Ecommerce is developing at break-neck speed. Here’s what to expect in 2021 and beyond.
2020 has been a year that most of us can’t wait to leave behind. That said, the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic has also led to a substantial boom in eCommerce, and it’s also highlighted many of the pre-existing challenges facing traditional and online retailers alike.
While we all hope 2021 will be a year of rapid recovery, it’s important to prepare for long-time uncertainty. After all, that was the world we lived in long before the pandemic too. Ecommerce companies must look to the future by keeping pace with the biggest trends facing the market.
Here are some of the biggest eCommerce trends for 2021:
#1. Omnichannel Shopping
Omnichannel shopping is all about providing a consistent and seamless shopping experience across retail channels. For example, a customer might browse products using a mobile device, but use a desktop to actually make the purchase. In another case, a customer might buy online but pick up in store or choose home delivery.
It’s now more important than ever for online retailers to identify how their customers interact with them throughout the purchase cycle. Then, they need to offer the seamless experiences and purchase options that accommodate those habits.
#2. Smart Speakers
Voice-operated smart speaker systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are becoming an important part of everyday life for many people, with one study forecasting an adoption rate of 75% in the US by 2025. It’s only a matter of time before people start using them for buying products online as well.
As the technology becomes more accurate and widespread, online retailers must start thinking about optimising their operations for voice queries. They must ensure their products can be easily purchased using a simple flow of voice commands.
#3. New Payment Options
The availability of a customer’s preferred payment option is one of the main purchase drivers. If you don’t offer the payment method they prefer, chances are they’re going to abandon their shopping carts.
Some of the biggest concerns today’s consumers have are security and privacy, which is why cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are becoming so popular. More and more retailers, both online and in the high street, are now offering these payment methods to the extent it will likely soon become a commercial necessity.
#4. Dynamic Pricing
Dynamic pricing has been standard for years in industries like transport and hospitality, but it’s now making its way into the world of retail. By adopting flexible pricing models, retailers can maximise their competitive price advantage and attract more customers.
You can adjust your prices automatically using dynamic pricing software that considers factors like competition, timing, demand, and sales goals. It’s even possible to implement in traditional high-street stores, thanks to electronic shelf labels.
#5. Augmented Reality
Easily the oldest criticism of online retail is the fact people can’t physically inspect the product they’re interested in buying. In some retail sectors, such as clothing and fashion, this continues to be a significant barrier to growth, but things are changing thanks to augmented reality (AR).
While retailers have been using 360° product previews and high-resolution graphics for some years now, AR takes things much further by letting customers see how, for example, certain items of clothing would look on them. AR’s sister technology virtual reality (VR) also has some profound implications in certain areas of retail.
#6. Artificial Intelligence
Online retailers were among the first to realize the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), largely through the use of interactive recommender engines. The technology has come a long way in recent years, to the extent it’s now helping companies improve their workflows and processes and make sense out of increasingly large data sets.
For eCommerce companies, AI-based solutions can help overcome the challenges of scale by automating routine workflows, and helping sales, marketing, and support teams make more informed decisions. For example, dynamic pricing systems rely on AI.
#7. Sustainability Practices
Almost three quarters of millennials are willing to spend more money on sustainable products that can be backed up by a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. With concerns constantly rising for the environment, social causes, and product lifecycle sustainability, the focus on green consumerism is only likely to increase.
Adopting environmentally friendly practices isn’t just a matter of saving the planet – it’s also about making your products more compelling and keeping up with the competition. Amazon, for example, has pledged to reduce their carbon emissions to net-0 by 2040.
#8. Shoppable Television
Last year, NBCUniversal rolled out the world’s first shoppable TV ads, which allows viewers to purchase, directly from their phone, the product featured in the programme they’re watching. This was achieved by scanning in a QR code displayed on the TV.
While shoppable TV ads are still very much in their infancy, the benefits are clear for shoppers and online retailers alike. By combining viewing and shopping into a seamless experience, retailers can add an entirely new dimension to their omnichannel sales and marketing.
#9. Autonomous Fulfilment
If there’s one area where eCommerce has been adversely affected by the pandemic, it’s the fact supply chains and logistics have been struggling to keep up with the demand. Fortunately, autonomous fulfilment measures can help address the problem.
Autonomous fulfilment, involving emerging solutions like autonomous deliveries by self-driving vehicles, blockchain tracking, digital twinning, and smart sensors, will help overcome the burden of scale, reduce fulfilment costs, and reduce delivery times.
#10. Offline Commerce
Talking about offline commerce might seem counterintuitive in an article about eCommerce trends, but it’s important to finish with a reminder that the high street is far from dead. In fact, there’s a strong possibility that, once everything reopens and people are confident enough to go out again, offline shopping might see a sudden, significant rebound.
Indeed, some retailers that were purely online before have decided to incorporate traditional high-street shopping in their omnichannel experiences. Amazon, for example, recently opened a chain of physical bookstores, convenience stores, and electronics retail outlets.