Ecommerce has assumed an even larger role over the past year as the effects of the global pandemic have pushed almost every customer-facing business into the online world. Internet retailers have set sales records throughout 2020 as billions of buyers stay safe at home and do their shopping via their laptops and mobile devices instead of visiting storefronts and malls.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that 2021 promises to be a pivotal year for ecommerce. Although traditional retail experiences are predicted to return by the third quarter after vaccination campaigns have helped bring the COVID-19 virus under control, there’s strong evidence that ecommerce won’t see its role diminished over the next 12 months.
Here are three important trends in ecommerce that will help define 2021.
Social commerce moves beyond the experimental stage
Instagram Checkout made waves in late 2020 with its emphasis on ecommerce. The ‘Shop’ tab, or a similar shopping option, will appear in many more apps throughout 2021 as social commerce becomes a new battlefield for online sellers seeking to reach a fresh customer base. As a whole, the global impact of social commerce is predicted to grow at a rate of 30% per year between now and 2027, blossoming into a $600 billion market over the course of the next five years.
“In 2021, forward-thinking retailers will embrace popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which have been chronically underused as ecommerce channels,” said OMG Transact’s eCommerce Director Lucy Hawkes in a recent Econsultancy article.
Raise your voice
A mere three years ago, ecommerce transactions via smart speakers like those offered by Google and Amazon totaled $2 billion (in the US and UK). Over the next 12 months, that figure is projected to reach a whopping $40 billion.
What’s driving this trend for 2021? Smart speaker technology has been adopted at an extremely rapid rate, with 90 million Americans—or roughly 34% of consumers—now making use of these devices on a regular basis.
What does this mean for companies seeking to hone their marketing edge? A voice strategy is no longer a nice-to-have component of an ecommerce platform but is instead a crucial link with customers that will only gain in importance throughout the year.
AI adds a human element
Artificial intelligence is increasingly used to add a human element to online transactions, with $7.3 billion to be spent on AI by global retailers by the end of the year. Personalized recommendations are fast becoming the norm alongside helpful chatbots that can interact with the majority of customer inquiries while freeing up sales personnel to handle more profitable strategic roles within an organization.
Beyond that, AI has the potential to expand its utility by powering visual search capabilities that allow customers to seek out items based on their style and appearance in much the same way they would at a brick and mortar location with an experienced salesperson. Visual search also offers a strong link with social commerce, particularly when considering that the majority of shoppers prefer this technology for its ease of use on mobile devices.
Each of these trends builds on the explosive growth of ecommerce throughout the previous year. Through careful strategy and planning, they can offer an important path to reaching customers who now see online shopping as a mainstream feature of their own buying habits.