Top eCommerce Trends for 2021

Posted / 16 December, 2020

Author / Enginess


It’s that time of year again. Things are winding down, we’re peering into the next 12 months, and we’re trying to figure out what’s coming at us in 2021. So without further ado, here are our 6 predictions for the future of ecommerce.


1. Experience will be King

The hurdle of getting people to buy things online (even large things) has officially been cleared.

Now, we’re going to see a massive shift to digital commerce from virtually every sector. That means that there’s going to be more pressure on brands to deliver as competition forces innovation. 

We’re already seeing this, with cost per click costs for ecommerce up ~40% since April.

In short, customers have more options, and they’re going to be more discerning, and it’s going to get more expensive to buy traffic to your site. 

So the companies who will win are going to be the ones who can provide a personalized, integrated, seamless, omnichannel experience across any device, on any connection quality. If you want to stay ahead, now’s the time to invest in user experience and design.

2. Retention will drive eCommerce Forward

Elevated by the same drivers as before — increasing competitor pressure and rising acquisition costs — retention is going to be the name of the game in 2021.

As companies pour more money into acquiring customers, they’re going to need to make each one more value (lifetime value / LTV) in order to recoup their acquisition spend.

So the focus will be on retention, and communicating with customers the right message at the right time in a meaningful, personalized way. That means investing in CRM and effectively leveraging individual data in your customer communication. It also means for larger organizations turning to AI/ML recommendation engines to drive product discoverability.

3.Marketplaces will continue to grow (and brand is the answer)

Marketplaces like Amazon will continue to grow both in size and importance. More and more searches are going to go through them, and subsequently, so will more and more purchases. Optimizing for platforms is going to become a need-to-have, and ecommerce brands would be wise to tailor their projections accordingly.

But as any ecommerce company will tell you, those platforms tend to take a hefty cut. So we think there will be a second trend here. As brands continue to invest in UX and design to differentiate on experience, we’ll also see them try to stand out from a brand perspective, and break out of the marketplace as a stand-alone brand that people will seek out — massively decreasing their cost of goods sold (COGS). 

In short, brand builders will win the ecommerce game, so we can expect to see some great advertising over the next 12 months.

4. Subscription will continue to reign

With fundamental market pressures, there’s going to be more subscriptions than ever as companies seek to increase their LTV.

Our prediction is that more and more non-subscription ecommerce businesses will  start to incorporate subscriptions into their portfolios, in order to drive up their customer value and offset the rising acquisition costs.

5. Fulfillment and packaging will take centre stage

Packaging and subsequently unboxing has become an integral part of the ecommerce experience, and we can expect to see that continue. Right now, if it’s good, it’s a pleasant surprise. But as consumers experience great packaging, their expectations around all packaging will go up. 

In a similar vein, brands with flawless delivery and easy returns will be able to offer that as a differentiator. As new players enter the ecommerce space, there are bound to be hiccups around fulfillment and returns — a notoriously thorny ecommerce problem.

As consumers bear the brunt of those mistakes, they’ll prioritize brands they can trust who can get it done and do it right, every single time.

6. Social selling will fall to wayside

Selling over Facebook and Instagram as a direct-to-purchase channel was a fun experiment. But we don’t see that becoming a major part of the ecommerce future in 2021.

The Instagram rollout earlier in 2020 was met with resistance and widespread pushback, adn Instagram, given the nature of the platform, should have been the easiest of the major networks. For it to flop there doesn’t bode well for everyone else. It might be a part of the conversation, but it won’t drive significant strategic or tactical changes to ecommerce in the next 12 months.


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