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9 Important E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2021

December 24, 2020

With online shopping at an all-time high, the world of e-commerce has never been more exciting and fast-paced. If you don’t keep up with the latest e-commerce trends, you risk getting left behind.

By embracing industry trends, you can drive more traffic to your site and convert visitors into paying customers. What’s more, staying in the know can help you maximize your revenue today while future-proofing your business for tomorrow.

In this article, we’ll help you keep your store at the cutting-edge throughout 2021 and beyond. We’ll introduce you to the importance of e-commerce trends, explore nine of the biggest ones currently, and discuss how you can implement them. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to E-Commerce Trends (And Why They’re Important)

Market trends are patterns of consumer behavior that can be found across all industries. As an online store owner, you likely depend on website traffic.

More people visiting your store means more potential customers and sales. Staying at the cutting edge of the latest e-commerce trends can help you generate more buzz around your offerings.

Once people arrive at your store, your next task is to convert them into customers. If your site reflects the latest e-commerce trends and consumer preferences, it can help you boost their experience, and in turn you can maximize your conversion rates and revenue.

It’s always been important for businesses to keep up with consumer trends. However, since the ongoing pandemic is having a massive impact on the world of e-commerce, it’s perhaps more vital now than ever.

A recent survey revealed that, throughout 2020, COVID-19 drove online shopping to an all-time high. By embracing industry trends, you can increase your chances of connecting with this huge potential audience of people looking to shop in a safe online environment.

There’s also evidence to suggest that new customers you acquire now are likely to stick with your business for the long haul. The aforementioned survey showed that nearly 9 out of 10 people worldwide plan to continue spending money with an online store they discovered during the lockdown.

The world of e-commerce is always changing and evolving. Staying on top of the latest topics and trends can prevent you from falling behind and becoming irrelevant.

9 Important E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2021

To help you identify exactly where your e-commerce store should go next, it’s critical to monitor industry trends. To set you on the path to success, let’s take a look at nine e-commerce trends expected to shape the industry throughout 2021 and beyond.

1. There’s an Increasing Demand for Personalized Shopping Experiences

Today, the vast majority of stores have an online presence. With plenty of e-commerce sites to choose from, customers are in a strong position to demand a five-star experience. There’s evidence to suggest that, for many customers, personalization massively improves the purchasing process.

According to marketing specialists Epsilon, 80 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a tailored experience. By customizing the experience for each shopper, you can help drive conversions.

Also, over 36 percent of consumers say retailers need to do more to offer personalized experiences. That means this strategy can help you get the edge over your competitors.

Every purchase has a positive impact on your revenue. However, repeat customers are particularly valuable, as they deliver a high Return On Investment (ROI) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV).

Personalization can help you build rewarding long-term relationships by improving the quality of the customer experience. You can even use it to present yourself as a helpful service, rather than just another online store. For example, you might recommend new products based on a customer’s previous purchase history, or remind them when it’s time to reorder their favorite items.

If you’re going to provide this kind of helpful service, you’ll need to record information about the customer’s habits and behavior. You can achieve this by adding membership functionality to your site using a plugin such as Members:

The WordPress Members plugin.

Members ensures that all the customer’s actions are added to their user profile, ready for you to use to craft tailored experiences. You could even use this plugin to sell members-only products or offer exclusive pricing to your best customers. Also, memberships can create a sense of exclusivity, which is another powerful way to encourage long-term loyalty.

2. Smartphone Shoppers Are Continuing to Increase

The number of global smartphone users has passed three billion. With so many mobile devices out there, it’s essential to optimize your online store for this demographic.

In 2019, mobile devices accounted for 65 percent of all e-commerce traffic, and 53 percent of sales. Depending on your industry, this number may be even higher. For example, fashion retailers receive 67 percent of their sales from mobile devices.

The number of smartphone users is projected to grow by several hundred million in the next few years. Therefore, we predict that mobile optimization will be a massive trend throughout 2021 and in the years to come.

To ensure that your store provides a favorable experience for smartphone and tablet users, we recommend using a mobile-responsive WordPress theme:

The WordPress Theme Directory.

It’s also a smart idea to remove popups, as these are particularly obtrusive on the smaller screen of your typical mobile device. Similarly, consider reviewing each web page to look for opportunities to trim unnecessary content.

Remember that your typical smartphone or tablet screen can display far less content than a desktop computer. By streamlining your site, you can minimize how much mobile users need to scroll to access the information or features they need.

Chances are your e-commerce store features a lot of product images. Beautiful, high-resolution images are essential for driving conversions. However, they also impact your page loading times.

If your site takes too long to load or provides a poor experience, you can assume that consumers will be less likely to make a purchase. To meet consumer expectations and drive sales, it’s important to optimize your product images for mobile.

3. Omnichannel Selling Is Becoming Essential

Today’s consumer expects to purchase content in multiple ways, such as browsing your product catalog on both their desktop and mobile browsers. Some online stores even have a dedicated mobile app:

The Amazon mobile app banner.

 

As an e-commerce site, it’s crucial that you meet your customers wherever they are, and provide a seamless experience across all channels. A headless e-commerce architecture can help you deliver this kind of omnichannel experience. By opting for a headless setup, you’ll be able to create your content once, and then publish it on multiple platforms.

If you’ve built your site using the popular WooCommerce e-commerce platform, you’ll have access to the WooCommerce REST API. This API gives you the flexibility to use your data in other contexts, including Single Page Applications (SPAs) and mobile apps:

The WooCommerce REST API can help you implement e-commerce trends.

As an online retailer, you’ll likely want to promote your content on every conceivable channel. However, it’s important to be selective about your omnichannel experience. Building and maintaining a presence across a long list of platforms requires a significant amount of time and effort. As a busy website owner, this may not be practical.

Different channels also have different target audiences, and there’s no guarantee that these people will be your ideal customers. Focusing on a platform that isn’t widely used by your target audience will likely deliver a low ROI.

Ideally, you’ll zero in on the channel(s) that your audience spends the majority of their time. Here, it may help to deep-dive into your visitors and their behaviors using a platform such as Google Analytics.

4. Environmentally-Conscious Consumers Are Encouraging Brands to Go Green

In 2021, environmental issues are no longer reserved for eco-friendly brands. Many major online retailers have taken the pledge toward sustainability, including e-commerce giant Amazon:

Amazon's sustainability website.

Sustainability is a great cause, and every business should strive to become more eco-friendly. However, there’s no denying that ‘sustainability’ is also a huge buzzword, particularly among millennials.

According to a recent study, 61 percent of consumers said that they would switch to a brand that’s more environmentally friendly than their current favorite. This means that taking steps towards sustainability isn’t just the right thing to do – it can also help you get an edge over the competition.

Your customers may even be willing to pay more for eco-friendly products, especially the younger generation. The same study showed that 61 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen-Z agree that they’d pay a higher price tag for a ‘green’ product.

This suggests that, even if you have to increase your prices, your customers may be happy to foot the bill. Sustainability could be one of the few ways for you to increase your prices, while also improving the customer experience.

To set your e-commerce store on the green road, we recommend reviewing your current offerings. Consider whether your products are made through sustainable processes or with eco-friendly materials. Wherever possible, it’s a smart idea to replace items that aren’t with more sustainable alternatives.

Additionally, if you ship to your customers, you might look into ways to reduce the amount of packaging used. You could also replace non-recyclable materials, such as plastic, with recyclable alternatives, such as cardboard. To boost your green credentials, you may want to provide instructions on how to recycle the packaging, or even the product itself.

5. Social Media Continues to Drive Purchasing Decisions

For years, social media has been an integral marketing tool for online stores. However, in 2020, we saw a few initiatives that strengthened this link between social media and e-commerce, such as the partnership between Shopify and TikTok and the launch of Instagram Shops:

The Instagram Shops dashboard.

These projects reflect the increasing number of customers who make purchasing decisions directly from their social media feeds. To capitalize on this trend, you can look for opportunities to create shareable content related to your e-commerce offerings. For example, you might create unboxing videos of your products.

You could also generate social media buzz by encouraging your customers to create their own content. Consumers generally perceive User-Generated Content (UGC) as more trustworthy than traditional promotional and marketing content.

Therefore, you may want to provide an incentive to shoppers for creating valuable UGC. For example, home-ware brand MADE has an ongoing Instagram campaign where customers share photos of their favorite MADE products:

The MADE Instagram competition example of an e-commerce trend.

How you promote your store on social media also makes a difference. Although it’s difficult to prove, there’s a common belief that social media algorithms reward the adoption of new features.

Every time new functionality is introduced, you may want to put it to the test by incorporating it into your social media activities. Then you can measure the impact it has on your engagement, conversions, and other key metrics. Armed with this information, you can adjust your social media efforts accordingly.

Experimenting with the latest social media features can also help boost your profile. You may even earn a reputation as a business at the cutting edge of social media trends. This can increase your appeal, particularly among the tech-savvy younger generations.

6. Online Influencers Are Assuming a Content Creator Role

An online influencer is someone who has a significant digital following. They can promote your business or products to their existing audience, similar to a traditional celebrity endorsement.

The influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $9.7 billion in 2020, making it clear why these partnerships deserve a spot on the list of important e-commerce trends to consider. The right person can send a fresh wave of traffic to your online store, and even increase your sales.

Influencers can promote your brand, but they also fulfill a content creation role. With more social media platforms than ever before, busy website owners may struggle to create enough content to feed the machine. Instead of partnering with an agency, you could consider teaming up with someone who will create content based on your brand.

The key to a successful partnership is to find a fitting match. Ideally, there should be some crossover between their fan base and your target audience, as this will typically result in more conversions.

It also helps if there’s some connection between the influencer and the product(s) they’re promoting, so the content seems more authentic. Even though the work is strictly business, fans like to believe that their favorite creators are discerning about brands they promote. If the audience thinks the promoter is genuinely passionate about your product(s), it’s more likely to result in sales.

While it’s tempting to go after the biggest social media stars, sometimes it makes more sense to partner with a micro-influencer within your niche. They may have a smaller audience, but if their fan base represents your ideal customer, the collaboration could yield a high ROI.

7. More Online Stores Are Becoming Multilingual

Thanks to the internet, your store has the opportunity to reach audiences worldwide. With online shopping more prevalent than ever, we predict that more businesses will try to capitalize on this global increase by producing multi-language content.

According to estimates, 60 percent of all online content is in English, but 74 percent of internet users speak a language other than English. If you restrict yourself to a single language, you’re missing out on a huge audience – and a lot of potential sales. Plus, this is one of the e-commerce trends you can take advantage of to make your site more accessible.

Even if your customers are multilingual, most people appreciate a business that attempts to communicate in their first language. Research shows that 65 percent of consumers prefer to access content in their native tongues.

When it comes to translating your content, we recommend working with a native speaker wherever possible. They typically offer the highest quality results, and will have an innate understanding of the cultural etiquette surrounding the language. Rather than providing a word-for-word translation, a professional can use this insight to help you create interpreted content that is more engaging and persuasive.

After translating your e-commerce site, you’ll need to give visitors a way to switch between the supported languages. You can add a language picker to your online store using the Polylang plugin:

The Polylang WordPress plugin.

You can also use this plugin to optimize your site’s categories, tags, and custom taxonomies for the different languages your store supports. The tool can help your translated content appear in relevant search engine results, and drive more international customers to your online store.

8. Customer Support Is Getting an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Boost

Customer service is essential for driving sales. Studies indicate that a consumer will spend  140 percent more after having a positive experience.

Many factors contribute to the quality of your customer experience. However, how quickly you respond to inquiries is a huge one. Ideally, you’ll answer immediately, and at any time of the day or night. Of course, for many online store owners, this simply isn’t feasible.

Chatbots can be a powerful way to provide customers with instant access to support, regardless of the date, time, or number of other people currently seeking help. There’s also evidence to suggest that these AI tools are becoming increasingly popular, with over 67 percent of consumers using them for customer support in 2019.

Even if you have a 24/7 customer services department, chatbots can streamline your support process. For example, you might use one to automatically gather important information, such as the customer’s account number and contact details. This information will then be shared with your support staff.

In this way, chatbots can reduce the amount of time required to resolve a customer’s query. When it comes to routine questions, research indicates that they can reduce response times by up to 80 percent.

There are various chat tools that integrate with WordPress. If you’re using WooCommerce, the WoowBot plugin is a popular standalone chatbot that has full support for the e-commerce platform:

The WooWBot WordPress plugin can help you implement e-commerce trends.

Another well-known option is Chatbot by Collect.chat. This plugin is free to use, and lets you add a chat widget to your site without any technical knowledge.

9. There’s a Growing Need for Online Businesses to Invest in Dedicated Hosting

Behind most successful websites are reliable, high-performance hosting providers. The type of hosting you use influences all aspects of your site, particularly its speed and performance.

Business-critical websites, especially online stores, come with a unique set of challenges and demands. Not only are fast page loading times and quick checkout processes necessary to ensure a seamless UX, but any amount of downtime can be disastrous.

As more companies move operations online, it ushers in an increasing need to invest in dedicated hosting:

A2 Hosting dedicated hosting plans.

In a nutshell, dedicated hosting means you aren’t sharing your server resources with other websites. In turn, you have the benefit of improved security and overall better performance. You can feel confident that your store will remain online, even during unexpected traffic spikes, and as your site continues to grow throughout 2021 and beyond.

Conclusion

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many consumers to shop online and triggered an e-commerce revolution. Now it’s time to prepare your business for the next step.

To set your site up for success, it’s a good idea to provide a more personalized shopping experience. By offering membership features, you can encourage customer loyalty and increase your chances of securing repeat purchases. We also predict that consumers will continue to favor sustainable brands, and may even be willing to pay a premium for sustainable products in 2021.

Following the latest e-commerce trends is essential for driving traffic and conversions. This includes getting the foundations right, such as your web hosting. At A2 Hosting, we offer dedicated hosting plans that can help keep your e-commerce site up and running 24/7!

Image credit: Pexels

Source: A2 Hosting

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