Industry experts chime in on what will have the biggest impact on on-line shopping over the next twelve months.
E-commerce is constantly evolving. Today, more than ever before, businesses are working hard to keep up with changing customer behaviours and demands. What is it that shoppers want? They want retailers to deliver what they’re looking for across multiple channels so that when they’re looking for something they need or want, they can execute a purchase instantly. Today, customers want what they want, when they want it, wherever they happen to be at that very moment. And if you don’t deliver with the options, you’ll likely lose their sale to a competitor who does.
As we all come out of our various lockdown states around the world, we thought it would be worth revisiting the biggest trends that will affect online businesses in the next year. Here’s our watch list for 2021.
10 eCommerce Trends to Watch in 2021
- AR is helping build new brands by inspiring trial.
- Voice search starts to ramp up.
- AI strengthens connections between retailers and shoppers.
- Data continues to play a huge role in personalizing the customer experience.
- Chatbots continue to enhance the shopping experience.
- Mobile shopping continues to grow.
- Customers are looking for more ways to pay.
- Customers connect with video.
- Subscriptions keep customers loyal.
- Businesses will begin evolving their digital strategies to focus on conversion.
1. AR is helping build new brands by inspiring trial.
Augmented reality (AR) is having a huge impact on eCommerce right now. The technology has been popular within the gaming community for years now but seeing it in action in an online retail environment is truly spectacular. Many businesses are starting to talk about merging physical and virtual spaces to create a new super-experience for shoppers.
Imagine being able to see the item that you’re shopping for, at every angle, without ever actually touching it. It’s simulated tactile experiences like that, that are helping customers make buying decisions right now. AR has had a particular influence in the fashion and home decor industries because it gives shoppers a way to picture what a product might look like on them or in their very own living room.
Andrew Rutherford, Head of Digital Marketing at Horn and Mane, predicts that more industries will lean into AR in the coming years.
“How we shop has changed a lot in the past year. When all of your in-person options are taken away, you suddenly realize just how much you need an alternative. One of the biggest criticisms of eCommerce is an inability to get up close and personal with high ticket or hard-to-fit items. Buying an expensive pair of shoes or custom suiting, for instance, might make some customers nervous. Fit is a big issue… especially when shopping for brands you don’t buy often,” says Rutherford. “When an online business invests in the technology to show its customers how their products will fit, fall and look on them, shoppers reward them by taking a leap of faith and then working through the return process if they’re not fully satisfied. But there’s no question that AR is breaking down barriers for new brands by inspiring customers to try new things.”
2. Voice search starts to ramp up.
More and more, people are relying on voice assistants to help manage their days and complete routine errands. And as smart speakers work their way into more homes, more shoppers are turning to voice search to shop online.
Like more mainstream search tactics, the growing popularity of voice search is creating opportunities for eCommerce businesses who are savvy enough to leverage keywords and content to drive organic traffic to their online stores. Watch for more engagement with voice-enabled shopping solutions driven by Amazon Alexa and Google Home as shoppers get more comfortable with the technology.
3. AI strengthens connections between retailers and shoppers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making it possible for businesses to deliver highly personalized shopping experiences. AI is continuously harvesting data around customer shopping behaviours… when shoppers buy, what they’re looking for and how often they return to a particular online destination. This kind of shopper tracking is very difficult to simulate in a brick-and-mortar environment.
AI technology is growing smarter every day. And the more sophisticated it gets, the easier it is for machines to generate insights that are connecting with humans. AI technology learns more about a shopper every time we log on to our favourite eCommerce site, every time we buy a new item and share a review about that item. As we repeat these behaviours the technology also learns to pick up on sentiments and emotion which takes the experience to a whole new level. It’s building up an archive of behavioural data that can help it eventually predict our online behaviour so that it can personalize recommendations not only on past purchases but on how we might be feeling at a particular time.
AI technology will continue to have a big impact on how we use data to improve online shopping experiences.
4. Data continues to play a huge role in personalizing the customer experience.
Most shoppers are now very aware that online stores and websites are collecting personal data and many have very mixed feelings about how big data is impacting their day-to-day lives. But few will dispute the benefits of personalization when it comes to sales and marketing efforts. When asked, most will tell you that they much prefer to receive relevant information, offers and product suggestions. And that receiving news and promotional messages about products and services that they don’t use or have no interest in is annoying, and in some cases, frustrating.
So how does a business trying to sell things balance it all?
Nancy Modrcin, Head of Global Strategy at Horn and Mane, says, “Our advice is to never assume that people want to hear from you if you haven’t asked for permission. Transparency is critical when you’re collecting data. Tell shoppers when you’re doing it, explain what you plan to do with their information and always give them an option to opt out. Chances are, if you’ve made enough of a positive first, second and third impression, they’ll eventually open their door to you and let you in. But tread lightly until they invite you in. No one responds positively to an intruder.”
Once you cross that hurdle, the shoppers you genuinely connect with will appreciate your efforts to personalize their experience.
5. Chatbots continue to enhance the shopping experience.
Chatbots are everywhere. And they’re getting better and better with every passing year. Today, online shoppers can interact with them to resolve issues, ask for help finding special products and upgrade all sorts of services in a matter of minutes.
Today’s shoppers want solutions instantly so if you can deliver what they’re looking for in just a few clicks, you’re already winning. If you can’t, chances are you’ll eventually be dealing with some frustrated shoppers. Experts estimate that more than 80% of businesses out there will be utilizing chatbots this year. And it won’t just be to resolve customer services issues.
As more people turn to eCommerce to shop, chatbots might just become a business’s most important retail marketing tool, helping to eliminate barriers to purchase through live chats, automated trigger emails deployed following abandoned carts and the first point of contact for customer satisfaction surveys.
6. Mobile shopping continues to grow.
There’s absolutely no disputing that mobile shopping is on the rise. Customers now have the ability to make a purchase with one click, from the palm of their hands, from anywhere that they are. So, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your eCommerce site is responsive on mobile and/or via apps. Shoppers making purchases this way are all about the convenience. They also love having the option to pay for their purchase digitally.
This trend will take firmer hold as more mobile payment integrations become available.
7. Customers are looking for more ways to pay.
Online shoppers have a lot of choice these days. That’s true of where they shop online and also of how they pay for their purchases. Everyone has their own preferred payment method so ensuring that you provide options is important. Giving people a variety of payment options is a great way to increase conversion rates on mobile. For those shoppers who choose to save their payment information for future checkouts, they’ll also benefit from an easier and faster checkout experience. It’s a continued win-win for both shopper and retailer.
Where is all of this headed in the future? The more used to shoppers get with mobile transactions, the more one-click shopping will be normalized. That means the customer journey will be shorter, faster and more efficient than ever before.
8. Customers connect with video
Video is on fire. There’s no better way to connect with your customers. Product videos are everywhere these days and they’re one of the most effective ways to feature a new item, service or innovation. There’s a reason that YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world.
Short-form video has been sprouting up on eCommerce product pages everywhere, highlighting brand benefits, product features, customer reviews and assembly guides. Companies can explain everything about their products and services in quick time. And time-starved shoppers, overwhelmed by choice, are all over it.
Videos might just be the most powerful marketing tool out there when it comes to driving conversions online.
9. Subscriptions keep customers loyal.
There is no shortage of subscription services out there right now. Everything from organic farm-to-table food clubs to cloud based software subscriptions to virtual book clubs. They’re a win with customers who are looking for convenience and predictable payment terms. They’re a win with businesses who are trying to plan their inventory and generate a regular flow of sales revenue. They also create a great opportunity to regularly connect with customers so that you can gather data that informs future product and service offers.
Rachelle Seguin, Creative Director at Elevation Dance and Horn and Mane’s Director of Global Business Operations, predicts subscription products and services will continue to grow in popularity in the back half of 2021.
“In a year like the one that we just had, where there was so much uncertainty, I think we were all looking for new routines to bring a little comfort to our lives. Someone gifted me with a Subscription Box membership, and I was surprised at how much I loved it, “she said. “Every month I’d forget it was coming. And every month it was a little joy delivered to my front door. I fell in love and renewed the membership for another year. It was quick and easy, all done online, and I still look forward to it every single month.”
10. Businesses will begin evolving their digital strategies to focus on conversion.
There’s no question that driving traffic to an eCommerce site is getting more difficult by the day. There’s more and more competition out there and standing out can be hard. But once you get your targeted shoppers into your online world, there’s a larger challenge that you have to address. And that’s generating a sale.
Converting customers online is critical to any eCommerce based business. Jocelyne Martineau, Head of Client Services at Horn and Mane says there are many ways for businesses to improve their conversion rates online.
“Removing barriers along the path to purchase is one of the most impactful things you can do to improve conversion rates. Take the time to really investigate how your customers are navigating and shopping through your online environment. Make sure your product pages are optimized to close a sale, that your product is available on multiple channels and that your ads are actually advertising what you’re selling. Don’t run an ad advertising sweaters if you’re selling shirts. Even if the products all live on the same page, shoppers want to click through to what they’re seeing on your ads.”
There will be a big shift in focus to conversation-based strategy builds as online retailers move through the back half of 2021 and try to make up losses from the first half of the year.
There has been a lot happening on the e-commerce front in the first half of this year. Technology is evolving, businesses are transforming, and shoppers are changing quickly. Interested in hearing more about this year’s top eCommerce trends?