From groceries to household staples, clothes, and just about anything you can think of, ecommerce has helped the world carry on and has likely kept millions of people from harm’s way. It’s enabled retailers to stay in business. For many, it’s marked a dramatic increase in sales and market share, especially for those that were already moving in that direction.
Sadly, not every merchant did well under the circumstances. Digital transformation, omnichannel, and supply chain visibility have been gaining momentum for some time, but stores that weren’t fully invested in their digital future were squeezed out of the market. And while we might say that the death knell was sounding for retail long before the pandemic hit, nobody quite expected such an abrupt and decisive coup de grace.
The Long Road to Here
Ecommerce as we know it started in 1995, but it was actually invented in 1979. Earlier iterations of what was then called “teleshopping” were based on connections between telephones, televisions, and computers—all in all, a cumbersome system that did not find its legs until the internet made it a viable concept.
Predictions at that time were that, eventually, all shopping would be done online, and so, the revolution began. Amazon launched in 1995, followed by PayPal in 1998. Advances in payment card technology, encryption, and other security protocols made it easier for people to trust online channels, opening up a new world of convenience for people who lived in remote locations or that could not travel to shop.
Online retailers found new global audiences and embraced the changes while others continued to favor the traditional in-person business model. Over time, it would seem that younger generations began to prefer ecommerce over brick-and-mortar. Shopping in physical stores transformed as well, and many retailers struggled to find a balance.
In truth, what’s happening now is not entirely disruptive. Commerce, in general, has been moving in this direction for quite some time now. The only surprise is that it happened so quickly. We’re seeing changes happening right now that industry experts had previously predicted would manifest over the next ten years.
According to Statista, online commerce is expected to top $5.4 trillion in 2022, marking a growth of over 500% since 2014.
Why are Ecommerce Trends Important?
There’s no arguing that competition in the ecommerce space is growing. Trend-watching is an essential business practice for any e-tailer with a growth mindset. The events of the past year underscore the fact that if you don’t recognize and keep up with the trends, you’ll lag behind. Knowing and embracing the trends will put you in a position to stay ahead of the curve, grow your business, and dominate the competition.
Top Ecommerce Trends for 2021
Ecommerce trends in 2021 are rolling out much the same as they’ve been for many years—only now, it’s not just ideas or pockets of adoption; these are fully-formed strategies backed by powerful technology, data, and evidence.
- The COVID Factor: Before COVID, retailers put a lot of effort into customer experiences, exclusivity, loyalty events, and the adoption of smart technology, like smart mirrors and smart dressing rooms, to bring people into the stores. Since COVID, stores that could make the shift to ecommerce were forced to do so, bringing us to the present day. Online shopping grew 44% in 2020 over the previous year, representing 21.3% of all retail sales worldwide.
- Mobile Shopping: Mobile shopping is a significant channel for ecommerce. Pre-COVID numbers suggest that 25% of all online sales were made from mobile devices, but current estimates indicate a 23% rise in 2021 over the previous year. More than 81% of Americans currently own a smartphone, indicating the need for a mobile-friendly ecommerce experience as consumer expectations will undoubtedly favor this trend.
- The Impact of Younger Shoppers: Younger shoppers have definitely pushed the online shopping trend, although post-COVID behavior has changed what they buy. According to one study, 96% of Gen Z and millennials in the UK and US are spending less on experiences and stocking up on necessities, while only 24% of Boomers and 34% of Gen X are letting COVID affect what they buy and how much they spend. Fully two-thirds of shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 are shopping and spending more online than they did before the pandemic.
- Social Media Influencers: Social commerce is definitely a “thing.” Consumers trust the opinions and advice of social media influencers, often more than the brands whose products they promote. In a world where authenticity is valued above all, 92% of consumers trust influencers more than advertisements.
- Sustainability: According to a recent IBM study, nearly 60% of all consumers are willing to change their shopping habits if it reduced environmental impact, and 80% say that sustainability is important to them. 70% would pay up to 35% more for a product that they knew was sustainable, indicating that brand values are at least as necessary as the product itself. Going forward, brands and retailers must go out of their way to get it right or risk losing market share.
- Supporting New and Independent Businesses: The Shopify Future of Commerce Report 2021 shows that a growing majority of shoppers seek out independently owned merchants for several reasons: finding unique products, supporting entrepreneurship, and gaining access to better customer service. Independent ecommerce stores using Shopify or BigCommerce as their platform have access to enterprise-grade tools for shipping, tracking, and marketing, giving them the ability to deliver many of the same conveniences.
- The Role of Technology: In the absence of in-store experiences, the role of AI, AR, personalization, voice search, chatbots, and visual commerce has grown in importance. AI and personalization help tailor the online experience, while AR allows customers to “try on” items before buying. Beyond the convenience to the customer, these technologies also help reduce returns and improve customer satisfaction and retention.
- Big Data: Ecommerce businesses today rely on big data to help them make critical business decisions. Big data supports more accurate forecasting, enables personalization, and helps brands tailor their offering to suit customers’ preferences and shopping behavior. In a fully digitized ecommerce environment, brands have access to volumes of data about their customers that can be leveraged to improve everything from product assortments to seasonal supply and demand.
The Trends That Matter
Just like big hair and shoulder pads, not all trends make sense to every ecommerce business. Some trends, like AI and AR, might be too costly to implement unless you’re operating at an enterprise level. By the same token, if you like the idea of influencers, you don’t have to hire Kim Kardashian to make a splash.
When you’re deciding which trends to put your energy and resources into, listen to your customers. Look at what your competitors are doing. And stay on top of the latest research. In 2021, this is more important than ever, because as we’ve seen over the past year, anything can happen. Today’s statistics could well be yesterday’s news by tomorrow.
Backing Up Your Data With Rewind
The data itself is one of the most valuable commodities an ecommerce store produces. Without these insights, it would be impossible to compete as the brand would not predict future needs or project trends.
What Could Happen?
Your store could go down for any number of reasons. Accidental deletion by an employee, a power outage, malicious attack, or loss of premises due to a fire or flood could quickly destroy on-premise servers and computers. As such, it’s critical to have a proactive cloud backup strategy to ensure your data and all digital assets are preserved.
With all systems and products digitized and online, any disruption or downtime would represent a significant loss for any business, but for an ecommerce store, all the more. Loss of business continuity will cost you sales, but it can also cost you customers, who will gladly take their business elsewhere if they feel your site is unreliable or untrustworthy.
Rewind is Peace of Mind
Rewind offers the ultimate peace of mind, providing continuous cloud backups of all ecommerce systems and related data, including third-party apps and dependencies. Should disaster strike for any reason, restoration is fast and straightforward, minimizing outages and ensuring you get back up and running fast.
Rewind runs in the background and does not impact your site’s performance. You might think of it as an insurance policy—you hope you won’t need it, but you can sleep easy at night knowing that it’s there to protect you no matter what.
In these unpredictable and unprecedented times, we all need a little extra insurance. Rewind is designed with ecommerce stores in mind. It’s simple to install and deploy, and restoring the entire store is as simple as restoring a single image. When your assets are protected, you’ll be able to focus on the trends that really matter—like optimizing the customer journey or planning for future growth.