While we’re not quite sure what 2021 will bring (it could be normalcy ... or it could be utter chaos), ecommerce is expected to continue its meteoric rise. Shoppers will eventually return to brick-and-mortar stores, but the expectations for online merchants will continue to be high.
This year, merchants can set themselves apart by anticipating and adapting to these expectations. We’ve pulled together the top seven ecommerce trends merchants need to be aware of for 2021.
Consumer Expectations for Ecommerce Are at An All-Time High
The coronavirus pandemic forced online retailers to grow in 2020. So much so, the industry experienced five years of growth in just six months. The U.S. Census Bureau revealed that ecommerce retail increased 4.8% in the first half of 2020, compared to 4.5% in the previous five years - combined.
So what does this mean for ecommerce merchants?
Consumers are now accustomed to shopping online, and they want their experience to be engaging, personal, and relevant.
To accomplish this, what trends should merchants embrace?
Ecommerce Trend #1: Global Is the New Normal
The very nature of ecommerce breaks down international barriers for online merchants in a way that has never before been possible. In particular, consumers in Hong Kong, Greece, and the United Kingdom are doing more online shopping across borders. This ecommerce trend will continue into 2021 with even more transactions. Ecommerce merchants must be prepared to market, sell, and ship to customers all over the world.
To take advantage of this ecommerce trend, merchants may need to consider translating their site into other languages or at least have a translation option. They should also make sure chatbots and customer service pages are in languages that pertain to customers. The more personal the service, the happier and more loyal customers will be.
As this move to a global marketplace takes shape, merchants must also be more prepared than ever to identify fraud. Transactions from overseas will be the new normal and may follow patterns that tempt merchants to tighten up their fraud filters. That will only increases the number of false declines, which makes for unhappy customers. The key is to put fraud protection in place to be able to distinguish between fraudulent and valid transaction, regardless of where the customer lives.
Trend #2: Emphasis on The Post-Buy Experience
Customer service will always be important for any type of transaction, whether it’s in-store or online, but ecommerce merchants tend to spend more time servicing the customer before and during the sale than afterward. But the “afterward” is where they’ll need to focus in 2021.
Once customers make their purchase, that’s not a time for merchants to let down their guard. Remember, consumers have high expectations.
Tracking, shipping, delivery, and returns processes must be as easy to navigate as making the purchase. Merchants should enhance the customer’s experience by being explicit in policies while making shipment tracking as easy as possible. Not doing so can result in plenty of abandoned carts: Almost 70% of consumers rank delivery tracking in their top three considerations when shopping online.
Another important service to offer is sending a return label when the package ships. By making the return process as convenient and easy as possible, merchants can greatly reduce their risk of chargebacks.
Trend #3: AR And VR Technology
Two exciting technologies that have already started to revolutionize the ecommerce industry are AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality). These technologies are allowing customers to see and touch products so they can make more informed purchasing decisions with less buyer’s remorse.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are expected to be in over 120,000 online stores by 2022. These technologies hold a wealth of benefits for merchants:
- They allow customers to see how the item will work in its final setting, whether that’s on their back or in their backyard. Redecorating a living room is infinitely easier if the customer can swap and move things around at the tap of a finger.
- They can create an immersive and delightful shopping experience that keeps customers returning for more. Imagine being able to shop for jeans using a personalized avatar browsing through a serene, sun-dappled boutique … instead of cramming a stack of jeans into yet another too-small change room with the World’s Worst Lighting.
- Shopping can be completely personalized with AR/VR assistants who use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to offer personal service and recommendations. No matter where they live, customers can experience thoughtful and attentive personal shopping.
Merchants need to investigate how to integrate these technologies into their sites. This trend will only become more prevalent as the technology continues to grow.
Trend #4: Omnichannel Ecommerce Selling
One of the hottest ecommerce trends for 2021, omnichannel selling takes advantage of how consumers shop online. They typically start on one device, move to another, and may even make another move before a purchase. Four years ago, Harvard Business Review surveyed consumers and found that 73% of respondents use multiple channels during their shopping journey. Today, multi-channel shopping continues to be the norm: A 2020 Statista survey revealed that 62% of shoppers like to check online to see if a product is available in-store.
Using multiple channels is a way to help merchants and brands increase sales and revenues. The key for merchants is to know their customers and where they tend to shop, meeting them on every one of those platforms with the content they need to become a customer. Other ways merchants can take advantage of this ecommerce trend include optimizing ecommerce sites for mobile devices, creating a mobile app, and offering purchase options such as buying online and picking up in-store or getting home delivery.
Trend #5: Mobile Shopping Will Dominate
It should come as no surprise to anyone that mobile shopping is poised to overtake PC shopping in 2021. We’ve become a culture of smart devices with mobile users increasing by the minute: Mobile shopping is expected to account for 73% of sales by the end of 2021.
To take advantage of this ecommerce trend, merchants must optimize their online stores for mobile. Research has shown that nearly one-third of online shoppers abandon their carts if a website isn’t mobile-friendly.
Merchants should consider a progressive web app (PWA) for their online presence. They load faster and easily cache previously browsed pages. Of course, merchants need to keep a close eye on the customer experience when developing their app: A wide range of filtering options, plenty of photos, and a smooth and seamless checkout will greatly contribute to an app’s success.
Should Your Ecommerce Business Develop an App?
Not sure if your store is ready for an app? ClearSale’s Executive Vice President, Rafael Lourenco, wrote a great guide on this. In the post, he talks about:
- How to know if you need an ecommerce app
- What your ecommerce app options are
- What you need to consider before developing an ecommerce mobile app
Trend #6: Increase in Voice Commerce
Voice assistant devices are being used for everything from managing HVAC and lighting to integrated speaker systems, and they are being used more and more for online shopping. In 2025, 75% of U.S. households will have smart speakers, and voice commerce sales are anticipated to reach $40 billion by 2022.
One way merchants can make their site easier to navigate for voice assistant devices is to optimize top priority marketing content with audio and video, so it includes answers to common consumer questions about their products or services. This will make voice searches more accurate by providing content that literally speaks to the customers’ needs in their buying journey.
Merchants should also offer voice-based navigation on their websites and mobile apps. While they’re at it, they should carefully examine their product names to ensure they can be purchased easily using voice command.
Trend #7: More And Expanded Payment Options
With more ecommerce growth comes more incentive for new payment platforms and methods to enter the market. New and enhanced payment options will be an ecommerce trend in 2021, with market leaders like PayPal expanding its services and new platforms popping up every day. Digital wallets have become mainstream and cryptocurrencies are becoming more and more attractive because of their low transaction fees and no chargebacks.
Customers value preferred payment options as one of the biggest factors in choosing ecommerce stores. The more payment options merchants provide, the more attractive they’ll be to potential customers.
Ecommerce merchants will need to ready themselves and adapt to these trends as soon as possible to be competitive in 2021.
At the same time, they will need to consider the new opportunities each of these trends presents for fraudsters. ClearSale can help shed light on where merchants should focus for fraud protection in 2021. Now is the time to prepare for a new year of prosperity and a new world of ecommerce opportunity.