Trends of eCommerce in 2021
The rise of eCommerce during the Covid-19 pandemic has invariably changed the behaviours and habits of consumers. This transformation to eCommerce was an acceleration of the trend towards eCommerce already underway. Retailers and businesses adopted eCommerce as a way to provide continuity for their businesses, as consumers looked for alternatives to the high street while stuck in lockdown. This shift towards online shopping and home delivery has changed the retail landscape forever, and more and more businesses are moving online in order to remain competitive.
Consumers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. The adoption of new technologies, such as the ubiquitous smartphone and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, mean that the public already has around the clock access to retail platforms without even having to lift a finger, literally, (“Alexa, add coffee pods to my shopping list”).
Over the coming months, the market for eCommerce will continue to develop and mature, and we’ve identified some key trends that are set to impact the industry in 2022 and beyond.
1. Pay Your Own Way
Customers have different payment preferences, and if they can't pay how they want on an eCommerce site, they may cancel a possible sale. Providing a range of payment options is a fantastic method to boost sales. Remembering customers so that they are able to checkout even faster the next time they make a purchase is also a key feature.
It is a trend of eCommerce to be at the cutting edge of technology and software as businesses try to gain a competitive advantage. There are exciting opportunities in the future of online payments that will have an impact on eCommerce in the near future, such as:
- Apple pay and fingerprint payments through smartphones: Over half of all iPhone users (about 500 million) have set up Apple Pay. This number continues to grow year on year and presents customers with a convenient and quick payment method. The benefits of incorporating this into eCommerce platforms include improved checkout flow, improved security and improved conversion rates.
- QR Codes: as more retailers adopt QR codes (Walmart is a recent example) these transactions will become more secure and subsequently less expensive to process. As this happens more and more eCommerce businesses will offer this as a payment solution.
- Bitcoin and other blockchain currencies: cryptocurrencies are constantly in the news. As these payment methods become more secure and mainstream, expect to start seeing them as a payment option soon. PayPal allows you to store cryptocurrency in your online wallet and has introduced a pay with Bitcoin option.
There are also novel fintech payment options such as Klarna, which offers point-of-sale loans for online purchases. These loans give customers the option to buy now and pay later, in this case over three months. There are several companies offering these services, including PayPal with their “Pay in 3” offer, and this type of payment can be embedded into the eCommerce platform ensuring the checkout process is seamless and doesn’t require a deviation to a third party website, (which increases basket abandonment).
Expect to see these payment methods becoming more prevalent in 2021 and beyond, changing the way we checkout purchases and process transactions.
2. Artificial Intelligence
The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence is a very exciting trend in eCommerce. The adoption of AI can make for a highly personalised experience for consumers. The ability of machine learning to understand and monitor your customer on an individual basis gives powerful insight into their preferences and behaviours. This is something that cannot be replicated in an offline experience. Some other applications of AI that will be growing trend in 2021 include:
Chatbots and virtual assistants: As bots become more sophisticated and intuitive eCommerce businesses are increasingly using them to provide 24/7 customer service. Chatbots are becoming more advanced, and you can expect to see the use of voice-based interactions introduced before long. With chatbots exposed to multiple channels of data, voice, text, gesture, the algorithms can become more complex allowing them to perform more optimally.
Intelligent Adverts/Recommendations: AI’s major application in eCommerce is the ability to provide targeted recommendations and advertising to customers. This type of directed marketing completely changes the landscape of eCommerce, bringing much more traffic to your platform and increasing the number of customers making purchases.
Stock Management: AI can make managing stock more efficient, reducing waste and unused inventory. AI can utilise sales trends (both current and past) and potential demand in order to best manage stock levels.
AI is delivering innovation in the eCommerce industry; it has the potential to both streamline and delivers excellent customer service 24/7. As the technology and algorithms behind AI become more advanced, expect to see its use increase across eCommerce platforms in the near future.
3. Influencer Marketing
If you use social media, you’ll know that it’s difficult to browse through without seeing an advert or promotion from an influencer marketing campaign. No matter which channels you use, the rise of marketing through influencers is undeniable. Unboxing videos on YouTube, viral Snapchat stories, podcasts and endless Instagram posts…influencers exploit all the features of today’s social media in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.
Influencer marketing is essentially third party content created in order to promote your brand. This kind of marketing may not seem authentic but successful endorsements and campaigns can successfully convert into sales.
There are three reasons why this eCommerce trend will continue in 2021.
- More people are becoming influencers – as the number of platforms increases, so does the number of
influencers and the number of brands partnering with them. The growth of influencers isn’t diluting the market either, as it’s meeting the demand of the increase of people accessing social media.
- The number of channels is increasing – as social media companies create new content options influencers find new ways to engage with consumers. Whether it be the introduction of stories, IGTV or other innovation, influencers can exploit these to promote brands and products.
- Influencers are more trusted – following the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, people engaging with influencers shifted towards demanding content that was real and not edited. As influencers embrace this and show more of their real lives and personalities, they have become more trusted to their followers. This engagement and connection to their audience make them more powerful in terms of marketing brands.
4. Social Commerce
Social commerce is the ability to sell products through social media platforms. In essence, the entire retail experience is conducted using the social media app/platform without having to click out or transfer to a third party site.
Taking Instagram as an example, you can view a product on your feed while scrolling through and in order to make a purchase, you just have to hit “Shop Now”. This is a powerful change in eCommerce and 2021 will see more and more brands adopting this approach.
Why social commerce? By adopting social commerce, the eCommerce platform is embedded into the social media experience. There is a huge advantage to doing this, the opportunities to sell to customers is increased by it becoming a part of their social media time. Resulting in purchases being made when there might not have been an intention to make a purchase.
People may even make a purchase of a product they didn’t even know they wanted! Especially with the convenience of making a payment with just a small number of clicks.
This is versus traditional eCommerce that relies on the brand/product being known already. As the public becomes more used to shopping in this way, you can expect this to be an important trend in the development of eCommerce.
ReCommerce is second hand selling through eCommerce. The popularity of reCommerce is set to grow as consumers, especially younger generations, embrace environmentally-friendly retail solutions.
Re-selling and pre-owned items have traditionally been confined to high street stores or the charity sector. That is set to end as the disposable fashion brands, (selling at high volumes and low prices) have to face up to the impact the industry has on the climate.
Consumers now are more socially conscious and spend their resources on brands and items that align with their values…even if this means spending more, or, buying pre-owned items. Brands are savvy to this and are pivoting to reducing waste and carbon emissions.
The number of reCommerce brands is growing, established players include eBay, Amazon, and Depop, with more joining the market all the time.
There is a market for just about everything in the reCommerce market, such as:
- Branded clothes.
- Bespoke, one-off clothing items.
- Accessories such as bags, glasses, footwear.
- Vintage products, clothing/homeware.
- Electronic items.
- Computer games.
- Children’s Toys.
All of these products (and more) retain a value once used, and in 2021 you will see a trend in eCommerce solutions looking to realise some of this value.
6. Post-Covid Growth
Covid-19 had a seismic impact on eCommerce in 2020. Governments worldwide imposed lockdowns and shut non-essential businesses, forcing shoppers online. This opened up new markets; with existing eCommerce users moving away from purchasing luxury goods online and started buying everyday essentials and new users accessing eCommerce for the first time.
Traditional retailers suffered, although supported (and in some cases propped up) by governments, many didn’t make it through. This gave eCommerce retailers an opportunity to consolidate, snapping up brands, inventory and websites in order to capture more market share. As high streets re-open, don’t expect consumer behaviours to change much and abandon the online solution. With the threat of further lockdowns and the pandemic being experienced differently around the globe, consumers will not quickly give up the convenience of these purchasing habits. Brands have shifted online in response to the pandemic, often investing significant resources to do so, so there are economic interests in businesses capitalising on these new channels and ensuring that they are a success.
Growth in eCommerce was undeniable even before Covid-19, the pandemic has served to accelerate the trend and force consumers online. As the unpredictability of the future of Covid-19 is in the public’s mind, they will continue to embrace the convenient and safe solution offered by eCommerce.
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