Review of 2021: 13 Trends From eCommerce’s Most Volatile Years
Although eCommerce merchants might have started 2021 with high expectations for normalcy, the lingering pandemic and slowdowns in global supply chains, as well as labor shortages, presented more challenges than ever before. Recent months have shown that online sellers are dependent on change. As 2021 nears, there are 13 key trends in eCommerce that will help you succeed.
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13 eCommerce Trends: Top Lessons Learned in 2021
eCommerce website owners can learn from these 13 lessons and prepare for an extraordinary year ahead.
01. The eCommerce market is fierce.
This surge in demand was met by technology providers who offered new digital selling options at all price points. This lowered entry barriers and allowed major retailers to launch major initiatives.
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In order to stay competitive, small-to-medium-sized business owners will need to employ every tool at their disposal, including great branding, savvy eCommerce marketing, and new functionality to match consumers’ expectations.
02. eCommerce brands have made a difference by creating standout stories
In 2021, eCommerce competition was fiercer and brand storytelling was a key tool for retailers to differentiate themselves. The best way for merchants to stand out is to showcase their unique attributes and assets across all marketing touchpoints. This could include demonstrating staff expertise, providing concierge-level customer services, detailing the craftsmanship behind finished products, or meeting sustainability or social justice principles.
In 2021, brand-boosting content was a key driver of customer journey performance. 81% of marketers said it helped build brand awareness, and 70% used brand stories to increase customer retention. A rich variety of content marketing tools will help eCommerce grow in 2022. This will make singular branding more important than ever.
03. Privacy changes prompted marketing diversification
Some 94 percent of Apple’s users have opted out from app tracking– affecting advertising on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. To drive traffic to their online shops, smaller sellers that relied on precise targeting are now trying new options.
04. Zero-party rose for the data rescue
Apple isn’t the only one advocating major privacy changes. Google announced it will stop supporting third-party cookies within its Chrome browser by 2023. This is further disrupting digital advertising.
Additionally, U.S. regulators are considering a nationwide privacy bill similar to Europe’s GDPR. This makes it difficult for retailers to invest in ad strategies that might produce inconsistent results. Worse, they could embarrass their brands in privacy controversies.
Sellers may also consider other ways to collect “zero-party data” — information that is volunteered directly from eCommerce site visitors through online forms like Wix Formulas. This can help merchants learn more and tailor content, products and offers to their customers.
05. Local fulfillment was a strategic offering
Consumers’ expectations of order fulfillment have changed due to the experience of receiving everything, from groceries to medicine to makeup, delivered to their homes during the pandemic. This is a growing demand for speed: 26 per cent of people who purchased from brands with physical shops requested same-day delivery in 2018, a 12 percent increase from the peak of pandemic lockdowns 2020.
Merchants are constantly retooling their order and fulfillment processes to adapt. To meet consumer demand for fast delivery, it is crucial to position inventory in micro-fulfillment centres close to their homes and to leverage in-store stock. On the eCommerce website, real-time inventory visibility as well as integration with flexible fulfillment options have become a must-have feature.
06. Supply-chain complexities reflect shipping costs
In 2021, retailers aimed to avoid the “shipageddon” of 2020, when surging eCommerce orders led to a glut in late deliveriesduring peak holiday season. This year, they adopted more nuanced pricing to fulfill their orders. They rewarded customers for choosing cheaper options such as store pickup. Wix eCommerce offered this option and passed on carrier rate increases for home delivery to loyalists and large spenders.
This tiered approach was a viable alternative to small-to-mid-sized companies that have struggled in the past to match Amazon Prime’s overnight delivery.
Free shipping is a major factor in online purchasing decisions for more than half of consumers. Therefore, it has been crucial to be able to offer store pickup at no cost, even though home delivery prices have risen.
As sellers adjust inventory locations and last mile delivery options over the next year, adaptability will be crucial.
07. New customers were found by eCommerce merchants abroad
The pandemic did not close physical borders. However, global consumers bought more goods from companies based abroad than ever before. Cross-border eCommerce soared by more than 25% in 2020 with countries like Russia, India and Brazil expected to continue their steep growth this year.
Merchants of all sizes have the tools to make international sales easier than ever before. This trend allows them to reach new customers and expand their customer base.
08. Amazon and third-party marketplaces like Amazon dominated eCommerce
Third-party marketplaces that offer goods from many sellers were the top online shopping destinations worldwide. More than two-thirds of all eCommerce revenueglobally came from marketplace sites. The Chinese properties Tmall, Taobao and Amazon are leading the charge, while Walmart and eBay dominate the U.S.
Marketplaces have won consumers over with their wide selection and competitive pricing. For small and medium-sized businesses that are priced out of search advertising and social media, marketplaces can provide visibility to new audiences both in the home and abroad. The strategic selling of unique products that complement eCommerce site offerings can help brands build their reputation and increase revenues. This sets the stage for long-term success.
09. Online shoppers wanted to shop smaller but had difficulty following through.
Consumers had the best intentions when the economy reopened in 2021 to support independent and local retailers. 95 per cent saidit was vital to help Main Street vendors weather the effects of the pandemic. However, 41 percent of respondents still shop at least half their purchases on Amazon. This demonstrates the appeal of convenience and wide selection. A robust eCommerce strategy is essential for small- and medium-sized merchants looking to reestablish or expand their business. This includes Amazon. If you are just starting out, here’s a guide on how Amazon works. To thrive in the post-pandemic world, merchants will require a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for 2022.
10. Reality for eCommerce customers is a disappointment
Cohesive digital experiences can make a big difference in the rise of online sales and hybrid online/offline shopping. Advanced customer experience organizations reported an increase of 30% in customer lifetime value from the onset the pandemic. This is three times more than customer experience beginners.
Many merchants have struggled to deliver seamless, informative, and clear online shopping experiences due to the complexity of the task. To deliver a superior shopping experience, it is important to invest in eCommerce, store integrations, optimization of websites, and fulfillment operations.
11. Mobile commerce continues to be the star of the show
The third of U.S. online sales were made via mobile commerce. This firmly establishes mobile devices as a key point for eCommerce merchants. Mobile commerce accounted for almost 40% of holiday weekend revenue, with 57% of all online browsing occurring on mobile devices during Black Friday weekend. Mobile commerce was more popular than ever, with 41% of global consumers saying they shop on their mobile phones every day or weekly.
Retailers have made investments in mobile to capture customers’ attention on small screens. These include designing mobile-friendly photo arrays, integrating touchless mobile payments, and coupon apps that can be used at the point of sale .
12. Retailers have the big picture thanks to AR and live streaming shopping
In 2021, visual commerce rose as retailers discovered new ways to use images and video to connect customers with their products. Retailers had the opportunity to experiment with new social media platforms like TikTok, while 3D product rendering and immersive augmented reality allowed shoppers to view and try on items in real life. Brands were also able to use user-generated photos to give authenticity.
YouTube is the most popular social media platform for U.S. consumers. Live streaming shopping is already a popular option in China. Early experiments in the U.S. showed promising results.
13. Brands were driven to innovate by consumer demand for sustainability.
Shoppers expect more from companies than just profit. Fully 86 percent of consumers expect brands to do things beyond selling products or services. This includes taking a stand on social issues, accepting tolerance and rejecting misinformation.
The year saw a lot of attention given to climate change by the media. 55 per cent say they consider sustainability factors in their purchase decisions .
Retailers have responded by promoting sustainability beyond just an ideal. They now offer real-life initiatives like redesigning packaging, buying-back programs, online resale and taking used products to recycling.
Looking ahead to 2022: The future of eCommerce
eCommerce merchants will face many challenges as they plan and budget for the new year. By absorbing the eCommerce trends from the past 12 months, eCommerce merchants can prepare for the future by setting priorities for eCommerce marketing and merchandising.