It’s more important than ever for online stores to keep up with the latest eCommerce trends. The shift in buying culture due to COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on online stores that will continue this year, and perhaps forever.
Even if you’re not ready to turn your store on its head to follow a trend, you should be mindful of the major changes. It could prevent your business from becoming outdated, or missing out on a lucrative opportunity.
Here are 13 eCommerce trends that are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
1. Greater Variety of Online Products
The pandemic has irreversibly changed consumers’ shopping habits. Naturally, many have turned to online stores to do the majority of their purchasing. Certain types of products are experiencing a boom in popularity.
Groceries, furniture, beauty, hygiene, and other essentials that were previously rarely if ever bought online are now top purchases. People are also buying in bulk like never before, taking advantage of discounts to stock up on what they need so they can continue quarantining at home.
You might think that this is temporary, and that if you’re not already on the bandwagon, there’s no point in getting on now. But while these shifts may not skew the charts as drastically as they are currently, experts believe they will be permanent.
If not expanding your inventory, you should definitely consider incentivizing customers to buy in bulk. Right now, people can be easily swayed to purchase a little extra for a good price.
2. Free Returns
With customers preferring to buy online, they don’t get a chance to try out their products in the store. This has led to a higher rate of returns the past year.
It’s never a good day when you need to give a customer a refund. You’re losing money more likely than not, and it means that someone wasn’t satisfied with their purchase. But it’s not entirely a negative experience. You have a chance to turn the situation around by implementing an efficient return policy.
Not offering returns at all might save you money when people change their mind, but it’s going to leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths. Instead, strive to handle the refund quickly and with the same attention as you would give a purchase. Offer to make an exchange, a return, or even an upgrade.
Function of Beauty’s “Happy Hair Guarantee” is a good example of an effective and fair return policy in the wild. They offer first a product replacement and then a refund.
If you handle the situation well, you have a shot at bringing that customer back. At the same time, a poor or absent return policy can single-handedly drive away your loyal customers or lead to scathing reviews.
Besides the fact that they can help you retain potential customers, many other companies are already adopting free return policies. If you’re the one left out, people may choose to buy from the safer option. Analyze your competitors and see what their policies are like.
3. Omnichannel Selling More Important Than Ever
Think back on how your favorite online stores work across websites and even different devices. Whether you’re visiting their app on your phone, their website on your computer, or through your tablet’s browser, everything is seamless.
Once you’re logged into your account, searching, adding items to the cart, and making a purchase is exactly the same. You can even turn one device off and pick up from where you left on another.
This is omnichannel selling in its most ideal form. And if you want to give your customers a good experience across all your sites, apps, and other programs, it’s certainly something you want to optimize.
So how can you get started? If you’re running on WordPress, look into headless commerce to turn your small site into a multichannel empire.
4. D2C: The New Big Thing
Many of the major brands you know from are B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) companies. This means they don’t manufacture their own products; they buy them in bulk from other companies, then distribute them to the public.
The issue is, buying from companies like this often comes with an upcharge. One of the eCommerce trends of 2021 is that and more often people are choosing to skip the middleman, turning to D2C (direct to consumer) businesses. The price is usually cheaper than you can get buying the same product from a store, and you can often get items in bulk for a reasonable price.
If you’re selling your products entirely through a middleman — a brick and mortar store or a large online distributor — you should consider opening up your shop to the wider public. Many customers want to buy direct from you, not from another company.
5. Video Ads Reel in Customers
Video advertising is arguably one of the most effective forms of marketing. And it can be especially important when it comes to advertising on social media. Video ads on social sites such as Youtube, Twitter, or even TikTok can be extremely lucrative. Far more so than the traditional but outdated banner ad.
If you need even more proof that video ads are booming, Shopify’s partnership with TikTok in 2020 should be a good sign. Big ecommerce brands are investing in video and you should consider doing it too.
6. The Role of Influencers and Sponsorships
Advertising is no longer banner ads and clippings in the newspaper. The future is here, and that means turning to social media influencers. It’s like a small-time celebrity endorsement deal, and it can direct their loyal followers your way.
Online brands are pumping money into influencers across multiple platforms. This is true both on traditional social media like Twitter and Instagram as well as on video sites like Youtube and TikTok. If you follow popular identities on social media, you’ve likely seen the sheer volume of sponsorships for yourself.
Here’s an example of a sponsored post by a celebrity influencer. One simple image can be enough to direct millions of followers to your store. While this isn’t the newest of eCommerce trends, it does continue to work in 2021.
7. Look Out for Social Commerce
There’s a new way to sell your products: social commerce. It all started with Instagram Checkout, which launched in full force to all eligible businesses just last year. It allows Instagram users to make purchases in-app without leaving to visit a third-party store.
It’s like social media advertising, but streamlined and all in one place. Users are more likely to make a purchase the more convenient you make the process. For example, if they don’t even need to re-enter their payment information, they’re very likely to purchase something that catches their eye.
Since Instagram Checkout, other sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp have joined in. Sellers should seriously consider utilizing these platforms if they want to get more interested eyes on their products.
8. Consumers Prefer Online Marketplaces
More and more shoppers are turning to marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon to make purchases. It’s true that D2C is a big thing, which is good news for small eCommerce stores. Yet, a notable portion of shoppers prefer to make their purchases in one place and will never buy from smaller stores.
The good news: you can have the best of both worlds. Even if you’re running your own website, selling on online marketplaces as well can net you more sales and traffic to your site. If nothing else, it gets your brand name out there and earns you purchases you might have otherwise missed.
It can be hard to keep everything running smoothly across all these channels. The plugins Multichannel for WooCommerce, WooCommerce Google, Amazon & eBay Integration, and WP-Lister Lite for eBay can help.
9. AI is Here
Every day AI gets more sophisticated, and trends in 2021 go towards eCommerce stores leveraging it to their advantage in many different ways. Improved voice search is one of the main targets, with voice search becoming popular enough to change search algorithms.
Other ways of applying AI include:
- Improving analytics to predict customers’ next moves
- Making intelligent product suggestions (you can see a real-world example in the “frequently bought together” suggestions in this store)
- Otherwise personalizing the shopping experience
This technology can have serious effects on customer retention.
And the good news for WordPress users is that you don’t have to code most of it yourself! Related Products for WooCommerce, WooCommerce Google Analytics Pro, and Product Add-Ons are all great plugins that can supercharge your store with the power of AI.
Chatbots are another popular way to utilize AI. These little pieces of technology are wonderful, since they can save you money on 24/7 support agents. They also do a great job of enhancing users’ shopping experience.
Chatbots can quickly answer questions and filter out more high-priority issues to humans who can answer them. This is one particular implementation of AI that has gotten very popular in 2020.
11. Invest in AR
Take a walk through a house for sale, try on makeup or clothes without leaving your bedroom, or test out furniture before you buy. The future is here and it’s Augmented Reality. AR is enhancing the online shopping experience and it’s sure to wow your customers.
Brands like Ikea have already adopted AR, with apps like Ikea Place that let you see if certain furniture will fit in your house. You can download this and try it for yourself right now, and people love the extra interactivity.
Setting up AR is certainly going to be an investment. It needs to be personalized to work with your specific products, so it’s not something you can just install from the plugin repository and have up and running on your site in a second.
Plugins like CartMagician can help you get AR running correctly, but you’ll still need to put in work. But it can really make shopping more convenient for customers.
12. Go Green
More and more often, consumers prefer buying from companies that implement sustainable practices in products and packaging. People are becoming more conscious of the environment, and they want to do their part in buying from companies that don’t contribute to pollution.
Give people an outlet by using sustainable packaging and making your products in an eco-friendly way (such as by avoiding plastic or creating a more eco-friendly website). It’s both good marketing and the right thing to do so that’s definitely one of the trends eCommerce providers should jump onto in 2021.
13. Customer Satisfaction is Imperative
Running a successful online business is not as easy as it used to be. The market is oversaturated, and even impeccable branding is rarely enough to make you truly stand out. Businesses are starting to realize that the best way to increase customer retention is to improve satisfaction.
Unless your company is truly unique, what will make you most memorable in your users’ eyes isn’t flashy branding, but how easy your shopping experience is. These days, it’s all but impossible to do something new. You’re in major competition the day you open up shop.
While branding is certainly a big part of being memorable, giving your customers a better experience than your competitors will keep them coming back for more.
So how can you make shopping in your store easier and better? Personalization can play a big role, so look at how you can use AI to better your store. Offering an omnichannel shopping experience, improving the speed of your website, and making your site easy to navigate can all optimize the process as well.
What Are Your Ecommerce Trends 2021?
While you shouldn’t upend your online store without careful thought, trends shift for a reason. At the very least, these trends are worth doing more research on as you consider where to invest in your business’ future.
The online marketplace is changing faster than ever these days. Consumers are buying in new and unprecedented ways, technology is booming, and the usual shopping experience is becoming far more interesting with advances like AR.
If you don’t want to get left behind, look into these trends and see if any are worth your time.
What changes are you planning to make to your store this year? Let us know what you think in the comments.