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Jezael Melgoza
Marketing

14 Top eCommerce Trends to Watch for in 2021 [VR + AI + Omnichannel Marketplaces]

Learn about the top eCommerce trends to watch for - AR/VR, marketplaces, omnichannel, subscriptions, livestreaming, influencer and UGC trends and much more.

11
min read
Updated
July 8, 2021
Omer FarkashOmer Farkash
Omer Farkash
Ben Kazinik

The eCommerce industry is changing rapidly. Online retail sales increased by 32% in Q1 of 2021 because of the pandemic and experts predict that the industry has grown more in the last 18 months than in the last 10 years.

New marketplaces, marketing channels, and native apps are coming out that are reinventing the buyer's journey. And if brands don't stay on the cutting edge they will be leaving a lot of money on the table or become obsolete.

In this guide, we break down the most important eCommerce trends to execute for your eCommerce store.

Let's dive in.

Why Are Ecommerce Trends so Important?

Each new marketing channel that launches quickly becomes the cheapest way for brands to reach audiences organically and through advertising. Slowly as more brands and advertisers jump on a new trend it becomes more expensive and other marketing channels open up. Every eCommerce store needs to find a balance between optimizing existing channels and experimenting with new ones.

For example, Facebook ads were really cheap just a few years ago, and over the last 2-3 years they have become much more expensive, especially for brands with a small average order value (AOV). On the other hand, TikTok advertising is still pricy at around $20k per campaign, and with time it will become cheaper and more brands could take advantage of it.

Over time, new platforms are able to create a new approach to improve the customer journey or create new touchpoints along that journey. And that opens a new opportunity for brands to create content, advertise, and attract new audiences. As new media emerge and consumer shopping habits change the brands that innovate win. The ones that fail to innovate, become obsolete.

Top eCommerce Trends for 2021

1. Voice search helps make online shopping more convenient

Google dominated digital marketing at the beginning of the 2000s because it was the primary way to search for products. Now that we have hundreds of apps and eCommerce marketplaces the way in which we search is changing.

Over 50% of eCommerce traffic comes from mobile devices and the most convenient way to shop on mobile is through voice search, and it's spreading like wildfire. 51% of all online shoppers in the US use voice assistance to help them find the right products. Just like all forms of media, ads are a huge part of voice search. 38% of consumers find voice ads less intrusive than video ads, and more engaging.

Is-Voice-Search-for-eCommerce-The-Next-Big-Thing-In
Source: InteractOne

2. AI helps shops get data and automate marketing

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning make it possible for eCommerce stores to personalize and automate a lot of the customer experience. AI continuously collects information about the use - how they shop, what items they browse, which pages they go on, which emails they open.

Ecommerce brands can then use a customer data platform (CDP) like Zaius to store all that information and use it in their email marketing campaigns. There are CRO tools that use AI like ConvertCart that stores data on each user and displays dynamic content in an effort to maximize conversions.

Zaius CDP customer data platform
Source: Zaius

3. Marketplace innovate and take on omnichannel

Marketplaces have completely transformed the eCommerce industry. Initially, places like Amazon and eBay launched and provided a purely digital experience to shoppers. Now, marketplaces are bridging the gap between physical and digital.

An example of this is Shopify's Shop app which is a native platform app that helps online customers find local shops that run on Shopify. Merchants can sell products directly to the consumers via in-store or curbside pickup. Shopify is already the biggest eCommerce platform and it’s bridging the gap between physical retail sales and eCommerce in a brilliant way.

shop-recommended-products
Source: Shopify

Another advantage of marketplaces is that they offer marketing services. For example, Etsy and Bonanza run advertising campaigns for store owners. Shopify has hundreds of native plugins that integrate with many marketplaces to make the whole process of selling on them virtually seamless.

4. Shopping goes virtual (AR/VR)

One of the major challenges of buying products online is that you can't try them on. Augmented reality makes it possible for consumers to see what they are shopping for, to virtually try it on. AR is especially popular for fashion, beauty, and home decor brands. Consumers want to see what furniture looks like in their space before they make the purchase.

In 2020, 600 million consumers used AR on their mobile devices (Statista), and that number is projected to hit $1 billion by 2022. The total ad spend from AR social lenses is set to reach $2.4 billion by 2022 (ARInsider).

If an online store wants to display their products in 3D they can install a simple Shopify app like Zakeke. Or they use a design agency that would create the images for them.

AR home decor ecommerce shopify app
Source: Shopify

5. On-site personalization creates individualized experiences.

Ecommerce sites that provide a personalized shopping experience see a 25% revenue lift. One of the biggest factors that help a shopper to convert is trust. Personalization builds that trust by displaying products that the user has previously looked at, clicked on, interacted with, and their purchase history. It also includes dynamic content that changes based on the user's data.

ConvertCart for example gathers all the possible data on a user and then displays elements and products that the user will most likely interact with based on the data. Ecommerce stores can also display countdown timers, popups based on the location or source of the visitor, and social proof notifications.

personalization omnichannel for ecommerce brands
Source: OctaneAI

6. Big data opens new capabilities

Big data unlocks a lot of new capabilities for eCommerce stores. It combines the data taken from eCommerce platforms, social media, and brick-and-mortar sales to create optimized omnichannel experiences for shoppers.

Brands are using big data for pricing optimization across all marketing channels including marketplaces like Amazon, demand forecasting, and product research. Big data is used to accurately record the entire customer journey, build accurate customer profiles and personalize customer communication and marketing on the site and on third-party marketplaces.

7. Native social commerce is on the rise

Social media platforms have shifted from places of entertainment to social commerce recommendation engines where influencers of all stripes promote eCommerce products to their audiences. 60% of Instagram users say they use the platform to find new products. 84% of shoppers review at least one social media site before purchasing.

instagram shopping

8. Buy now, pay later

Buying on credit and splitting purchases into payments have become the norm in the eCommerce world. Companies like Klarna and Afterpay offer consumers the "buy now, pay later" model which dramatically decreases friction and increases conversion rates. They also connect brands to shoppers through special offers and promotions.

klarna pay later app

9. Livestreaming is the new video

Video marketing has taken on new forms. Platforms like Vine and TikTok have popularized short video clips. Most marketplaces have include videos on their listings. Then shippable videos came out on Instagram, along with reels and IGTV.

The new trend in video is livestreaming. Platforms like ShopShops, Whatnot, and Talkshoplive are connecting brands with influencers through live videos. It provides a much more interactive experience for users and has huge potential for influencer marketing.

The founder and global CEO of ShopShops, Liyia WuSince, said: “Since founding ShopShops, the vision has been to allow customers all over the world to shop global, like a local, from the palm of their hand”.
ShopShops livestreaming app for ecommerce
Source: ThisIsRetail

10. Influencers and UGC boost advertising

Ecommerce businesses used to have to hire models and conduct expensive photoshoots to get marketing materials they could advertise. There's a much easier way - using influencers and actual users to generate content.

Influencers have significant networks on social media and have a much bigger impact than regular branded content. In our research of more than 250+ ad creatives, we've found that a significant amount of them use influencers.

Another way to create more engaging ad creatives is by using UGC, which is user-generated content in the form of images or videos made by the consumers themselves. Millennials trust UGC 50% more than original content created by the brand. UGC ads have 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in CPC compared to regular ads. Social campaigns also experience 50% more engagement when they use UGC.

yotpo the value of UGC

11. Loyalty, referral programs, and in-store incentives

With the recent iOs 14 changes and the new privacy laws, it's going to be much harder for brands to retarget their visitors online. And without retargeting brands have to look elsewhere to build those customer relationships.

That's why eCommerce companies are investing more in delighting their existing customers through loyalty and referral programs. This helps increase repeat purchases, increase the customer lifetime value (CLV) and increase sales without having to rely on 3rd party data.

12. Cross-channel marketing will be key to the success of brands

1st party data allows eCommerce brands to retarget their users across multiple channels very efficiently. For example, brands that have a brick-and-mortar store can offer in-store incentives to get their online customers to purchase at a local location. Or they can send an online promotion to a customer based on their shopping behavior inside the physical store.

The key to a successful cross-channel campaign is correct attribution. It's important to see the whole picture and all the various touchpoints along the customer journey and not just look at the last-click attribution. The emphasis is put on optimizing the online shopping experience of the shopper by using multiple channels.

13. Subscription-based pricing and membership programs

Subscription products are the mecca of every entrepreneur. They translate into a steady, predictable revenue and hyper-growth. For the consumer, they can offer great convenience and savings. However, it’s difficult for a subscription-based eCommerce business to reach profitability as we’ve seen with brands like BirchBox.

That’s why brands are launching stand-alone subscription products, like the Gillette subscription starter kit, which helps improve retention and CLV. Native, the skincare brand, offers every product as a one-time purchase and as a subscription.

native brand subscription product

The other form of subscription-based pricing is a membership program. Which sometimes offers exclusive access to new product launches or discounts on existing products. These hybrid subscription models are a way for eCommerce brands to take advantage of the benefits while minimizing the risks involved.

14. Brand causes

Sustainability and green consumerism are on the rise. Studies show that 66% of global consumers would pay more for sustainable products. Up-cycling or selling used clothing is opening up new opportunities. Brands like Timberland, Patagonia, Nike, and Lululemon all opened refurbishment and resale programs of their own. ThredUp estimates that the used apparel market will reach $77 billion in the next five years.

threadup study resale programs for fashion ecommerce brands

How to decide on the right trend for your brand

Not every trend is going to be the right one for your store. They may all sound really good but if you try too many of them at once you might spread yourself too thin and waste a lot of time. Here’s a foolproof process to follow to pick the right trends and maximize your eCommerce sales:

1. Get really clear on your KPIs

Before you launch a new channel make sure that you know what your KPIs are.

  • What is the ROAS of your ad campaigns?
  • What is your average order value (AOV)?
  • What percentage of your purchases are from returning customers?
  • What is your conversion rate for each channel?

2. Research industry trends and competitors

Once you know what your KPIs are you can start researching each trend. Look at industry blogs and influencers. Start with your own industry and then broaden your research to fill the gaps. You should also look at what your competitors are doing and what’s working in your specific industry. Survey your customers to get first-party data and ideas on which trends will positively impact the customer experience.

3. Determine the budget and scope of work

Look at each trend and see what infrastructure you already have to make it happen. Make sure you have the influencers, partnerships, and tech stack to execute the trend. Also, make sure that you have the team and the long-term commitment to see it through.

Recap

The future of eCommerce is bright. You should always focus your marketing efforts to meet customer expectations. Focus on improving the visitor’s online experience of your brand and increasing your customer loyalty.

FAQs

What are the latest trends in eCommerce?

The latest trends in eCommerce and mobile retail are:

1. Voice search makes shopping more convenient
2. AI helps get more data and automate marketing
3. Marketplaces & omnichannel strategies
4. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)
5. Site personalization and focus on the user experience
6. Big data
7. Social commerce
8. Buy now, pay later
9. Livestreaming
10. Influencers and UGC
11. Loyalty and referral programs
12. Cross-channel marketing
13. Subscriptions and membership programs
14. Brand causes and sustainability

What are the 2021 eCommerce product trends?

The most popular products in 2021 so far have been wireless charging stations, Bluetooth headphones, phone tripods, car phone holders, matcha powder, yoga mats, fashion fitness, and wearable devices.

How can I succeed in eCommerce in 2021?

A brand’s success depends on how efficiently they utilize the new trends and expand into new channels or strategies. Stay on the cutting edge, test the new trends, and continuously innovate your marketing efforts.

What are the latest trends in e-commerce for 2021?

The latest trends in eCommerce are - omnichannel strategies, AI, VR/AR, big data, native social commerce, livestreaming, subscription-based pricing and memberships, and sustainability.

What is the future of e-commerce in 2030?

In ten years, the future of eCommerce will have much more automation, voice searches, and AI involved in eCommerce transactions. We will also see hundreds of DTC brands and a few centralized marketplaces and native apps. Physical retail will still exist but it will be much more automated with subscriptions, touchless delivery, and refurbishment programs.

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