By Yemi Eniade, Visiting Lecturer at The University of Law Business School
In 1995, Amazon was one of the first ecommerce sites in the US to start selling products online. This paved the way for other businesses which eventually led to the boom in the ecommerce industry today. Over the last 20 years, the ecommerce industry has witness tremendous growth and success with 2 trillion US dollars in sales worldwide – with no signs of this stopping anytime soon.
Ecommerce has transformed the retail industry. It has metamorphosed to address the growing needs of people. There were a few challenges with online shopping in the early days but not anymore, as changes and improvements can be seen. All these changes have added to the success of ecommerce. With continuous service improvement and ad, ecommerce will continue to break grounds. Ecommerce shall see major transformation in 2021.
To remain relevant and competitive, ecommerce trends need to be constantly monitored and adapted to revolving technologies. No matter how mature your ecommerce store is right now, if you don’t keep up with ecommerce trends, you’ll risk falling drastically behind. You need to keep looking ahead to ensure future success. By doing this you can drive your ecommerce brand forward and stay ahead of your competition.
Here are the top ecommerce trends for 2021 to note:
- Online Sales Growth is Unstoppable
Ecommerce sales have been growing and for good reason. Online shopping is one of the most popular online activities. Global ecommerce sales are projected to increase 26.7% year-over-year to $4.891 trillion in 2021 (eMarketer, 2021).
This growth in online shopping can be attributed to many different factors. One of the main ones is arguably the level of comfort that is provided to online shoppers.
There is also an increase in trust that online buyers have when they are purchasing online, as well as improved website experience. At one point, people used to be hesitant to buy things online, but that is no longer the case. Websites have also become a lot more user friendly.
With all the comfort that is provided, there’s no surprise that online sales growth is becoming unstoppable.
- The Future of Ecommerce After COVID-19
Ecommerce market entrants has been estimated to rise from 15% in 2020 to 25% by 2025. Undeniably, one of the biggest impacts—if not the biggest—on ecommerce trends in 2020 is COVID-19.
In a bid to combat the pandemic, we have witnessed various restrictions and lockdowns announced by the Government. With this, more people have and are resorting to online shopping to purchase items.
Experts predict that the impact of the pandemic will not just be a short-term boost to ecommerce but one that’s here to stay, even after COVID-19. This is because people are comfortable with the ease and convenience it offers and the benefits of contactless payments, both of which are likely to cause a permanent behavioural shift towards online purchases.
In fact, market analysts say that the ecommerce industry will be the biggest beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic. Penetration rates, which are currently at 15%, are expected to increase to 25% by 2025 (MarketWatch, 2020). That marks a 67% increase in five years.
The positive COVID-19 impact on ecommerce, unfortunately, spells a heavy loss for brick-and-mortar stores. As many as 100,000 are forecast to shut over the next five years
At an estimated 24,000 closures, apparel retailers will be the most affected, followed by 12,000 consumer electronics stores, and 11,000 home furnishings and grocery stores each.
- Mobile Shopping is Growing
The growth of mobile commerce has been particularly noteworthy. In 2021, total sales made via mobile devices came in at $3.16 trillion. This figure is expected to grow to $3.79 trillion in 2022 (Payvision, 2020).
Clearly, one can agree that much improved ecommerce service for mobile customers is a huge potential for businesses to make use of.
- Generation of Young Buyers will Change the Business Dynamics
The effect of the pandemic on ecommerce cannot be denied. More than half (54%) of consumers increased their spending online after the pandemic hit.
Survey results show that two out of three (67%) young consumers aged 18 to 34 are spending more money purchasing items online now than before the pandemic (Shopify, 2020).
The growth is slightly more muted for the older age groups. Consumers from 35 to 54 years of age increased their online shopping expenditure by 57%, while this figure is just 41% for consumers aged 55 and above.
That said, going forward, as an ecommerce business owner, you should be targeting the younger generation to increase your sales potential.
To do so, consider increasing your social media marketing efforts. More than half of young consumers who buy from independent brands discover them via social media platforms—more than any other age group.
- Effect of Social Media in Ecommerce
Social media has become a major factor in ecommerce with ever increasing numbers of products and services on display. The number of people who shop on social media is also rapidly increasing.
Social media has influenced and changed the way we live our daily lives, including the way we buy things. This is a great opportunity for brands to start thinking about how to improve their position, presence on social media, which is a great platform for brands to get discovered. With consumers spending more time on different types of social media, ecommerce businesses can get enlist influencers to increase their chances of getting discovered by their target audience.
Additionally, with platforms like Shopify, businesses can easily link their online stores with social media sites so that people can buy from them directly through social media. Instagram and Facebook, for example, are constantly updating their features to meet the needs of online buyers.
- Environmental Topics Influence Buyers
Green consumerism is on the rise, and brands need to take action. Nearly four in ten digital consumers say that businesses with poor environmental records impact their purchasing decisions (GlobalWebIndex, 2020).
As an ecommerce business, you should strive to create more sustainable practices. Consumers more conscious of the environment than ever before, and for the right reasons. Millennials are paving the way forward to greener consumerism habits. Whether it’s free-range meat or vegan skincare products, there is an increasing demand for brands to start taking care of our environment.
Online businesses need to step in and make sure that their practices are environmentally friendly. This includes sourcing products from fair-trade organisations to help create a greener ecommerce environment.
- The Desire To Shop With Independent Businesses
The focus on sustainability and environmental practices aside, a growing number of consumers are also becoming more open towards purchasing from independent businesses. More than half (57%) say they’re willing to shop with new brands for the first time (Shopify, 2020).
The increase in support has been driven by the pandemic, which affected many small businesses and spurred consumers to buy from them and support them. In fact, more than one-third (37%) of consumers who shop with independent businesses say they’re doing so now more than during pre-COVID-19 times.
Some of the top reasons to buy from independent brands include wanting to support entrepreneurship (33%), an interest in unique products (33%), and to experience good customer service (31%).
- Augmented Reality Transforms How We Shop
By 2022, over 120,000 stores will be using Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, offering a much richer buying experience (PRNewswire, 2018). AR uptake in the sector will be driven by the retail workforce and online shoppers. One of the main concerns that people have when shopping online is the inability to see the product first-hand. AR technology helps bridge this gap and enables online shoppers to better visualise the products that they are interested in.
For online customers this could be a gamechanger. AR experiences can change the way that online customers perceive the products that they intend to buy. With the use of AR, customers will be able to better understand their needs and if the products that they intend to purchase meet their demands. Some ecommerce brands have already started to experiment with AR, which will help them stand out from the competition. Delivering more personalised experiences to consumers will allow for better online shopping.
- Personalization is the Future
More than 50% of shoppers say that a personalized online experience is important (Bazaarvoice, 2018). Adding to that, 74% of marketers believe personalisation has a “strong” or “extreme” impact on advancing customer relationships (Evergage, 2018).
Personalizing the online shopping experience is the key to keeping customers satisfied. When shopping online, consumers value a more personalised experience when finding for a product that they need online. As a result of poor product recommendations, online shoppers might avoid certain stores altogether.
Technological advances and changing consumer behaviour have lend to the growing success of the ecommerce industry. To ensure relevance and to stay ahead of competition, businesses must continuously monitor and adapt to the revolving needs of consumers and trends, and ultimately build a strong relationship and improve their overall experience.