E-Commerce: 5 Predictions for 2021 and Beyond
Businesses around the world are finding new and exciting ways to reach their customers.
While the last year has been a difficult one for many, the disruption that defined it has sparked a profound acceleration and evolution in the way people shop online.
Although e-commerce has already been around for over two decades, it’s only in the last few years that we’ve begun to see it move beyond the standard website format to become a multi-platform ecosystem. This shift has provided marketers with plenty of opportunities to get creative.
But that’s not the only change. From Big Data-generated insights to AI-driven personalization and the growing impact of social media influencers – e-commerce is undergoing continuous changes that are revolutionizing how and why individuals and companies purchase the things they need – or simply want.
Understanding these changes will be absolutely essential for any business seeking to make the most of the opportunities presented by e-commerce.
So, on that note, these are Bocasay’s top 5 e-commerce predictions for 2021:
1. E-Commerce is for Everything
One of the major changes that took place as a result of the pandemic was that e-commerce shifted from being a sporadic activity undertaken for making special purchases, to a daily necessity that allowed people to maintain access to anything from groceries to medicine.
While the physical shop is not completely dead – and people are likely to enjoy the novelty of returning to busy shopping streets once we can get back to our normal routines – retailers of everyday goods such as food and groceries have been expanding their e-commerce infrastructure in order to reach customers at home.
The value this transition has provided customers means that the trend is unlikely to reverse, and all kinds of vendors should make the most of it by ensuring they have an effective e-commerce platform and/or strategy to reach their customers.
Indeed, D2C (Direct to Consumer) commerce is another growing trend that is allowing producers to bypass third party vendors to sell their products direct to their customers. In the future, we can expect more producers attempting to break into the e-commerce space.
2. Omnichannel becomes The Benchmark
We’ve previously written about Omnichannel in the context of digital marketing and how important the approach is for providing a unified and streamlined experience to customers.
Omnichannel commerce involves creating a seamless and coherent shopping experience across platforms – not just on the devices your customers might be using, but across your website, apps and social media channels.
While Omnichannel has so far been an approach only some companies have adopted, evolving customer expectations and supporting technologies – such as Amazon Personalize – mean that it will become the norm in the future, allowing businesses to track and grow sales with individual customers across a variety of different touchpoints.
3. Social Media is a Marketplace
Love it or hate it, Facebook has been a pioneer in the way it has managed to monetize social connections by offering companies and individuals an unprecedented way to target ads to users.
More recently, it introduced the Facebook Marketplace, allowing its users to sell directly to each other on the platform, while it now even makes it possible to shop directly from videos or stories on its platforms, including Instagram.
Having shopping channels blended with consumable content such as videos is a game-changing development that allows – and encourages – users to impulse-buy as they browse. So, we can expect a lot more companies to be using the approach going into the future.
4. Influencers gain Influence
One of the key marketing tenets over the last decade has been “Content is King”. That axiom certainly still stands – and is also still a big challenge for companies seeking to engage customers.
While some companies have the resources to develop their own unique content that can demonstrate their expertise in their given area, build a community and entertain users in a way that brings them into contact with their products, the reality for many companies is that developing interesting content is difficult – and expensive.
Enter the influencer: from fashion to hospitality, FMCG and technology – companies are using individuals with strong social media presence to create the content for them, showcasing their products in the process.
The role of the influencer as a trustworthy bridge between a brand and its potential customers is only likely to grow as people try to sift through the ever-expanding noise of the online marketplace.
Developing a considered influencer relationship strategy can help companies generate the type of content and community engagement necessary to drive e-commerce sales higher, which is why we expect company-influencer bonds to flourish in the future.
5. AI becomes Real
While AI has been a buzzword for years, digital marketers have all-too-commonly considered it as something that is going to happen in the future, instead of looking into how they can use it now. That’s not all their fault – there simply weren’t that many practical ways to apply the technology to the e-commerce space.
However, that has now changed, and there is a constant proliferation of AI tools that can help online merchants better understand their customers, provide more personalization in what they offer to them, and to optimize their own processes in response.
For example, SparkToro is an AI-powered platform that allows companies to gain instant insights into what their customers share and discuss online by trawling their public profiles. These kinds of insights are a gold-mine for e-merchants seeking more detailed customer profiles to target their ad campaigns to.
Beyond buyer insights and personalization, AI will continue to offer new ways to engage customers through chatbots and other virtual assistants, as well as enabling people to begin navigating e-commerce platforms more intuitively through technologies such as Voice Design and VUI.
While the global economy continues to face a range of challenges, it is undoubtedly an exciting time for e-commerce. Ultimately, the term ‘e-commerce’ itself might become obsolete, as technology eventually envelops commercial activity entirely, blurring the distinction between what is internet-based commerce and what isn’t.
Whatever the case, technology is going to continue producing new tools for both buying and selling what humans want, and all companies engaged in this activity will be well-advised to make the most of it.
Have an e-commerce project you want to take to the next level? Let’s work on it together.