The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed almost everything, and ecommerce is just one example of how things have changed dramatically due to the pandemic. It has impacted every aspect of ecommerce, including traffic, marketplaces, social media habits, delivery preferences, and many other areas.
According to some experts, the pandemic has accelerated the shift from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years. We’ve also seen a dramatic change in consumer shopping behaviors. Shoppers now expect personalized experiences, explore products online, and buy whenever they have a need.
It’s time to consider what comes next and where we’re heading to better prepare for our ecommerce business strategies.
1. Social Commerce
While social commerce isn’t a new trend, industry experts predict that social commerce will continue to evolve and grow in importance in 2021 — and hit $474.81 billion in sales by 2023.
Market research company Kantar Group showed in its “The State of eCommerce 2021” report that 59% of online purchasers are aware of social commerce. Among them, approximately 61% are likely to buy from social sites in the future.
The primary reason for this interest to buy on this channel: Social media offers open access to unique products.
TikTok’s epic rise proves that video will be critical to the future of social commerce. The viral video app partnered with Shopify to help online merchants reach its younger audience and drive sales.
Meanwhile, Instagram introduced Reels and is implementing new commerce functionality into Reels. Facebook also plans to add in-app purchasing capabilities to WhatsApp.
Social platforms are no longer just places for people to connect, talk, and share. They’ve become an essential tool for brands to build communities, promote offerings, and drive lifetime sales.
2. Personalized Shopping Experience through AI
Consumers increasingly expect personalization. According to Accenture, 75% of consumers prefer brands that offer personalized online experiences. To meet this demand, more and more companies plan to adopt personalization across channels in 2021.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is crucial to personalize the customer experience. We’ve already seen how Google and Amazon use a small bit of data to offer personalized search — or how Lily AI helps fashion brands boost conversions through emotionally tailored recommendations.
AI can help provide better data from all touchpoints to enable personalized experiences at every stage of the buying journey.
3. More Flexible Digital Shopping Options
Flexible shopping options help brands better serve their customers and reduce cart abandonment rates.
Take buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) as an example. It allows customers to shop online and pick orders up at a brick-and-mortar store or locker. According to the National Retail Federation, 70% of consumers opted to use BOPIS to avoid shipping fees. Consumers expect free delivery, and BOPIS fulfills that expectation.
Amid the pandemic, many retailers also launched curbside pickup, allowing customers to get products without coming inside.
Statistics from Digital Commerce 360 show that the number of retailers offering curbside pickup increased in 2020 compared to 2019. One study by CommerceHub9 found that about 60% of consumers will use curbside pickup following the pandemic.
As many people try to avoid physical contact, curbside delivery is a perfect solution for them to shop safely. Curbside also offers the same ease and communication as in-store pickup and helps save time within a physical store.
Last-mile delivery and same-day delivery services are another trend to watch. Amazon offers pickup or delivery of fresh goods within an hour through Whole Foods and Prime Now.
Next to Amazon, Instacart works with many grocers and retailers to keep up with online grocery’s unprecedented growth. Brands should test these opportunities to get new customers, drive incremental sales, and gain insights into the supply chain and inventory.
4. Mobile Commerce
COVID-19 has accelerated the usage of apps more than ever — especially ecommerce apps. eMarketer observes that the average U.S. person spends four hours on their mobile devices every day, with 88% of that spent in apps.
Another key trend that makes mobile commerce growing is a surge in cashless payments as consumers worry about being exposed to COVID-19 when paying by cash. About 46% of Americans have turned to cashless payments in the wake of COVID-19. In the U.K., cash transactions have dropped by over 50% since the outbreak.
Apart from that, competing in customer experience requires a lightning-fast mobile experience. About 53% of consumers will abandon a site if the mobile loading speed is longer than three seconds. Worse yet, mobile bounce rates are consistently higher than desktop. Brands need to make their website mobile-friendly to enhance the shopping experience.
5. Sustainable Shopping
Sustainability is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “need-to-have.” According to IBM’s “2020 Consumer Research” report, today’s consumers fall into one of two segments:
- Value-driven consumers: Primarily select brands based on benefits, price, and convenience. Most of these consumers are in North America, Northern Europe, Japan, Korea, and China.
- Purpose-driven consumers: Select brands that align with their personal values. These consumers also prefer health- and wellness-related products and sustainable ones.
About 40% of global consumers are purpose-driven, according to the IBM report. They are mostly located in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. These consumers are willing to pay a premium and change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.
Implementing sustainability helps brands meet customers’ expectations. It’s also an effective way to show corporate social responsibility (CSR) — especially for fashion brands. The fashion industry faces a significant sustainability problem, as it’ll produce 148 million tons of waste by 2030.
Surprisingly, only 29% of fashion brands are committed to doing their CSR activities. Those who don’t currently focus on sustainability must start thinking about making their products sustainable.
Watch our on-demand webinar, “The Era of Omni-Commerce: New Insights for Dominating the Digital Shelf and Beyond,” to get actionable insights into customer behaviors across channels and tactics to dominate the digital shelf and maximize sales.