The COVID-19 pandemic flipped our lives in an instant, causing significant shifts in all industries. Lockdown restrictions accelerated the adoption of emerging technologies, especially those that promoted adherence to social distancing.
For many brick and mortar stores, it meant diving into eCommerce for the first time. Meanwhile, those with existing digital platforms had to invest heavily in new tools and a revised marketing plan to ward off the competition.
Almost a year since the declaration of a global health emergency, consumer behavior is continuing to be more dynamic. Homebound consumers have a different set of priorities versus what they had pre-pandemic.
Health and safety top their list, urging brands to be more mindful in their day-to-day operations. Today’s consumers are also more conscious of their spending. Apart from comparing products and prices, people are also checking brand values before making a purchase.
In 2021, we still move in unprecedented times as the world works its way to beating the virus. As a business owner, watch out for the following eCommerce trends and use them to your advantage.
1. Social Commerce
It was unsurprising to see the rise of online shopping amid public health protocols. As consumers got used to the idea of staying at home, online shopping became the go-to option in buying luxury and everyday items.
A recent study revealed that almost 41% of consumers today shop online for products that they normally purchased in-store.
The spike in online shopping accounts not only for sales made on eCommerce websites but also on other platforms that boomed last year. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok led the emergence of social commerce, where shopping takes place on social media networks.
Facebook Shops provided a new avenue for retailers to sell their products. On the app, you can change banners, images, colors, and buttons to suit your branding. Many shop owners also saw it as an opportunity to showcase products and services via live stream.
What enticed users to engage in social commerce is it eliminated the need to go on a different site while scrolling through their regular feed. After seeing an ad, users can buy an item on the spot without having to wait long as they’re redirected to the main website.
The convenience it offers is one of the reasons we expect social commerce to grow in 2021.
2. AR-Enhanced Shopping Experiences
Augmented reality (AR) has worked its way into our every day and is only getting bigger. From basic Snapchat filters to sophisticated digital models, the technology is revolutionizing many fields.
Using AR in retail has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until we were forced to limit human contact did some brands started to catch up.
The most famous brand with a proprietary AR shopping experience is IKEA. In 2017, the multinational conglomerate launched its AR app that allowed customers to place furniture into their home digitally before swiping their credit cards.
With a 98% accuracy in projecting product dimensions, the app was met enthusiastically and garnered positive reviews. Other companies followed soon after and offered a ‘try it’ feature on their apps and websites using the same technology. Most notable are Home Depot, Target, Sephora, and L’Oreal.
Today, AR product visualization is not limited to mega-brands. Tons of small- to medium-sized businesses happily jumped on the bandwagon with Shopify’s Shopify AR. The intuitive toolkit was launched last year to help smaller brands create AR experiences for their customers.
At the end of 2020, Shopify reported that brands with AR content have a 94% higher conversion rate than those without.
More and more shoppers are seeking out brands with augmented reality apps to regain control of their shopping experiences. It only means AR will drive purchase decisions more this 2021.
3. Virtual Showrooms
Virtual reality (VR) is often used interchangeably with augmented reality despite their huge differences. AR stops at adding virtual elements to enhance a live view, while VR creates an immersive experience that shuts out what’s happening in the real world.
Following the same logic of augmented reality apps, virtual showrooms have gained popularity for breaking barriers and bringing products closer to customers. Virtual showrooms were adopted mainly by automobile companies like BMW and Audi.
Their digital showrooms let you see different models up-close and connect with a nearby agent to book private in-person viewings.
What’s amazing about VR is it has progressed from being hardly accessible to being viable to even small businesses. You’d be surprised how much of the technology is used in something as simple as social media posts.
Without fancy VR headsets, you can roll out virtual reality experiences right on your website. This is already a widespread practice in tourism and the hotel industry.
In retail, JOOR stands out with its engaging virtual showrooms which connect thousands of retailers and brands across 144 countries. Fully-interactive 3D images and videos are at the heart of its VR campaign, complete with product reviews and virtual appointments.
If you plan on integrating this into your business, get in touch with a professional team of developers to ensure a winning user experience.
4. Voice Search and AI
Smart speakers grew in sales since 2019 and are projected to go over $35.5 billion by 2025. In the US, over 87.7 million adults own a smart speaker, making up more than one-third of American consumers.
For this demographic, online shopping has diverged from traditional on-screen browsing to mainly voice-directed searches. Amazon Echo and Google Home saw a spike in users the past year, with 20% of consumers accomplishing the bulk of their transactions through voice command.
This involves product research, placing orders, and tracking deliveries. In the next four years, this figure is bound to reach 52%.
The growing preference for voice search shopping has the potential to benefit businesses even if they’re not on Amazon. The answer lies in SEO. When creating content, make sure you consider how consumers on smart speakers phrase questions.
Voice assistants have a good chance of pulling up your website if it’s optimized for voice searches. In turn, it means a boost in traffic and perhaps a new loyal customer.
5. Authentic Influencer Content
Working with influencers used to be a straightforward agreement: quick selfies, product shots, and optimized captions. These did the trick before the world went into lockdown. Now, consumers are looking for raw and authentic content before handing out any ‘likes’.
Because there are still many restrictions on going to malls and trying out products in-store, consumers turn to influencers to get deep insights on brands and their offers.
If you still haven’t upgraded your influencer marketing strategy, you’ll surely fail to meet your targets this year. Aesthetic photos won’t cut it in 2021. The goal is to educate, entertain, and create a close-knit community with your target audience. These are achieved with a relatable influencer and thought-out content.
Contract influencers to make video reviews, unboxings, or unique clips featuring your products. Through these, you entice consumers to take a peek. Reel them in further with value-adding content like tutorials, unique product uses, and Q&As.
Explore your options on different platforms and custom content for each channel. That is, know what people like to see on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to keep your influencer marketing campaign engaging.
6. Omnichannel Selling
We discussed multiple eCommerce platforms and marketing strategies on this list. With omnichannel selling, it’s about making sure everything is seamless and on-brand across all platforms and devices.
From shopping with Alexa to buying products off Facebook Shop or your website, your digital storefronts must be fast, responsive, and branded. A buyer should know it’s you from the get-go and they should be satisfied with every experience, at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Do this by optimizing your website for mobile, personalizing ads, integrating loyalty programs, and delivering excellent customer service.
With new technology just up on the horizon, it’s safe to say omnichannel customers will only continue to rise in 2021.
7. New Payment Methods
Abandoned carts are the result of many factors, one of which is not supporting your customer’s preferred paying method. The campaign for contactless transactions in 2021 led to the birth of new payment methods and digital wallets.
Unfortunately, not all brands managed to integrate them in time before competitors swooped in. At this point, your eCommerce website should accept a variety of payment options like Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal, and Samsung Pay.
The trajectory of online payments is it’s headed towards cryptocurrencies. In fact, Overstock already has a deal with Conboise to allow customers to pay with Bitcoin.
If you’re in this for the long run, start building infrastructure and security measures to accept more flexible payment options.
Blockchain is the most searched technology of 2020. It’s a kind of database whose primary function is to make transactions safer and faster by storing information in chronological order. Blockchain makes it impossible to tamper with data without alerting all parties in the chain.
The technology is used in Bitcoin because of its robust system, wherein data entered is almost irreversible and completely transparent.
Aside from its deterring cyber threats, it has long been eyed to cut costs because of its application in centralizing management of all business activities. With blockchains, businesses can keep data on inventory, payment processing, content, and others in a single platform.
Another hope for blockchain is its potential in boosting trade in developing countries. Without the need for a middleman to process online payments, transaction costs would drop significantly, allowing more people to participate in the stock exchange and eCommerce.
9. Ethical eCommerce
We mentioned earlier how consumers are more aware of brand values and their stance on political and environmental issues. After COVID-19 had everyone reevaluate their lives, it’s only right that brands do the same.
If you don’t buy it, consider a recent report stating 71% of consumers prefer to transact with businesses that share their values.
This trend calls for organizations to prioritize transparency and ethics. For example, giants like Amazon have taken a step forward in pledging towards sustainability in response to 65% of buyers leaning towards green consumerism.
Another option is partnering with charitable organizations. Just see to it that your efforts are sincere and visibly so in order to avoid backlash.
10. Genuine and Personalized Experiences
If there’s one thing we miss from our lives before COVID, it’s human connection. And that’s basically the theme for all the major eCommerce trends in 2021.
Diverge from impersonal posts and messaging and come up with better ways to reach out to your consumers. Sending an email? Tailor suggestions to their recent activities and make sure your tone is appropriate given the current context.
It takes a little more work, but the benefits are immeasurable.
Leverage New Trends with a Professional Web Development Team
Let us help you integrate new trends and technologies into your sales funnel and website. We house the best web developers and designers to bring your vision to life. Contact DevWerkz today.