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E-commerce Trends to Watch Out For In 2021

Needless to say, 2020 didn’t go quite as planned. The pandemic affected us at every level, whether it’s the way we interact with customers or the way we research user experiences. COVID-19 accelerated the trends we were already seeing — delivering ten years of e-commerce growth in one year. Domestic consumers dramatically changed their shopping behavior and millions of businesses were forced to invest more in their existing e-commerce channels or to go online for the first time.

Demand continues to change, and according to a study by BCG Consumer Sentiment, e-commerce sales are expected to reach a staggering five trillion US dollars by 2021). Brands must now adapt quickly if they are to survive and differentiate themselves from competitors.

As a front-end application developer, you’re in a unique position to help merchants succeed and thrive in these changing times. In this article, we take a look at the biggest trends in eCommerce and ask leading Shopify and customer experience experts to predict the most important eCommerce strategies and development methods for the next 12 months. Keep them in mind as you work on your current or next app or online store, and you’ll be better prepared for what retailers need in 2021.

1| Improve your online shopping experience

Alex O’Byrne, co-founder of Shopify Plus agency We Make Websites, believes that as a result of the pandemic, websites have become the primary shopping channel for many brands — rather than a secondary or alternative method to store visits.

“COVID-19 has been driving e-commerce adoption for years. That means we as an industry need to be far better equipped to cope than we were in early 2020,” explains O’Byrne. “E-commerce is extremely competitive. The best technologies will temporarily attract a higher conversion rate until they become widespread and something else becomes an advantage.”

Alex O’Byrne

O’Byrne, therefore, suggests that e-commerce companies need to offer more than the big e-commerce giants to differentiate themselves, and recommends focusing on what’s next this year:

Robust search and filtering using services like Klevu, Algolia, and Searchspring.

Angelus and search, including search engines like Google and search, Google and search engines like Google Search, Algclus, Google and search engines like Google. Ideally at all touchpoints (pages, search, shopping cart/checkout, marketing emails) and as discreetly as possible.

Enriched shopping information. For example improved sizing guidelines, instant chat, and trials/enlarged reality.

Almost instantaneous site loading speed thanks to improved development methods and the introduction of headless.

Streamlined returns and exchanges due to the increased volume of orders here at home.

For brick and mortar stores, infinite aisle concepts, in-store pickup, and streamlined inventory management.

It is essential to be able to meet higher volumes. “Our shipments are delayed due to COVID” doesn’t work when competitors are confident of next-day delivery.

Greater consumer confidence. Non-monetary rewards for behavior (e.g. carbon-neutral deliveries, registering to vote, donating to charity).

In all these areas, the Shopify ecosystem has a wealth of services that allow you to improve the service or app you offer without requiring a lot of time and resources. In this article, we take a closer look at some of them.

2| Conduct a Quick Customer Survey

Biglight’s Quick Customer Survey infographic provides information in five working days.

Steve Borges, the co-founder of experience design agency Big light, believes that retailers who want to keep pace with ever-changing customer needs, behaviors, and preferences are increasingly using rapid customer surveys to accelerate innovation.

“Retailers operate in an environment where change is the only constant,” he points out. “This means that customer experience innovation is more important than ever. But brands also need to adapt and focus strongly on customer needs, which means embedding customer research throughout the process — from concept to design.”

Borges also says that rapid customer research, which helps shape and validates everything from big disruptive ideas to adaptations and optimizations, does not slow innovation, but gives retailers the clarity and certainty they need to adapt quickly.

Even sketched concepts that are part of an intelligently designed study can tell us what is likely to work in this new reality and what is not, what problems may arise later, what adjustments and optimizations are likely to improve performance or remove friction from the customer experience.

“This year, we’ve seen several global brands put rapid customer research at the heart of experience innovation. The alternative — working without evidence from customers — is a much more uncertain approach, and if there’s anything we all need at the moment, it’s a little more certainty.”

3| Bring in-store Experiences Online

Gavin Ballard, founder, and CEO of Shopify Plus partner Disco predicts that as a result of COVID-19, retailers will find more inventive ways to combine in-person and digital shopping experiences, while customers will be more open to new ways to search, compare and buy products.

Ballard sees particular progress in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and online services for customers.

| Augmented and virtual reality

E-commerce trends: phone takes a picture of the bed and uses AR in bedsheets Society

The Sheet Society’s Bed Builder uses AR to allow customers to experiment with different colors and styles. Using the smartphone’s camera, they can see what different combinations would look like in their bed.

AR/VR experiences are not quite the same as seeing a product in real life, but Ballard says they help customers gain the information they need to make a purchasing decision.

Shopify Plus retailer The Sheet Society has embraced this with its AR-enabled Bed Builder, which allows customers to visualize what their bedding will look like in a real room before they put it in their shopping cart. This gives customers confidence in the decision (which increases conversions) while reducing The Sheet Society’s risk of being responsible for return costs.

| Virtual services

One of the benefits of in-person sales is the ability to establish a direct, personal connection with a potential customer in-store. Many retailers are trying to offer this through online services such as 1:1 live chat. In recent months, however, Ballard has seen some companies go a step further.

Designer furniture retailer Brosa, for example, has moved to a full showroom experience with tours and advice via video call. Even car dealers — businesses that usually thrive on face-to-face sales — have started to adapt to offer a more comprehensive and engaging online experience.

4| Be aware of trading without Heads

Kelly Vaughn, the founder of Shopify agency The Taproom, believes that this year we will see more and more retailers opting for a headless architecture, which decouples the e-commerce backend from the customer-facing end, giving retailers a blank slate to build a new storefront with any content management system.

“As retailers move to a headless solution, they can continue to use Shopify to complete transactions and manage product management,” Vaughn explains. “This is becoming more and more common among medium and large businesses that want to have more control over their site as a whole.”

Vaughn points out that developers like the headless approach because they can leverage the modern technology stack with JavaScript libraries like React and Vue.js and even see significant performance improvements by transforming a storefront into a progressive web application. Services like Nacelle and Shogun Frontend handle the API layer entirely for you, so you can focus on building a unique, high-performance store experience.

Headless functionality has its drawbacks, however. Vaughn warns that retailers will no longer use Shopify’s theme editing tool and will have to learn the inner workings of a new content management system like Contentful, Prismic, or Builder. They’ll also lose the ability to use certain Shopify apps if they don’t have an API to integrate with the headless storefront. Finally, this approach also requires more time-consuming developer resources to build and maintain the storefront.

Make an extra effort to help your customers and users in 2021.

By 2021, retailers will no longer be able to dictate how and where customers shop or risk being left behind. Brands will have to adapt and communicate with their customers more than ever before, regardless of the channels and payment methods they use.

Developers need to be ready for this change so they can go the extra mile for their customers and app users to meet rapidly changing needs. Being aware of the e-commerce trends described in this article can help them rethink how they sell to their customers and create better experiences for them. Make your websites and apps as fast as possible, choose the best technology stack for your projects, and be ready to take advantage of new marketplaces. If you are looking for an e-commerce developer there are many app development companies in India that help in creating e-commerce applications for your business.

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