Kicking things off with a disclaimer, the term ‘upcoming’ may be slightly misleading to an extent. This is because the vast majority of the trends we’ll be discussing below are already making a major impact on the ecommerce landscape.
It’s just that throughout 2021, you can expect to see a lot more of them.
Making accurate predictions given the lingering nature of the COVID-19 saga isn’t proving particularly easy for most industries. However, ecommerce is proving to be a major exception to the rule.
With much of the world’s population having been stuck at home for most of the past year, ecommerce evolution has accelerated at a pace none could have predicted. It’s now estimated that by the end of 2022, total global ecommerce revenues will reach $6.54 trillion.
As recently as 2019, the figure stood at just $3.53 trillion – an extraordinary increase within the space of three years.
For anyone looking to claim their share of this growing windfall, it’s the case of looking long and hard at the major trends set to dominate the landscape in 2021 and beyond. Of which, the following are likely to prove the most prominent of all:
1. Voice Commerce Will Grow in Popularity
It’s been around for some time, but it finally looks like 2021 will be the year of voice commerce. When you consider the adoption rates of devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo, you get a clear idea of where the whole thing is headed. In the United States for example, the total combined value of the voice commerce sales bracket by the end of 2022 is expected to hit $40 billion. Even more importantly, up to 75% of all consumer households could be using this kind of smart technology within the next five years.
Optimising for voice search means revisiting your SEO strategy and reconsidering your choice of search terms. Those who conduct product and business searches using voice search have a tendency to use far more detailed and conversational search terms than those keying them into a traditional search engine. If you want to leverage the growing popularity of voice commerce in 2021, you need to set your sight on these shoppers starting right now.
2. Further Expansion of Omnichannel Shopping
Omnichannel shopping simply means making your online retail efforts as flexible and accessible as possible for a broad audience of shoppers. It also means focusing heavily on consistency and seamlessness, meaning that everyone is treated to the same high quality experience – irrespective of their preferred channel. It’s been estimated byHarvard Business Review that almost three quarters of online shoppers buy products via a variety of devices and channels when shopping online. The more accommodating you are, the more people you’re likely to win over as a result.
The most obvious example of omnichannel commerce is selling your products via a multitude of online and offline stores/marketplaces. It also means offering as many purchase options as possible, such as click and collect, buy in store for home delivery, buy online for home delivery and so on. Voice commerce optimisation also represents another important omnichannel ecommerce trend for the year ahead.
3. Cryptocurrency Payments
The meteoric spike of Bitcoin’s value beyond $40,000 at the beginning of 2021 didn’t escape the attention of the general public. If cryptocurrency wasn’t already a uniquely curious and appealing prospect, it most certainly is now. Increasingly, those who had no interest whatsoever in cryptocurrency investments are deciding to dabble in things like digital wallets, Bitcoin and other forms of virtual currency.
This is something that’s unlikely to wane at any point in the near future at least. For the time being, therefore, you can expect to see a steady rise in the number of people expecting online stores to accept cryptocurrency payments. For the retailer, the bonus of Bitcoin lies in low (or zero) transaction fees, no reverse transactions and better overall security than most comparable payment methods. Though the volatility of Bitcoin must be carefully considered by anyone looking to make an investment in cryptocurrency.
4. The Rise of Dynamic Pricing Policies
Dynamic pricing simply means avoiding the temptation to assign prices to your products and leave them untouched indefinitely. In today’s competitive ecommerce landscape, this is almost always a recipe for disaster. Even if you price your products as strategically as possible and get things right on the money (pun intended) today, your prices could be completely misaligned with those of your competitors tomorrow.
Dynamic pricing software can help, but isn’t an outright replacement for strategic and thoughtful pricing. You need to think about what your competitors are charging, how your offer is superior to those in some way and how much your customers are willing to pay. All of which needs to be considered on a continuous basis – a static pricing structure could see you quickly falling behind your competitors.
5. A Primarily Mobile Landscape
Indefinite lockdown on a global basis also had a marked impact on the number of people using their mobile devices to shop online. The acceleration of mobile ecommerce has been such that by the end of this year, some experts believe that at least 75% of all online sales will be mobile in nature. In addition, anything from 30% to 50% of mobile shoppers will disappear and never return if they feel they’ve been short-changed with a low-quality mobile shopping experience.
This is a trend that’s not only been predicted for some time, but has been a major part of the ecommerce landscape for the past few years. It’s just that the acceleration of mobile ecommerce popularity among consumers has been turbocharged by a catalyst that could not have been predicted. Even among older demographics where traditional retail has always been the preferred choice, ecommerce and mobile ecommerce are becoming the new norm.
6. Responsible and Sustainable Business Practices
Whether or not this can be attributed directly to the humanitarian crisis the world has faced over the past 12 months is unclear, and also irrelevant. What matters is that consumerism with strong focus on responsibility, sustainability and social conscience is on the up in a big away. Now more than ever, shoppers want to do business with brands which in some way have committed themselves to making the world a better place. Or at least, taken a stand against certain questionable business practices and policies.
This means that if you’re not currently involved in any initiatives that demonstrate your eco-awareness and community commitment, you run the risk of falling behind. Likewise, you also need to think about how you can present your products and services in a way that emphasises the greater good. People need to think that they are doing something important and meaningful when they do business with you.
7. Refunds and Returns
More people are buying more things online than ever before. Subsequently, more people are returning more goods to online sellers. The greater the proportion of purchases you make online, the more likely it is you are going to need to return something at some point.
Unsurprisingly, fair and transparent refund and return policies are proving a major motivator for online shoppers in 2021. Prior to making a purchase, most shoppers now establish how quick and easy it is to return anything they choose not to keep. And of course, all returns for fair and amicable reasons should be 100% free of charge. If you can’t cover this basic requirement, you’ll struggle to achieve a meaningful conversion rate.
8. Social Signals and UGC
Finally, the art of ‘selling without selling’ has also played a major role in successful ecommerce for some time. Today, you can more or less expect 99% of your promotional and advertising content to be ignored. If it’s a message that comes directly from an online business, it carries almost no weight with today’s sceptical and downright cynical shopper.
Instead, you need to leverage the power of social signals and user-generated content (UGC). More specifically, you need to get other people to sell your products and services on your behalf, by communicating their satisfaction and positive experiences with others. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t necessarily mean paying a premium to involve high-value influencers. Nobody carries more influence than your actual customers and their positive reviews, recommendations and so on.
For the most part, the trends that look set to dominate the landscape in 2021 are predominantly a continuation of those from the past year or two. However, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis have rapidly accelerated the evolution of many key areas of the ecommerce landscape.
Each of the eight trends outlined above was always going to play a major role in the future of ecommerce. It’s just that with more people stuck at home and shopping online than ever before, developments we’d have expected to see in two to three years are happening right now.
For more information on any of the above or to discuss your ecommerce business requirements in more detail, book your obligation-free consultation with Tait Pollack today.