The coronavirus pandemic fueled an unprecedented growth rate in the ecommerce industry in 2020.
Across the globe, it grew by an extra 16.5%, with Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe hitting close to 20%. Only the Asia Pacific region was slightly below the global average at 15.5% excess growth.
But after the frenetic highs of last year, the global ecommerce market faces an uncertain future in 2021. There is excess competition as desperate retailers look to add an online component to their existing business models.
And thanks to the ongoing global rollout of COVID vaccines, at least some sections of consumers are looking forward to their old routines of buying offline. Add to the mix the pinch of the persisting global economic slowdown, and online retail sales are expected to underperform in 2021.
Only ecommerce sites that are agile and canny enough to capitalize on the latest global ecommerce trends can hope to survive and prosper in the coming years.
Here are 5 hot global ecommerce trends that will shape the online landscape in 2021:
One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the unfettered rise of Amazon during the pandemic. While traditional retail brands and physical stores flirted with oblivion, the online retail giant continued its awe-inspiring growth trajectory across the globe.
At least 50% of online shoppers from major markets like North America and Europe prefer using Amazon for their product searches. But if you go by the volume of merchandise sold, China is home to the biggest online marketplaces – JD.com, Tmall, and Taobao.
Despite all their apparent flaws, ecommerce platforms like Amazon offer one compelling feature – convenience to their customers.
Businesses, particularly smaller ones looking to maintain a viable online presence, face an uphill task when competing with the likes of Amazon and Walmart.
How To Pounce:
Unless you have millions of dollars to spend on digital marketing and store promotion, you cannot afford to miss out on the traffic going to platforms like Amazon. The key here is not to rely exclusively on such marketplaces – grow your website/store in parallel.
Beyond pricing, modern online customers are looking for “shopping experiences” that are based on their unique needs. There are many ways to deliver this in 2021, and they all revolve around customer data and an independent platform.
With uniform, standardized store pages, marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart tend to lag behind in this aspect. Buyers these days need a more “human” touch – for instance, smart product suggestions based on buying history that indicate a one-to-one relationship between the brand and buyer.
This kind of special treatment has a genuine impact on business – a Forbes Insights report revealed that around 77% of executives reported a positive impact on sales thanks to increased personalization. According to another survey of ecommerce marketers by Reflektion, an overwhelming 98% considered personalization as important for sales and customer retention.
This kind of special treatment has a genuine impact on business – most e-retailers experienced increased sales of up to 20% with such tactics. It will be even more important in 2021 – there are record numbers of new online buyers – up to 10% more than in previous years. Personalization will play a crucial role in converting them into loyal customers.
How To Pounce:
Maintain an online store with an up-to-date CRM database of customer data as a first step. Leverage that data with artificial intelligence to create personalized suggestions, recommendations, and reminders for customers. Reach out to them on email, phone, or social media to send these recommendations.
Add special features like interactive store pages, and advanced customization options (if possible) to certain products – buyers like to feel more involved in the process of ordering something. If possible, provide a 3D product view or augmented reality functionality for an enhanced customer experience.
3. Smoother Online Shopping Experiences
Many online consumers still relied on offline channels for groceries, apparel, medicines, and home improvement products to a great extent. But the COVID-19 lockdowns forced a drastic change in consumer patterns.
There were times when customers had to rely on the internet to buy almost everything – groceries, apparel, electronics, healthcare, hygiene products, gym equipment, furniture and home improvement, auto parts, and more.
At the same time, consumers are also less patient than ever before. Maybe due to the stress of staying at home, online shoppers demand faster checkouts and smoother online shopping experiences.
And these new shopping habits are not expected to change drastically once the offline market gathers speed post-pandemic. Ecommerce is all about convenience – surveys indicate that more than 60% of respondents are planning to stick with online brands they discovered during their pandemic online purchases.
How To Pounce:
Optimizing the online shopping experience is crucial – the faster your checkout experience is, the better your customer retention figures will be. Add features like one-tap payments, buy now pay later, and install payment services in partnership with popular payment providers like PayPal. Create omnichannel platforms that allow buyers to use any device — such as PC, mobile devices, or smart speakers — to make online purchases.
4. The Importance Of Social Media Marketing
Tiktok, Instagram, Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook – the list of popular social media platforms is quite long indeed in 2021. And many of these are leaning heavily into social ecommerce, particularly during the pandemic. Emarketers are following suit, augmenting their social media toolkits.
Livestream shopping is a very popular format in China that is starting to gain traction in the west as well. Both Amazon and Facebook are testing this feature, while big brands like Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger are already using influencers and celebrities to create hype about their latest collections.
The online sales numbers back up these moves as well. Over 70% of online buyers reported finding useful products through social media ads. And at least 30% have reported making their purchases directly on social media, according to Statista (US figures).
How To Pounce:
Use features like Facebook Shops to create your storefront on popular social media platforms. Create compelling ads, particularly in the short video format, to attract your Gen-Z customers on platforms like Instagram and drive future ecommerce sales growth.
5. The Ever-Increasing Focus On Sustainability
The new generation of consumers tends to favor ecommerce businesses and brands that are committed to sustainable and ethical practices. Respecting this customer sentiment, most online retailers have taken efforts to minimize their negative impact on environments and vulnerable communities around the globe.
This is a trend that has been steadily accelerating across the last decade or so. And with the worsening climate crisis, it is not going anywhere any time soon either.
How To Pounce:
Conduct a sustainability audit of your business, especially if it has offline segments. And if you are exclusively selling online, take a long hard look at the products you sell – do they use ethical and sustainable supply chains? Are the manufacturing processes eco-friendly? Communicate your sustainability efforts to your audience online on your store, website, and social media.
The business world is still trying to come to terms with the scale of disruption caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. The immediate trajectory of the virus remains unclear – much will depend on the vaccines and their efficacy on emergent variants of COVID.
But while there may be short-term fluctuations in the online market in 2021, many of the global ecommerce trends mentioned above are here for the long haul – if you are involved in ecommerce, you simply cannot afford to ignore them any longer.