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Ecommerce Trends 2021: Get Ready for The Reinvention of Retail

Shivkumar M 20+ yrs shaping technology Product & GTM strategy. Fintech, healthcare & retail industry expertise. Leads product launches, adoption & GTM as Director, Product Marketing.
Ecommerce Trends 2021: Get Ready for The Reinvention of Retail

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a touchstone moment — accelerating years of gradual change into a matter of weeks with a dramatic shift from offline to online shopping. Convenience and speed are now essential customer needs, often eclipsing cost. And even with a vaccine, there’s no going back. 
Shopify’s The Future of Ecommerce Report 2021* is a goldmine of insights into the emerging trends in ecommerce that are reshaping global retail. We read the entire 70-page report and distilled the must-know tidbits for you here. 
Forget Cost — Customer Experience is Now Your Key Differentiator 
84% of consumers shopped online during the pandemic. That’s 10 years’ worth of ecommerce growth in just 90 days. 
Hand-in-hand with this explosive growth comes fierce competition as the ecommerce landscape becomes even more crowded. (And you didn’t think it was possible.) More brands are investing in digital advertising, sending ad costs through the roof. 
A memorable customer experience is now essential for convincing customers to build a lasting relationship with your brand. Companies that offer compelling omnichannel experiences have a significant edge on the competition. In fact, Shopify found that retailers with an omnichannel strategy recovered 94% of purchases lost in the first month of the pandemic with online sales. 


If you don’t have an omnichannel strategy in place, you’re already behind. Customers expect a superior, immersive experience across social media, digital marketplaces, your app and website, and brick-and-mortar locations. And in order to deliver on those expectations, you need comprehensive customer data and real-time analytics that help you build campaigns to reach the right person, on the right channel, at exactly the right moment. 

COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior for Good

The pandemic has forced people around the world to buy things online that they never have before — everything from groceries and medicines to home essentials. And there’s no turning back. 
The future of retail is a mesh of on- and off-line shopping that allows customers to buy whenever and wherever they like. Brands that embrace tech like virtual personal shoppers and augmented reality to allow customers to try products before purchasing will have a distinct advantage. 
Speed, safety, and convenience will stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Over 40% of consumers say they will continue to use mobile payments more frequently even after the pandemic is over. 


Streamline your checkout flow to make it as easy and fast as possible for your customers to make a purchase. Allowing customers to save billing and shipping information, enabling one-tap purchase, and offering a variety of payment choices (including installments) are all effective ways to give your customers the convenience and flexibility they want. Get a head start by reading all of our tips for creating the perfect mobile checkout experience.

Fast, Free, Sustainable: Shipping is Your Competitive Advantage

Not being able to run to the store to grab a product does not mean shoppers have lost their taste for instant gratification. 64% of consumers want their orders shipped for free, and 67% expect either 2-day delivery or faster.  
Even if you can’t offer lightning-fast shipping, you can still entice customers with free, automated returns or offer alternative fulfillment methods like curbside pickup or local delivery. Establishing order thresholds for free or expedited shipping can also help you preserve profits while giving consumers the experience they want. 
When customers can’t browse your brick-and-mortar stores, how can you replicate that experience in other ways? Many retailers are paying special attention to their packaging and unboxing experience as a way to wow customers and reinforce brand perception. Consumers want to see beautiful, zero-waste packaging when their order arrives, and 75% of US consumers are more likely to buy a product that’s packaged and shipped sustainably. 


Speed matters. Streamline your order fulfillment process as much as possible, and seriously consider investing in sustainable, branded packaging as a key part of your customer experience. 

HALF of all global ecommerce sales happen on marketplaces, where customers search for products, not brands. Half. 
Use marketplaces as gateways for consumers to get to know your brand through rich product pages and glowing reviews. Then lure them to your owned channels by offering unique or exclusive products available only on your app or site, and by including deep links to your app store listing or mobile landing page in order and shipping confirmation emails. Once you can interact with customers who are on the buying journey, you can offer them a more personalized experience with the human touch that’s missing in massive marketplaces. 
Another way to attract marketplace searchers and deepen brand loyalty is by showcasing your brand values. 40% of all consumers say they pay more to support companies that reduce environmental impact and care about social issues. And 65% of consumers say they prefer to support independent brands. 


Help customers find your brand on marketplaces and give them a memorable experience on your product pages. Emphasize your sustainability, customer service, and independently- or family-owned business status whenever possible. 

Retention is the #1 Competitive Advantage

2020 saw an estimated 26% jump in ad spend for paid search and a 25% rise in social media ad spend. Retailers are getting priced out of too many acquisition channels, and experimenting with emerging channels like voice search, smart TVs, and messaging apps. 
As a result, companies are prioritizing retention more than ever. Brands are investing heavily in individualized experiences that deepen customer relationships and build loyalty. And they’re finding new ways to reward and incentivize existing customers to come back and spend more. 
But even as personalization assumes more importance, 42% of retailers say they can’t track targeted customers through the entire customer journey. And 32% say creating a single view of the customer across marketing channels is a major challenge. 


Get to know your best customers to make them even more valuable. RFM Analysis can automatically identify your most valuable customers so you can engage them effectively and boost customer lifetime value. And user journey mapping can help you discover how your best customers discover and interact with your brand. 

Ecommerce Future Trends Converge on Mobile 

Dramatic change often brings major challenges, and even the world’s largest retailers have struggled to adjust their strategies to keep providing customers with the shopping experience they’ve come to expect. 
Mobile’s importance is only growing, combining the convenience and personalization that customers demand. 50% of all ecommerce sales now happen on mobile devices
Brands that deliver a memorable customer experience via mobile will be in the best position to thrive in the future of retail. Comprehensive customer profiles, personalized recommendations and promotions, and timely campaigns triggered by in-app behavior all build relationships that go beyond a transaction. 
Digital marketplace Carousell saw a 71% increase in customer retention and a 73% jump in user engagement with our platform. Want to know how they did it? Read their story: How Carousell increased Week 3 Retention by 71%

Industry Benchmarks for Ecommerce Apps

Industry Benchmarks for Ecommerce Apps

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Last updated on March 26, 2024