectations, design trends, and technology is important to unlocking the potential of your ability to build brand loyalty and attract new customers.
From single-product pages to comprehensive omnichannel experiences, Net Solutions brings a team of experienced designers and programmers who know how to develop shopping experiences that delight your customers.