The COVID-19 pandemic has left an unforgettable mark on our lives and the global economy. Though many industries stalled, eCommerce soared, with our 2020 predictions only increasing in importance. As we look at 2021 eCommerce trends, the need for a digital-first approach is essential, as businesses must guarantee personalised and secure digital experiences.

The covid-19 Pandemic & eCommerce in the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an already growing eCommerce industry.  The late adopters, the baby boomer generation, were pushed online, where 45% are shopping online more often than before the crisis. This shift accompanied a broader trend of online sales, as DigitalCommerce360 notes, where the growth of online sales grew by 40%. Ecommerce is not only here to stay in 2021 — it’s thriving.

Another offshoot of COVID-19 is the increasing comfort with virtual meetups. We spend a large part of our daily lives on Zoom, Google Meets,  Microsoft Teams and so on. This new behaviour raises the question:  why do we need to meet in-person? This question taps into the need for unified commerce where each business will need to meet their customer online as the first touchpoint and use eCommerce to integrate their sales channels.  As a result, COVID-19 makes in-person meetings secondary.

Digital First is No Longer an Afterthought

In 2021, companies will need to be digital-first. 35% of U.S. consumers said they would be happy if they never made an in-store retail purchase again. For example, Nike is betting that this behaviour continues and projects 50% of its sales to come from eCommerce by 2025. With global brands changing their organisations and in-store presence to support eCommerce, it’s also your time to move in a new direction.

This new direction is known as experience-driven commerce, where you assist customers from start to finish regardless of the sales channel. And physical no longer drives the experience: 63% of baby boomers, the most faithful in-store shoppers, say that curbside and in-store pickup improved their overall shopping experience. Given the fundamental changes in consumer behaviour, you need to meet shoppers online.


Customer Data & Customer Data Platforms

With the majority of shoppers moving online in 2020, customer data management is essential. It’s critical to know where customer data is, how it’s used, and how to manage it. After all, you’ll struggle to personalise your digital experience without using customer data.  Many businesses are handling this issue by adopting customer data platforms (CDPs), which gather user data from different systems to create a full picture of your customer.

When done right, CDPs help your entire organisation, such as marketing, sales and operations. But, it’s not imperfect: 87% of marketers are using or implementing a CDP, but 23% believe they lack the customer data to leverage their martech (marketing technology) products, according to Gartner. Even with barriers to application, the mass exodus of customers from notable brands means that businesses must assess and manage their customer data more critically to win new shoppers in 2021.

Back to the Suite Life

Companies are once again choosing suites over point solutions. While point solutions offer the best option to solve a specific problem, they require resources and patience to integrate them into your business.  With resources and patience in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, all-in-one suites — an integrated system of tools from a single vendor — are taking over.

The preference for suites over point solutions is evident in the area of martech. For example,  59% of marketers preferred marketing suites compared to 36% who chose the best-of-breed solution. This conclusion benefits the more prominent industry players, such as Adobe and Salesforce, which are better known and offer a comprehensive martech stack. As cost pressures and economic turmoil force martech optimisation and innovation, the decision to choose industry leaders will change the martech industry and also alter similar domains, such as commerce stacks, in 2021.

Digital Threats

Cybersecurity is closely related to customer data, as innumerable threats pose a significant risk to businesses’ reputations in 2021.  According to Cybercrime Ventures, global cybercrime is growing 15% annually and will cost the global economy 10.5 trillion USD per year by 2025.  Economic turmoil and the COVID-19 pandemic only heighten this threat. Major events, such as natural disasters, make businesses more vulnerable by using the general public’s confusion and lack of attention to their benefit.

Business leaders need to take measures to defend against cybercrime. First,  they must adhere to local legislation, which gets more challenging every year. Second, they need to take steps to ensure their customers’ trust. The younger generations are concerned about inappropriate use of their data, and older generations are worried about using online services to fulfil simple transactions. One misstep in security can nullify years of success. 69% of individuals would avoid a company that has had a data breach, even if it offered a better deal than its competitors, according to a Verizon survey.  With a myriad of threats to eCommerce, a primary focus for 2021 is defending your site from cyber threats.

Thank you for reading my take on the key 2021 eCommerce trends. For all of us, 2020 came with a great deal of hardship. With vaccines on the horizon, I hope that you share the optimism that 2021 offers to your loved ones, as well as your business potential.

We’re looking forward to helping you navigate the new normal and grow your digital capabilities in the shifting eCommerce landscape.

If you’d like to discuss your 2021 strategy and eCommerce requirements, then don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. Here’s to a great year ahead!