illustration of an ecommerce manager in front of an ecommerce site with a trend arrow

5 Retail Ecommerce Trends In 2021: What To Expect

With 2020 in the past (finally!), it’s time to turn your attention to the new year. And if you’re involved in the retail ecommerce space, there’s no better time than now to focus on the retail ecommerce trends that are expected to move to the forefront.

Before I dig into trends specifically tied to 2021, let’s take a high-level look at the global ecommerce market as a whole.

Bar Graph Showing the Increase in Ecommerce Sales in the US Screenshot
This graph from Statista illustrates how quickly ecommerce sales are growing and how they are projected to grow.

The trend is easy to spot: retail ecommerce sales have grown—year over year—for the past six years (and Amazon isn’t the only one getting in on the action).

Furthermore, this growth rate is predicted to continue in the future, with the market reaching approximately $6.54 trillion by 2023. 

In other words, if you’re in the retail ecommerce game, you’re in a good place. Ecommerce businesses are well-positioned for big-time growth well into the future.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the general growth of the global ecommerce market, let’s focus on five trends that are likely to impact you over the next 12 months.

1. Increasing Competition

Do you remember the trend we talked about above? The one about how much the ecommerce market has grown over the past six years?

With the number of digital buyers on the rise—combined with struggles among offline and brick and mortar stores to attract foot traffic—an increasing number of companies are turning most (if not all) of their attention to ecommerce.

Here’s a chart—courtesy of McKinsey & Company—showing how quickly ecommerce is replacing physical stores.

Line Graph Showing Increase in Ecommerce Replacement of Physical Channels Screenshot
Yes, you’re seeing that right. In the first quarter of 2020, when many countries were in lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 years of ecommerce growth was crammed into three months. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic had a lot to do with this, but the writing was already on the wall. Everyone wants a piece of the ecommerce pie, ranging from well-known brands to mom and pop stores to startups. 

With competition increasing by the day, there are some important questions to answer:

  • How will you protect against losing market share to newcomers?
  • How will you grow your market share?
  • What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? What makes your business better than current competitors, as well as those who will join the market in 2021? 

Don’t try to ignore it. Competition within the global ecommerce market has never been more fierce. Expect this trend to become even more prevalent in 2021, as the world continues to settle into its “new normal.”

Any competitive advantage—such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) or augmented reality—is something to strongly consider. This could be the difference between attracting a large number of online shoppers and failing to “get over the hump.”

2. Customer Experience Becomes Even More Important

Call it whatever you want. Customer experience. Customer support. Customer service. 

This has always been a big part of running a successful store, especially in regards to ecommerce. However, the global pandemic has moved this to the forefront, as consumers expect personalized and intuitive shopping experiences.

Brands that provide a high-level customer experience are in line to achieve the greatest returns.

Here’s a quote from Hana Abaza, Shopify Plus’ global director of marketing:

During the pandemic, direct-to-consumer brands with thriving ecommerce experiences were able to very quickly and easily pivot their marketing and messaging, their energy. They didn’t have to fundamentally rethink their business model. They could focus on very different things because they were at a significant advantage.

Maybe your brand was positioned for success pre-pandemic, from a customer experience point of view. But even if it wasn’t, don’t let this dictate your future. There’s time to make a change, and that time is now. 

I’ll leave you with this statistic: 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. 

Show your customers that your ecommerce store is dedicated to customer service the first time around. You’ll be glad that you did.

3. Younger Consumers Will Drive the Market

There’s no denying the fact that more people today than ever before are shopping online (see above), but younger consumers are driving the growth of the ecommerce market.

Bar Graphs Showing Average Total Transactions Per Year and Average Spend per Transaction Broken Down by Generation Screenshot
This graph from Business 2 Community reveals annual average total transactions and spend per transaction by generation.

This chart tells you everything you need to know. Generation Z—consumers younger than 25—lead the way in average annual transactions. 

IBM shares its thoughts on why brands should take action as soon as possible:

Brands would do well to act now: while only 36 percent of Gen Z consumers in our study said they had a strong connection to a brand, the number increased to 46 percent among those aged 19-21. The potential benefits are great, but the window of time for winning over this new and important generation is closing fast.

Here are some things you can do to better connect with the younger generation:

  • Focus on your social media presence: According to ecommerce platform Shopify, 54 percent of younger consumers who purchase from independent retailers discover brands on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. This is in contrast to 43 percent of middle-aged consumers (35-54) and 25 percent of consumers over the age of 55. 
  • Help them make an impact: Younger consumers are more likely to “shop to have an impact,” such as buying from brands that support charities or causes they believe in. 
  • Personalize the shopping experience: With 80 percent of shoppers more likely to purchase from a company that offers a personalized experience, now’s the time to double down. Younger consumers are more likely to buy from brands that offer a personalized experience, as it makes them feel wanted and adds efficiency to the process.

You know your target demographic better than anyone else, but don’t lose sight of the fact that younger consumers are controlling the market in many ways. 

Carefully track your conversion rates by segment to better understand how you’re performing with different demographics. This is just one of the many metrics you can track to ensure that you’re connecting with younger consumers (such as Gen Z and millennials).

Read about 12 Audience Segmentation Examples to Boost Sales here.

4. Influencer Marketing Will Play a Big Role

Even if you have a team of marketers working to drive traffic to your online store, it’s not always enough. There may come a point when you want to consider the benefits of influencer marketing.

Here is how Influencer Marketing Hub defines influencer marketing:

Influencer marketing involves a brand collaborating with an online influencer to market one of its products or services. Some influencer marketing collaborations are less tangible than that – brands simply work with influencers to improve brand recognition.

By collaborating with influencers outside your organization, you have the opportunity to reach consumers who:

  • Trust the influencer to steer them in the right direction
  • Are interested in the products that you sell
  • Realize that online shopping is the wave of the future

You may be able to reach this audience on your own, but your brand likely doesn’t have the same name recognition as influencers in your space. You don’t have the same trust factor.

Influencer marketing will continue to influence online retail sales and total retail sales in the future. According to Statista, the global Instagram influencer market size has nearly tripled over the last four years. And that’s just one social media platform. 

The influencer marketing landscape will continue to evolve in 2021 and beyond, but don’t expect it to go away. It’s here to stay. This is one of those often overlooked retail ecommerce trends that you need to focus on in the year to come.

Check this out: 6 Beauty Ecommerce Trends For 2021 & What To Know

5. Mobile Online Shopping

Go back in time a few years, and online shopping typically meant checking out on a traditional computer.

However, in 2021 and beyond, mobile online shopping and multi-channel shopping will continue its ascent. 

Get this: 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months.

Read about the 2021 Mobile Ecommerce Trends here.

With this in mind, it’s time to optimize your ecommerce store for mobile shoppers (if you’ve yet to do so). This means many things, including, but not limited to:

  • Optimizing your website and online marketplaces to provide a mobile-friendly user experience (search engines want to see this)
  • Optimizing the checkout functionality and experience to reduce shopping cart abandonment
  • Finding ways to strengthen the mobile customer relationship
  • Using chatbots to engage mobile consumers
  • Taking cues from major players, such as Amazon, Nike, and Walmart (along with smaller competitors in your space)
  • Ensuring that pricing is easy to identify (no one wants to be surprised at checkout)

The mobile online shopping trend is growing by the day. Regardless of your ecommerce industry, this will become even more prevalent in 2021. In fact, the food industry is setting up shop online as well. Check these 2021 Food Ecommerce Trends out.

When you provide your audience with a sound mobile shopping experience, they’re confident in their ability to find and purchase products from anywhere they have an internet connection. 

Conversely, if you ignore online sales from mobile devices, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to boost sales and revenue. 

So, there you have it. These aren’t the only retail ecommerce trends that will affect you and your online store in the new year, but they’re definitely among the most powerful. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring these trends. Other online retailers in your space are taking full advantage of them, even the alcohol and furniture industries are catching up!

With a thorough understanding of these trends—as well as a plan for taking full advantage of them—you’re in a position to make 2021 your best year yet.

What are your thoughts on these global retail ecommerce trends? Do you expect them to impact your online store in 2021? Are there any other trends on your radar? How about B2B trends? Here are 6 Key B2B Ecommerce Trends For 2021 you need to know!

Read More: 7 Best Ecommerce Email Marketing Software for 2021

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