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7 E-Commerce Trends to Improve the Customer Experience in 2021 and Beyond

In 2020, the pandemic gave rise to a decade of e-commerce growth in a single year. Consumers drastically changed their shopping behaviors, and businesses were forced to invest more heavily in their e-commerce channels or go online for the first time.

By 2022, e-retail revenues are expected to grow to $6.54 trillion, up from $3.53 trillion in 2019. To capitalize on this growth, brands must adapt to new trends to stay competitive and top of mind for consumers. This article highlights the most significant trends in online shopping that, if followed, will result in an improved e-commerce customer experience. Make them a priority, and you’ll be better prepared to deliver value to customers in 2021 and beyond.

Omnichannel customer experience 

For the past decade, trends in e-commerce have been pushing toward an omnichannel user experience in which brands meet the customer wherever they are to suggest and sell items with as little friction as possible. As a result, the e-commerce ecosystem and subsequent customer experience have grown to encompass far more channels than the company website.

While there are now many additional channels to prioritize, the desktop web experience remains fundamental to the omnichannel customer experience. Leveraging best practices in e-commerce platform development and UX design, here are some key areas to focus on this year to set yourself apart: 

  • Personalize at relevant contact points. For example: in search, cart or checkout, and marketing emails.
  • Ensure inclusivity for customers of different backgrounds and online shopping comfort levels by working with diverse design and user testing teams.
  • Implement extensive search and filtering throughout your website so customers can find what they’re looking for fast.
  • For businesses with physical stores, include options like in-store and curbside pickup with unified inventory management.

Another vital e-commerce channel is mobile. So vital, in fact, that Statista estimated in 2019 that by the end of 2021, 73% of e-commerce sales will happen on a mobile device. With that in mind, it goes without saying that customers should be able to shop on their phones just as easily as they can on their desktops.

Finally, on the social commerce front, 2020 brought a few exciting updates, like an expansion of Snapchat’s Native Stores for brands, a partnership between TikTok and Shopify, and the introduction of Facebook Shops. By leveraging these options and others in 2021 to enable users to make purchases while scrolling their social feeds, brands can capture consumer interest and share of wallet at the same time.

Personalized membership programs and subscriptions

It’s been estimated that the cost of acquiring a new customer is 5x that of retaining an existing customer. To increase lifetime customer value, consider rolling out personalized membership and subscription options that take a customer’s specific preferences into account. 

For a successful personalized membership program, we suggest creating options based on the user’s purchase history, using AI to serve them similar items to bundle into their membership, and offering discounted subscription pricing for the items they buy most often. Provide free or flat rate shipping, offer extended returns, and make it easy to control (and cancel!) the membership so that customers only pay for what they need.

More ways to pay

Payment options and ease of payment are some of the main reasons why customers choose a specific brand. And for retailers expanding their geographic footprint, it’s vitally important to keep local payment preferences in mind as they do so. 

For example, in a recent online panel with executives from Wizeline, Adyen, Arcus, and Fairplay, Inigo Rumayor, President and Co-Founder at Arcus, mentioned: “We’re going to see a lot more customized finance for the consumer. For example, in Latin America, we see stores offering different payment options, and shoppers are picking stores not just because of the products offered but also the payment options. I think that’s going to become a huge differentiator for retailers.” 

Leading e-commerce websites are increasingly offering payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Paypal, and other financing options that enable a frictionless checkout. Cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, have shown promise for online shopping, offering a borderless alternative to conventional forms of payment. In 2021, we are likely to see more e-commerce businesses accepting cryptocurrencies for transactions to differentiate their brands and provide flexibility for customers.

Big data

According to Forbes, 78% of organizations are prioritizing the development of a data platform to help manage, analyze, and leverage their customer data. From predicting trends to forecasting demand and delivering personalized service, data analysis can help e-commerce businesses grow exponentially.

There’s a growing demand for skilled data scientists and a continued shortage of data science talent — creating ongoing challenges for businesses implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning initiatives. In 2020, 41% of company owners said it was their most desired skill to hire, and this number will only go up in 2021. We recommend partnering with data science consulting and engineering firms to help your business organize data in a way that focuses on solving user problems.

Innovating how customers view products

Augmented Reality (AR) has been a significant game-changer for online shopping, quickly closing the ambiguity gap. It helps shoppers visualize the products they’re interested in, whether it’s furniture or makeup.

While it’s not quite the same as seeing a product in real life, AR experiences help give customers the insight needed to make a purchasing decision. We expect to see more brands taking advantage of AR capabilities in 2021 — and more buyers seeking out AR experiences to make purchase decisions. 

Beyond AR, another major trend changing how customers view items is using 3D rendering to make product photography more efficient for the brand and more reflective of a customer’s environment or interests on the front-end. (Like showing a product in front of a familiar local landmark for customer’s in a certain geographic area, for example.)

Faster delivery options

Customer expectations for shipping times are growing every day. We’ve seen retail giant Amazon pivot from 2-day shipping to next-day and now, same-day. Many big stores are following in Amazon’s footsteps, with Target growing their Shipt service and Walmart expanding their two-hour express delivery options. In fact, in the age of instant gratification, 88% of consumers are willing to pay for faster delivery options. 

In 2018, 51% of e-commerce retailers already offered same-day delivery, and we’re likely to see it become the norm as order fulfillment technology and standards evolve in 2021. Merchants unable to expand their delivery services rapidly should offer curbside pick-up and consider exploring third-party local delivery partners to meet growing customer expectations.

Ethical e-commerce

Our last trend isn’t necessarily a technology trend, but it could have an equal or bigger impact. According to a recent retail report, 57% of shoppers are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce negative environmental impact, which has led us to the trend of ethical e-commerce.

Here are some environmentally-friendly initiatives to attract green consumers to your e-commerce store:

  • Switch to biodegradable packaging. Use products with a low impact on energy consumption and the environment, such as recycled wrapping sheets or cloths.

  • Go paperless by sending receipts only via email.
  • Highlight products and brands in your inventory that are low carbon footprint or non-GMO, for example.
  • Take a clear stance on sustainability. Decide how you will contribute to the environment, and set a deadline. Tell the world what practices you are taking to achieve your goal.

Final thoughts

The biggest e-commerce businesses are already leading the way in most of these trends, although challengers have a chance to be more nimble as they enter the market as digital natives. For any brand looking to grow and maintain its market share in 2021, one thing’s for sure: customer-centricity is key in everything from research to browsing to checkout to delivery. 

Looking to grow your e-commerce business and expand your teams? Wizeline can help you implement these trends and stay ahead of the competition. If you would like to learn more about how we work with engineering, design, and data teams to deliver excellent results, please contact our team at consulting@wizeline.com.


Aisha Owolabi

Posted by Aisha Owolabi on January 27, 2021