Ecommerce is a goliath industry. So it is no wonder that people are always asking about the future of ecommerce.
Global ecommerce sales amounted to nearly 3.5 trillion dollars worldwide in 2019, proving ecommerce is an increasingly lucrative option for businesses.
That’s huge, and the good news is that it certainly isn’t a new trend.
In fact, there’s been an average growth rate of 25.6 percent in ecommerce sales over the years 2014 to 2017.
That’s proof, if you ever needed it, that ecommerce is thriving, and it has been for a while.
It’s also an industry that is ever changing. Trends are constantly shifting in an attempt to shape the way that people in every corner of the globe purchase products.
This makes the future of ecommerce exciting, to say the least.
A lot of big things are expected to change in ecommerce over the coming years. We’re here to help you understand what the future of ecommerce will look like.
We’re going to break down some of the top trends for ecommerce in 2021, discuss what we believe the most impactful changes will be over the next few years, then dissect why those changes might have come about.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
- Future of Ecommerce for Retailers
- Future of Ecommerce for Marketers
- Closing Thoughts on The Future of Ecommerce
- Want to Learn More?
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Future of Ecommerce for Retailers
1. Emerging Markets Will Play a Huge Role
Emerging markets like India, China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa are projected to play a massive role in the future of ecommerce.
This might not be totally surprising, given the recent growth of some of these nations’ economies, but let’s look a little deeper.
It’s estimated that around a potential 3 billion buyers from emerging markets will have access to the internet by 2022. That’s a lot of potential customers.
It’s also expected that 20 percent of all retail sales in 2022 will come from buyers who currently reside in those emerging markets. That’s a lot of potential sales.
The most exciting part about all of this is that a lot of these markets are relatively untapped by existing ecommerce businesses at the moment.
This means that there is a ton of potential for existing businesses to branch out and reach new audiences.
It also means that there are a lot of opportunities available for new ecommerce brands to pop up within those emerging markets, and tailor their services towards local audiences.
Curious which international markets Oberlo users are generating huge revenue? Check out this blog post about the biggest dropshipping markets.
2. The Physical vs Online Debate
We cannot talk about the future of ecommerce without mentioning the ever-growing physical vs online debate.
Generally, people within the ecommerce industry fall into one of two camps in this debate.
There are those people who believe that it’s just a matter of time before brick-and-mortar stores fade out in favor of an even bigger shift towards online shopping.
And there are those who see physical shopping entering a renaissance period.
It’s undeniable that the growth of online shopping is far outpacing the sales from brick-and-mortar stores.
But that doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t still incredibly valuable assets for ecommerce brands.
Instead of functioning as a real-life version of their online stores (which typically have access to a lot more inventory), brick-and-mortar locations seem to be switching towards offering unique shopping experiences.
At Nike’s new physical stores you can pick up exclusive products, customize products with your own two hands, partake in fitness tests, try out brand-new products by playing fun games, enroll a personal shopper, and more.
These are experiences that you simply cannot get online, and go a long way in solidifying loyalty to their brand.
You’ve also got Shopify, an ecommerce giant, who have recently opened up a retail location in LA to help current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Again, this helps customers new and old to experience their products and their brand in a whole new light.
All in all, exclusive experiences are what we see as the future of physical retail locations. These are experiences that last, and cannot be found elsewhere.
Ecommerce is no longer dominated by B2C. B2B eCommerce sales are predicted to grow to $6.6 trillion this year.
There is a growing trend where companies are buying software, products, and services for their own workforce. It has never been more important for companies to have the software it needs to automate as many processes as possible. Or the best ergonomic chairs for the wellness of their staff.
B2B is no longer just wholesalers selling to retailers. It is a booming industry that is led by SaaS and technology companies. Everyday we learn about a new tool that automates or recreates activities that unclogs our desk of manual tasks.
These advances in technology make our lives easier, and businesses more profitable, so it is no surprise that businesses are allocating more budget to B2B purchases every year. Check out how HubSpot clearly outlines how their technology can help any business who may need marketing automation software.
If you are a B2B merchant you should ensure that your ecommerce store allows for large orders, invoicing, volume-based discounts, and the ability to reorder easily. With all these features in your ecommerce store, you are on the road to success.
4. Ecommerce Automation
Ecommerce automation is a key growing element of online business. This stretches from marketing automation to warehousing and beyond. At this stage every department or business unit has an element that can be automated to an extent.
This trend is great as it frees up employees time and resources for more important work. For example, businesses that possess large warehouses to carry out their business can invest in robotics to become more efficient and free up staff to do more important tasks in the fulfillment process.
Supply chain management can benefit from automation software which can schedule inventory alerts for reordering when stock gets low.
The sky’s the limit for ecommerce automation. With a little research you can find a software out there that will help your product.
5. Shipping and Fulfillment
Another slow moving trend in ecommerce that has a lot of potential is the increase in shipping and fulfillment centers globally. As more customers purchase their goods online, there is a need for fulfillment centers that can ship and deliver these items in the shortest period of time possible.
Across the world fulfillment centers are getting smarter and more automated. These full-service fulfillment networks guarantee your business fast shipping, access to real time data, and let’s you represent your brand to your customer from checkout to delivery.
Today’s ecommerce entrepreneurs are spoilt for choice especially in built up, busy ecommerce hubs. Holding inventory in multiple locations across a country, or the world, puts your products closer to your consumer which means reduced transportation time and costs.
Never before has the race for faster delivery times been more competitive, but there is an affordable way to compete.
6. Environmentally Conscious Shoppers
Today’s online shoppers are smarter and more demanding. No longer is it about which store can provide the best prices. Customers now care about the impact a product can have on the environment. For a whole subsection of customers plastic is out. And when it comes to buying containers, glass is in.
Sustainable products are more than just a buzzword with the rise of environmental activists. It is only right that retailers follow suit and ensure that their products don’t have a negative impact on the environment.
For example, if you are a makeup brand you might consider offering vegan makeup options to your customers as this is a popular trend that is on the rise.
Sourcing these types of products is becoming easier everyday as this trend continues.
7. Private Label
Private label means that a unique product is produced by one company but packaged and sold under another company’s own brand name. This method that retailers can create unique products without investing much capital to start their own line of products. Companies can rely on manufacturers to produce products that are highly specific to their audience’s needs.
Private labeling is great for a business as it increases the perceived value of the product. For businesses that sell non-branded, or dropshipping products, private label is the right next step for your business.
Why is this an ecommerce trend? If you operate in a niche industry that relies on certain materials not to be used, or certain standards to be obtained, you know that private labeling is the right way to go for your business.
For example, VegexPro provides private label products with certifications like Organic, HACCP, Kosher, Halal, RAW, Vegan, Gluten-Free and Fair Trade. This company would be a great manufacturer for you to work with if your customers want vegan or gluten-free products.
This trends towards more tailored products makes ecommerce affordable and lowers the barrier for entry into a highly competitive space. If your customers start to inquire about tailored products this is a good option to consider.
Future of Ecommerce for Marketers
8. Device Usage Will Become Even More Important
When it comes to discussing the future of ecommerce, one thing is clear: there will be much more importance placed on the devices that buyers use when they’re shopping online.
But, why exactly?
Well, in the past, most ecommerce businesses built their shopping experiences to be desktop-first.
Now, it’s the opposite. Ecommerce businesses are hellbent on designing and building their online businesses with mobile users in mind before desktop users.
This might sound like a strange switch, but it actually makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that an estimated 45 percent of all commerce decisions were made on mobile last year.
For the sake of context, that equates to a whopping $284 billion in revenue.
But, this is potentially even more interesting: research has found that 56 percent of buyers have already used their mobile devices to research products while they’re at home.
This goes against the past assumption that a lot of people made, which fixated on mobile websites being primed to be easily digestible for shoppers who are on-the-go.
Now, buyers want the full shopping experience on all devices.
And it’s going to be fairly simple to please your audience if you’re running your store on Shopify.
You’ll have access to a wealth of themes that are built to ensure a seamless shopping experience, no matter which device your customers are using.
Plus, you can easily check the adaptive version of your store’s design by simply resizing your browser – make it smaller when you’re on desktop and you’ll see exactly what your mobile audience sees. This is just one of the many perks of running your business through Shopify.
Need help picking a theme for your store? Check out our guide on picking the best Shopify theme for your business.
9. Video Is On The Rise
Ecommerce businesses are going to need to hone their videography skills because video is projected to play a massive role in the future of ecommerce.
Research has already found that 60 percent of shoppers would rather watch a product video than read a product description when they’re shopping.
In addition, 64 percent of shoppers make a purchase after watching branded social videos.
These changes in shopping behaviors could be due to the evolution of popular social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, which have all pushed updates (think Instagram Stories) which prioritize video content.
Or, it could be due to the wide array of massively successful YouTube channels which focus on unboxing, reviewing, and critiquing brand new products.
Combine those two factors, and it’s no surprise that buyers are becoming more and more accustomed to consuming video content during their shopping process.
You don’t need to look too far to see ecommerce businesses adapting to this change too.
So, adding video elements to your product listings, and incorporating video into your marketing strategy, is a must if you want to succeed with ecommerce in 2021 and beyond.
Looking for video marketing tips and tricks? Check out our complete guide to video marketing in 2021.
10. The Future of Ecommerce Marketing
Ecommerce businesses cannot succeed with great products alone – they need to draw in customers to purchase them.
This is exactly why great marketing will always be a quintessential part of success in ecommerce.
Great marketing often means adapting, so what will the future of ecommerce marketing look like? How will brands need to adapt to ensure that they’re reaching the right buyers through the right channels?
As buyers become more and more familiar with browsing and making purchases on their mobile devices, it’s essential that businesses adapt and learn to optimize their marketing campaigns for mobile too.
But it isn’t just mobile marketing which is expected to increase in importance for ecommerce businesses.
Essentially, great content helps brands convince potential customers what their business stands for, and that’s one of the biggest marketing wins that brands can hope for.
11. Personalization is Key to Success
Ecommerce companies are constantly honing the shopping experience for their customers.
There are now algorithms in place which have been collecting data about your behaviors, and they probably know more about your tastes than your closest friends and family do.
This enables companies to ensure that their marketing campaigns are consistently optimized.
They’re constantly working to show you the products that they believe you’re most likely to purchase.
But, we might be reaching a breaking point.
Across the web, people seem to be fatiguing from knowing that algorithms are messaging them rather than real people, and are now craving personalization in their shopping experiences.
Buyers want to feel that there’s somebody behind the computer screen who cares about them. It doesn’t need to be anything too complex either – it could be as simple as a personalized email, a curated discount codes, or otherwise.
Research backs this sentiment, with 41 percent of buyers claiming to have already switched from companies that they like due to poor personalization.
Plus, 48 percent of buyers actually end up spending more money with a company when they’re provided with a personalized shopping experience.
So what does this all mean?
Well, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably received countless emails from companies recommending products to you “based on your recent purchases.”
Here’s a scenario. You buy a blender from an ecommerce company. Great. The next week you receive an email from that same company. Subject line: “Hey, we saw you bought a blender. Here are some more blenders to look at.”
That’s where algorithms fall short.
We don’t need another blender, of course.
Humans would know not to send us that email – all it leaves us with is a feeling of an impersonal shopping experience.
This is exactly why an integral part of the future of ecommerce will revolve around businesses and entrepreneurs finding ways to build direct relationships with their customers.
Adding personalization into your marketing campaigns is an easy way to start building those relationships.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Address your audience by their name whenever you’re sending out email marketing campaigns.
- Send them sneak-peaks to your latest product launches, simply because you value them as customers. Bonus points if you send them content related to previous purchases.
- Ask your customers for feedback on the products that they purchase. This will also help you to utilize social proof as a marketing tactic.
This is just scratching the surface. You know exactly what resonates with your audience best, so don’t be afraid to run some tests and see if you can find success.
12. Customer Experience
Both the in-house and online customer experience is so important to the success of your business.
Hiring amazing sales assistants in-house who can guide your customers through the sale process can alleviate any stress customers may feel.
Optimizing your sales process online to take into account what a customer would expect is super important for your ecommerce store. This means potentially user testing your sales process, or your checkout flow with actual people, to identify pain points that customers may have.
Things you can user test on your website include:
- Your call to action.
- The length for your checkout process.
- The information asked for during the checkout page.
- Your messaging.
- Your product page flow.
This activity is improving the customer experience, or CX, of your business. Recently this discipline has grown in popularity making it a big ecommerce trend for 2021.
13. AI and Chatbots
Leading on from our previous ecommerce trend is the use of AI and chatbots to help customers achieve their goals when they are on your site.
Chatbots have been around for a few years and are constantly evolving to help answer customers’ questions, and more. This is ideal for businesses that operate in many different countries, but don’t have the resources to be online, assisting customers 24/7.
AI assistants are also very important to online stores as they can manage stock levels, reordering, and other processes that can free up your day to deal with other activities that you normally wouldn’t have time for.
AI and chatbots have really taken off in the last five years but the technological advances mean that this trend will continue into the future. With each passing year AI is being adapted to another discipline or department in a business. If you have a Shopify store check out some of their AI apps which can help your business today.
14. Interactive Products
One of the biggest disadvantages of ecommerce is the fact that customers cannot try out the product before they buy it, like in a brick and mortar store. 51 percent of customers in a 2018 survey stated that the biggest drawback of online shopping is that they cannot touch, feel, and try a product before buying it.
Unfortunately, with ecommerce, this experience is nearly lost but technology is always one step ahead. With augmented reality technology you can create immersive shopping experiences, where shoppers can engage with products before they buy them.
For example Shopify AR allows brands to show customers their products in natural environments before buying them to ensure that the product is fit for the purpose intended. This helps customers make great decisions quickly when it comes to choosing a brand to buy from.
Interactive products through AR or VR is new but it is quickly being adapted within ecommerce brands to help customers choose the right product. If you are considering what ecommerce trend to be a part of, this is a good place to start.
15. Smart Shoppers
When considering where to buy a product, particularly more expensive products, customers tend to do research online. Even if they end up buying a product in-store, shoppers are more inclined to do research online beforehand.
A V12 study stated that 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before buying. This is a huge figure, showing the importance of making sure that you are being found on Social Media, on Google Search, and anywhere else that your customers may be.
Why is it important to be in all these places? Because if your customers are researching a product and you give them all the right information, at the right time, they may choose to buy from you, instead of in-store. Understanding your target audience and how they buy products can help you build trust with them, and grow your customer base.
Other statistics that show an increasing ecommerce trend towards smart shoppers include:
- 88 percent of online customers are less likely to buy from companies that leave their social media complaints unanswered.
- 40 percent of survey participants said they use their mobile device to conduct research prior to making a purchase.
- 51 percent of mobile users have bought from a brand other than the intended one because of information provided right when they needed it.
Closing Thoughts on The Future of Ecommerce
The future of ecommerce is undoubtedly going to be full of exciting changes and innovations for both businesses and buyers.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, or you’re working at an ecommerce company yourself, it’s important to try to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to changes in the ecommerce landscape.
Our best advice is to keep on learning.
Read articles. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts.
Try to consume as much information you can about the field of ecommerce – that’s how you’ll get an edge on your competition.
So, what do you think? Do you have any predictions for the future of ecommerce in 2021 and beyond?
Was there anything that we missed off our list that you’d like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments section below – we read them all!