5 trends that will shape the future of eCommerce

Apr 14, 2021
Dirk Steller

“The new normal’’ has become the COVID-19 pandemic’s catchphrase.

2020 was a year of fast and profound changes. Countless businesses were forced to close, while others had to restructure their activities. As part of this, the world experienced an exponentially accelerated adoption of eCommerce. According to McKinsey, 10 years of digital acceleration were compressed into just three months. This new normal offered rich rewards for those businesses that knew how to adapt.

2020’s shift in consumer habits created new perceptions of how we sell and buy goods that will leave a lasting impact.

Below we’ll discuss five new eCommerce trends and their impact on businesses.

1. Digital Acceleration & Omnichannel Retailing

The digital acceleration of the eCommerce ecosystem caused a profound change in the consumer landscape. Even items that were previously bought in-store, like medical supplies, are now easily accessible through online platforms.

This full adoption of online shopping as an everyday activity has raised customer expectations dramatically. Immediacy, speed, and convenience are no longer nice-to-haves for a consumer, but base expectations.

Brands across continents and industries are strategically adapting their online platforms to offer customers a better shopping experience. This is where omnichannel retailing becomes a game-changer.

Omnichannel retailing immerses the customer fully in the brand’s shopping experience regardless of the device, portal, or web page. This has not only become the best way to connect with customers, but to also build long-term, meaningful relationships with them.

The challenge for companies remains around centralising data management and how to track the customer journey throughout various physical and online touchpoints.

Throughout 2021, we will see how different brands, large and small, develop offline experiences that take advantage of technology and the convenience of eCommerce. A perfect example of unifying online and brick-and-mortar channels to deliver seamless shopping experiences is Amazon Fresh. There, you can buy through any of your devices from home, and choose same-day delivery or pickup yourself. You also have your Amazon Dash Cart to help you skip the checkout line.

Amazon is changing the way we shop with pickup yourself outlets.

2. End-to-End Digitisation within the Supply Chain

94% of Fortune 1000 companies have experienced supply chain breakdown during the pandemic. Meanwhile, many suppliers faced a huge surge in demand for products that they were unable to deliver. All this revealed huge gaps and inefficiencies in the supply chain system, which forced retailers to rethink their supply chain strategies.

Customers now not only required great customer experiences, but a clear view of where their product was in the supply chain in real time.

Businesses should aim for a holistic digital experience, where every stage of the supply chain is made more dynamic and efficient with digital solutions. This allows businesses to respond more effectively to new market demands, as soon as these demands appear and as close to the consumption point as possible.

Brands that are capable of implementing this type of digital strategy are also capable of differentiating themselves from their competitors in new and powerful ways. Think about the impact that an end-to-end digital catalogue with real-time updating can have on a large manufacturer. It would allow businesses to make real-time decisions about the supply chain, and to effectively adapt their production to the demands and preferences of their customers.

Building a customer-centric digital supply chain will demand both new resources and time to strategise its approach on legacy systems. However, by optimising production and distribution routes it will provide customers a versatile end-to-end shopping experience with flexible and fast delivery options such as free returns and same-day shipping.

3. AI and AR Will Enhance the eCommerce Experience

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality) are not particularly new. In fact, businesses have been using them for over a decade. But when lockdown measures were implemented in early 2020, they became the best tools to create personalised and immersive shopping experiences.

With little effort, a brand can use AI to accompany the customer while they’re shopping, acting as a recommendation engine. In most cases, this is made possible by gathering data from past visits or online searches, displaying the products that the customer is most likely to buy.

Meanwhile, AR can simulate in-person shopping. For example, by displaying a catalog item as a detailed 3D model, allowing the customer to see how a piece of furniture would fit in their kitchen or how a pair of glasses would look on them.

This isn’t just a dynamic, immersive, fun way to buy. AR allows you to see what something would look like before you buy it, reducing the possibility of customer disappointment. This represents an efficient solution to one of the main challenges eCommerce faced in its early days: return costs.

Amazon Alexa Echo Dot in purple mode. 

4. New Commerce Platforms Are on the Rise

You know the drill: searching, scrolling, product photo, description, buy button, shopping cart, etcetera. But this way of buying online is soon to be obsolete.

Voice Commerce

By 2025, smart speaker sales are expected to grow to over $35.5 billion dollars. Customers are constantly searching for products online, and they’re doing it in their own languages. So industry giants like Amazon and Google are investing in adding regional languages to their virtual assistants.

The reason is simple: this technology represents a comparative advantage. According to BrightLocal, over half of U.S. consumers use voice search daily. While most voice activity takes place through an in-device interface, it’s worth considering optimising your site and app for seamless and accurate voice search.

Social Commerce

One could say that social commerce is a subset of eCommerce. The main difference between the two is that social commerce encourages customers to purchase within the social media platform. Instagram and Facebook already offer eCommerce integration, helping brands achieve a more unified shopping experience. This represents an unprecedented opportunity and a great comparative advantage for businesses that have a huge presence on social media.

This trend is here to stay. Facebook has around 1.8 billion active users, and 60% of Instagram users have said they found and purchased new products through the platform.

Video Commerce

Audiovisual content isn’t new in the retail sector. But video commerce (also known as “shoppable video”) is all about integrating item listings into the contact. This is extremely common, for instance TikTok, YouTube and Instagram stories. This trend can be understood in the context of social commerce, as its pillar is the integration of shopping experiences into audiovisual social media posts.

Now, eCommerce platforms such as Shopify are offering toolkits so brands can create their own immersive shopping experiences. According to one eCommerce leader, businesses that adopted AR in their sales dynamic showed a 94% higher conversion rate than those that didn’t.

New digiial payment options are emerging and are quickly becoming the norm.

5. New Digital Payment Options

The demand that’s propelling digital payments is the same that has driven the advancement of eCommerce. COVID-19 led to the adoption of new payment methods, with customers and businesses leaving physical money behind. In 2020, we saw the rise of digital wallets, QR payment, and cryptocurrency, as well as alternative payment options like AfterPay & BeforePay.

It’s no secret that cryptocurrencies have been on the rise lately. Accepting cryptocurrencies in your eCommerce store puts you ahead of the competition.

Credit systems like Afterpay have also hit the markets and appease the masses due to their zero interest rates and immediate buying power, while BeforePay gives you the luxury of accessing your salary before payday. Both are highly innovative credit systems that are increasingly partnering with various brands.

Savvy shoppers will want access to the payment methods that best suit their financial dynamics. These new alternatives offer a more comfortable, efficient, and safe way of buying online, making them increasingly appealing for businesses to implement.

More than eCommerce Trends

Omnichannel approaches, end-to-end supply chain digitization, AI, AR, and the rise of new commerce platforms and payment methods are among numerous eCommerce trends shaping the presence and future of eCommerce. These trends should not be ignored by those businesses that wish to prosper in this new digital ecosystem, where offline and online experiences are interconnected.

However, the massive adoption of digitalisation in retailing will only reaffirm in the following years. Brands and businesses will continue to create customer-centric atmospheres, where both online and offline shopping become a personalised, and comfortable experience for every client.