Top 2021 eCommerce Trends to Look Out For

Mitchell Tessier
Mitchell Tessier

If there’s one thing 2020 achieved, it’s that it put eCommerce into overdrive. With the pandemic ushering consumers indoors, businesses saw a significant surge in revenues, a trend that has continued as we move into 2021. Clearco-funded eCommerce companies, for example, saw a 54% increase in monthly revenues compared to 2019. But while there’s a lot of optimism since the last year came to a close, we continue to live in a cloud of uncertainty -- both with regards to COVID-19 and the future of the global eCommerce engine.

As a result, store owners now more than ever before are looking to predict the next “big thing” in eCommerce. And while we might not have a crystal ball, we came pretty close. We sat down with our partners to pick their brains by asking what they believe will be the coming year’s biggest, most influential trends. Here’s what they had to say.

Number 1

Klaviyo: Add a personal touch with owned channels

2020 was marked with a volatility no one could have predicted, meaning in 2021 brands are focused more than ever on how to manage customer acquisition costs, grow customer lifetime value, and improve margins. And that’s where owned marketing -- strategies designed to help brands communicate directly with customers -- comes into play. “In 2021, we’ll see a shift from growth strategies primarily focused on advertising platforms and third party marketplaces, to strategies focused on building relationships that help deliver personalized, revenue-generating experiences,” says Leslie Wong, Partner Marketing Manager at Klaviyo.

Person typing on a laptop with a Klaviyo logo in the corner
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

This represents a significant shift compared to the more established business model of leveraging advertising platforms and third-party marketplaces that use ‘rented’ customer data and dynamic pricing models. With owned channels, brands can control their costs and deliver more personalized experiences that drive revenue. “Our data is showing that segmented emails have the power to drive three times more revenue per recipient compared to unsegmented emails,” Leslie explains.

Take this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, for example. Klaviyo measured the sales activity of over 50,000 customers, making up brands that drove $3.2 billion in sales over the 5 day weekend: $917 million was propelled by owned marketing channels like email and SMS -- up 113.2% from 2019. This nearly $1 billion in owned marketing-driven sales represents 3.1% of all online store sales across Cyber Weekend in 2020, which is a whopping 50% increase from 2019.

Number 2

MuteSix: Going virtual with Live Shopping

The pandemic has accelerated eCommerce growth to levels that hadn’t been previously expected until at least 2022. “The opportunity for brands to reach and convert customers online is unprecedented”, says Adena Merabi, Strategic Partnerships at MuteSix. Adena anticipates that the next phase of retail will rely heavily on ‘Live Shopping’. “Our partners at Facebook, TikTok, and Amazon are all rolling out new features that will make it extremely quick and easy for consumers to make purchases directly from interactive content -- without ever leaving their respective app or site”, she explains.

Three phones showing app interface
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

In 2021, businesses will be able to sell seamlessly through Instagram’s ‘Checkout’ feature. Not only that, but they’ll be able to take advantage of TikTok’s first-ever commerce partnership with Shopify. Amazon has also created its own live shopping experience with ‘Amazon Live’, where hosts and guests promote and interact with shoppable products via broadcast-style videos. “It’s important that brands stay informed of the changing online ecosystem as they invest in making social platforms profitable channels for their business; brands that are quick to pivot and adapt to new features are the ones who succeed into billion-dollar success stories”, says Adena.

Number 3

Gorgias: The year of the customer

Consumers today have a very different relationship to brands than they did in the past, in large part because of the shift in emphasis towards customer experience. As Rohan Kapoor, Strategic Partner Manager at Gorgias, puts it: “30% of customers will start looking for another business after a single bad experience, 50% will not make a purchase again, and 70% are willing to spend more on a business with good customer service.” If brands can improve the experience customers have with their eCommerce business, they can ultimately improve their bottom line.

Woman using an iPad to do online shopping
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

According to Rohan, 2021 will be the year of the customer. “We have every reason to believe that positive customer experiences will be reflected in retention rates, satisfaction rates, sales numbers, and overall revenue,” he explains. He believes that when it comes to customer support, brands will continue to trend towards proactiveness, transparency, automation and community engagement -- all efforts taken to ensure customer satisfaction.

Number 4

Affirm: Shopping from the palm of your hand

While the shift to eCommerce isn’t exactly unexpected, it did accelerate over the last year. “We were expecting a somewhat gradual change, but it essentially jumped ahead three years overnight,” says Silvija Martincevic, Chief Commercial Officer at Affirm. This shift forced many merchants to bump eCommerce to their number one priority. Shopify, for example, experienced a 71% surge in new stores created on its platform from April to June of 2020, compared to the previous three-month period.

Living room with designer furniture
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

“I believe mobile commerce -- or m-commerce -- is going to accelerate even more rapidly in 2021, since merchants have realized they need to deliver exceptional mobile experiences to win consumers’ attention,” says Silvija. M-commerce is experiencing a rapid surge in adoption rates as a result of mobile devices now serving as the new “store-front”, and is expected to account for 54% of total eCommerce sales in 2021. Merchants will need to attract consumer attention via mobile now more than ever.

“I feel like we’ve moved five years ahead in just one,” says Silvija. “I recommend retailers take a close look at their mobile product roadmap to ensure that it is just as robust as their online shopping experience,” she adds. For merchants to succeed in 2021, they will need to design a user experience that meets the needs of consumers via the palm of their hand.

Number 5

Indigogo: It’s all about crowdfunding

Crowdfunding remains an important alternative path for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital as they launch innovative new products. Anders Loven-Holt, Director of Business Development and Digital Services at Indiegogo, believes digital marketing’s role will become even more critical to a campaign’s success in 2021. “Crowdfunding will play an important role in ensuring companies can scale their paid media during the short timeframe of a campaign,” says Anders.

Man on futuristic looking bicycle
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

In particular, Anders anticipates a surge in the e-bike and transportation category. “2020 was a very strong year for that space, and we’re projecting continued year over year growth for 2021 due to the high price point of these products and increased consumer demand,” explains Anders. Since Indidegogo and Clearco launched their partnership in October 2020, several of their top e-bike campaigns have accepted funding for digital advertising spend -- a trend that is expected to continue in 2021.

Number 6

Attentive: Real-time, two-way text message interactions

Attentive’s CEO and Co-Founder Brian Long agrees with Silvija. “If 2020’s holiday season taught us anything, it’s that mobile-first consumers can no longer be ignored”, says Brian. And text messaging has emerged as one of the most direct and effective ways to engage with customers, especially considering eCommerce sales from mobile users continue to increase year-over-year.

Homepage of the Alterra website
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

“This is where personalized text messaging comes into the picture, by allowing brands to bridge the gap between shoppers’ smartphone screens and their online stores,” explains Brian. Text messaging enables brands to send and automate personalized marketing at every stage of the customer lifecycle -- from limited-time offers, to cart reminders, to much more. “As the shift towards eCommerce continues to accelerate with mobile shoppers leading the charge, it will become even more important for brands to deliver personalized, one-on-one experiences,” adds Brian.

In 2021, consumers can continue to expect real-time, two-way interactions with businesses. By leveraging text message marketing across the entire customer lifecycle -- from acquisition to retention -- businesses will be able to adapt to the surge in eCommerce and ultimately flourish in an increasingly mobile-first world, all while giving consumers the responsive, tailored experiences they’re craving.

Number 7

#paid: Build trust via influencer marketing

Kelsey Burdett, Senior Manager (Partnerships7) at #paid, believes influencer marketing will no longer be restricted to organic campaigns in 2021. “Brands will now be using creator content and accounts to run paid social ads, allowing for significantly greater control over targeting and reach”, says Kelsey. Weaving this content in different ways within the business’ marketing strategy -- via UGC content for websites, offline channels, branding and messaging strategies, for example -- will be key.

Instagram interface showing woman applying chap stick to lips
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

Consider product review videos, for example. As shopping went increasingly virtual in 2020, businesses were forced to think outside the box when it came to establishing trust with potential customers and replacing in-store buying experiences. “Creating product review videos was the perfect way to leverage the trust a creator has already built with their audience -- not to mention it’s a great way to get your potential customers familiar with your products, especially when they can’t touch or feel them in-store,” explains Kelsey.

Number 8

Deliverr: Stand out with top-notch fulfillment

As we propel into 2021, fast shipping will continue to be a vital differentiator for eCommerce stores. “More and more people are turning to eCommerce for their essentials, and we’re seeing a massive online demand for items like vitamins and supplements, pet supplies, personal care goods, school and office supplies, and more,” says Rachel Go, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Deliverr.

Stacked boxes with e-commerce brand logos
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

In fact, one of Deliverr’s sellers, Equinox International, achieved a 900% sales growth with the addition of fast shipping, and a reduction in CPA for ads with 2-day and next-day delivery tags. As consumers continue to flock towards businesses that provide them with the most efficient buyer experience, businesses should look to include key shipping services such as 2-day delivery and next-day delivery by highlighting them across their store, marketplace listings, and ads.

Number 9

Sales & Orders: Don’t settle for “good enough”

Gone are the days where you would rely solely on one or two channels (at most!) to reach shoppers. As a result, it will be crucial that eCommerce owners remain hyper-focused on an omnichannel strategy to outpace each previous year's performance. Anthony Capetola, Chief Marketing Officer at Sales and Orders, believes retailers should seek to challenge the status quo by leveraging new opportunities and not settling for "just good enough."

Man using laptop to look at statistics
Photo credit: Joanne Smith

“We are likely going to see advancements across search engine marketing channels like Google and Microsoft Advertising, as well as a huge rise in Social Commerce opportunities”, says Anthony. This could mean, for example, incorporating Affiliate Marketing into an omnichannel marketing approach. For those with a brick and mortar presence as well as an online storefront, it will be crucial to key in on a BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up In-Store) strategy. “You should also make sure to leverage some of the incredible programs that Google Shopping has to offer merchants looking to attract new customers and repeat business,” adds Anthony.