Ecommerce Trends That Win in 2021

Well, we’re a bit past the prediction stage of trendwatching for 2021.  It’s never too late to see what’s working, however, and there’s always time to catch up.  Let’s take a look at the trends in ecommerce that have defined (and continue to define) the success or failure of businesses in 2021.

Forbes writer Shama Hyder points out immediately that ecommerce sales “grew by over 30 percent in 2020, driven by unprecedented consumer demand during the global pandemic.”  If you didn’t know the 30 percent figure, you probably at least felt the trend—even if you’re not in the retail business yourself, you’ve likely been a consumer. 

So, without taking any further time to establish the importance or relevance of ecommerce, let’s move directly to those trends.  What’s working best in ecommerce, and what should your organization do to move its ecommerce capabilities forward for the rest of the year—and beyond?

Three Key Trends

The three trends that Hyder identifies include 1) reimagined shopping habits, 2) heightened digital advertising competition and 3) increased demand within home-related niches like entertainment, home goods, and sanitation.

The reimagined shopping habits involve “break[ing] the general consumer’s time-worn habit of physically visiting stores,” particularly in the case of “older demographics, who may have been wary of online shopping previously.”  Interestingly, Hyder approaches the subject from an industrial-agency perspective—she describes “the industry’s ability” to break these habits, seemingly at odds with her earlier admission of the pandemic having been the prime mover in this scenario.

I’d contend that Hyder got it right the first time, and confused the second—the pandemic was what drove many, especially those less-inclined overall to pursue ecommerce options, to adopt the practice.  But whatever the reason (most likely, it was a combination of industry efforts and COVID realities), Hyder is absolutely right on her conclusion about these new habits: they’ll drive people to “continue to be ecommerce consumers even once brick-and-mortar locations reopen at full capacity.” 

Heightened digital advertising competition means, simply put, that more innovative online advertisers are more successful.  And increased demand in home-related niches means that “ecommerce niches that historically had low traction may now become lucrative playing fields,” inasmuch as the long indoor periods have made consumers reevaluate sanitation and other products that, pre-pandemic, aroused far less excitement.

So it’s not just the amount of buying and advertising in the online world that’s changing ecommerce—it’s what people are buying, and how they think of consumer goods.  Crucially, it’s also how they’re buying.

AR and AI

Numerous blogs and business analysts are fascinated by the impact of augmented reality (or AR).  A technological step forward that means that “customers can truly see the item they’re shopping for,” AR has particularly impacted industries like fashion and home décor.  Formerly the types of markets that seemed to mandate in-person examination of the product, AR has brought the customer to the product—or vice versa—in a way that allows them to get “a better feel for the item without seeing it in-person.”

While this naturally helps many industries conduct ecommerce faster and more successfully, it’s not the only technological leap that has helped ecommerce flourish in 2021—AI has brought data to businesses in a way that only ecommerce can facilitate.  By “continuously collecting data on how a customer shops… and what they’re looking for in a product or a service,” AI provides customers with automated, personalized shopping experiences at the same time it gives businesses indispensable insights on the success of their marketing, offerings, and more.

The Rise of Mobile Commerce

And then there’s mobile commerce, with sales totaling $2.66 trillion in 2020.  Maryam Mohsin argues the trend here is obvious and should be one that marketers lean into, “because consumers aren’t just checking out online, they’re also using their mobile devices to browse or research before making their mind up about their purchase.”  So ensure that your ecommerce experience for mobile users is top-notch, because we’re far past the point where it is a secondary or minor part of their shopping habits.

A major percentage of mobile ecommerce shoppers—and ecommerce shoppers in general—are the younger generation, aged 18-34.  While older consumers certainly gravitated more toward ecommerce than ever before in 2020, study results proved that two out of three younger consumers are spending more online than they were before the pandemic. 

This kind of growth is worthy of your immediate attention, especially through the best means of reaching younger audiences.  This heavily includes social media marketing, as over 50% of young consumers discover independent brands through social media.  So make sure you’re reaching this sizable market, and you’ll unlock sizable profits.

Keen on Green

Finally, it’s ideas—as well as convenience and circumstance—that are contributing to ecommerce trends.  Environmental records of businesses matter more than ever before, and green consumerism is on a continuing rise in relevance. 

“Online businesses need to step in and make sure that their practices are environmentally friendly,” urges Mohsin, with the example of “sourcing products from fair-trade organizations to help create a greener ecommerce environment” at the top of the list.

Again, this trend is heavily driven by millennials, who have “an increasing demand for brands to start taking care of our environment.”  Their feeling of eco-friendly responsibility “in turn increases the responsibility for brands to cater to the eco-friendly needs of customers.”

Ecommerce continues to skyrocket even as we start to regain control of our environment from the pandemic.  This is clear from new shopping habits, heightened advertising and other ecommerce competition, and the shifting interests in products that have come about through lengthy periods indoors.

It’s clear in consumers’ preference for AR, and from the value of AI to modern business—a value only made possible through ecommerce.  It’s evident in mobile buying habits, and we can see it most evidently in millennials, who are also vocal about the values they want their ecommerce business partners to have.  These are trends that show no sign of stopping or slowing down, so be sure to match your ecommerce environment to their demands.