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​​Ecommerce Growth Trends: What’s Happening In 2021?

The ecommerce industry is growing fast. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown took hold of the world, a growing number of consumers—from the United States to China and everywhere in between—were turning to online shopping.

While there’s no way of knowing how the final months of 2021 will play out, many ecommerce trends are coming into clear view. 

Everything is happening fast in the ecommerce market. Big-name retailers like Amazon and Walmart continue to push the envelope, while start-ups find it easier than ever to become part of the conversation. 

Below are five ecommerce growth trends—accompanied by statistics—that tell the story of where things are headed in 2021 and beyond. 

1. ​​Ecommerce Sales Will Continue to Rise

This is the growth trend that dictates everything else within the ecommerce industry.

According to a recent report by eMarketer, “US retail ecommerce sales will grow 13.7%, reaching $908.73 billion.”

As online sales continue to rise, physical stores will find it more difficult to keep pace. This is why an increasing number of retailers are allocating more resources to developing a robust online strategy.

2. Online Sales Will Make Up a Bigger Portion of Total Retail Sales

The same report by eMarketer shares the following statistic:

Ecommerce sales will make up 15.5% of the $5.856 trillion in total retail sales this year. Prior to the pandemic, we expected ecommerce sales would make up 13.2% of total retail sales ($5.779 trillion) in 2021.

Coronavirus sped up the growth pattern of online sales, but this leap forward was a long time coming. 

3. Online Retail Sales are Up Across the Board

It’s easy to see that Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other large brands are killing it online. But that shouldn’t cloud the fact that online retail sales are up across the board (for the most part).

This means two things:

  • Niche online brands are winning big: niche ecommerce brands saw a big uptick in orders during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. By establishing themselves at that time, these brands are now in a position to carry the momentum throughout 2021 and beyond. 
  • Other industries are getting in on the action. From furniture to alcohol to cars, companies in every industry are considering what they can do to grab hold of a part of the ecommerce pie. 

In the not-so-distant past, ecommerce businesses focused primarily on core products. Things like clothes, electronics, and household goods were top sellers.

But today, retailers in every space imaginable are establishing themselves as formidable competitors to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. This is one of the biggest reasons for the growth in the global ecommerce market. 

As noted by Forbes, categories with low ecommerce sales—such as alcoholic beverages—have the biggest potential for growth as they are in their infancy with respect to purchasing online. 

Conversely, more popular categories like apparel and electronics don’t have as much room for growth, but there’s still potential for upward movement. 

4. Global Ecommerce is Booming

Many people think primarily about North America and the Asia Pacific when it comes to ecommerce sales and global retail in general. But that’s not seeing the whole picture.

Global ecommerce is booming. Check out this graph:

eMarketer: Global Retail eCommerce Sales Growth Screenshot
eMarketer: Global Retail eCommerce Sales Growth.

As you can see, it’s not just the “usual suspects” leading the charge. 

Retail ecommerce sales were up more than 27 percent at the end of 2020, with this trend continuing through the first half of 2021. 

Latin America, for example, is one of the regions where online retailers are making a dent in the retail industry as a whole. 

5. Social Media is a Driving Force

The major social media platforms—including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter—have the potential to drive both traffic and sales. And that’s why so many ecommerce stores spend a good portion of their advertising and marketing budget on social media.

According to Statista, social commerce is defined as “the utilization of social media platforms to promote, sell, and purchase products and services.”

Adding to this, Statista noted that 43 percent of internet users research products via social networks.

Here are some social-related trends to watch for in the months to come:

  • The use of influencer marketing: Influencer marketing is expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021. Enough said! 
  • Big promotions during the holiday season: The holiday season “makes or breaks” many online retailers. From product recommendations to new releases for the holidays, social allows for the amplification of these messages. 
  • Social customer service: Customer service can be the difference between success and failure, both for physical and online retailers. With 62 percent of customers saying they share their bad experiences with other consumers, it’s critical to provide industry-leading customer service. Doing so via social media gives customers another way to quickly and efficiently contact you with questions, concerns, and feedback. 

6. More Ways to Pay

While credit cards will remain the top dog for the meantime, ecommerce stores are coming to realize that offering more ways to pay increases their customer base.

In addition to credit and debit cards, third-party payment services are picking up steam. In addition to PayPal — the most well-known service — others include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Venmo, and Payoneer.

Additionally, the crypto craze is changing the way online retailers do business. Some of the biggest brands in the world are now accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment.

These brands include but are not limited to Overstock, AT&T, Dallas Mavericks, Cheapair, and ExpressVPN.

7. Video & AR gain prevalence

You may not realize it while you’re actively shopping online, but take a few minutes to think about how many of your favorite brands are using video and AR in the customer journey. 

From on-site videos to social media, brands big and small are using this medium to boost engagement, explain/display products or services, and for their audience to share the content.

Platforms such as Hero are making it easier for brands of all sizes to enhance the online shopping experience using video, and it’s now thought that 32 percent of businesses are using video for sales related purposes

8. Sustainability Continues to be a Buzzword

Consumers are more aware than ever before of the impact of the products they purchase on the environment. Adding to this, many people are more likely to gravitate toward retailers that are serious about sustainability.

One survey found that nearly 30 percent of consumers would stop buying clothes from a company if they found out it's not committed to sustainability and related causes. That’s a big number that’s likely to grow in the future. 

There are many ways ecommerce companies are moving toward greater sustainability, such as using biodegradable packaging, reducing the size of the packaging, and using recyclable materials when possible. 

Related Read: Conducting A Sustainability Storytelling Audit On Your Online Store

9. B2B Ecommerce is Still Big Business

When discussing ecommerce, B2C isn’t the only game in town. B2B ecommerce is growing in size too, with global retail sales expected to increase 17% over the next two years. 

Gone are the days of phone orders and paper forms running the show. Now, B2B brands are focusing on providing a high-quality, engaging digital experience that makes for long-term customers. 

Final Thoughts

The growth rate experienced by many online retailers in 2020 is nothing short of astonishing. And we’re seeing more of the same this year.

Companies in almost every industry have the potential to go omnichannel and capture online shoppers in 2021. Doing so comes down to understanding your market (competition, pricing, and demographics), optimizing your online store accordingly, and providing a high-quality customer experience to make first-time buyers feel as welcome as long-time customers. 

Are there any other ecommerce growth trends you’re tracking in 2021? What advice would you share with marketers in this space? 

Related Read: How You Can Use Influencer Marketing To Boost Ecommerce Sales

By Chris Bibey

Chris Bibey is a content writer and online marketing strategist from Pittsburgh, PA. He loves all things ecommerce, with a particular affinity for data.

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