The initial impact of COVID-19 on the American economy was widespread and affected people across all age groups and all states, while the initial mortality impact targeted mostly older people in a few states according to independent research. The pandemic has also triggered a shift in the way retailers retool their operational, merchandising and marketing strategies to align with consumers’ changing habits. The ecommerce industry has always been changing, this year has been no exception. More than ever merchants are creating or improving their business models to meet customers where they are. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest online business trends 2021 has brought about.
Omnichannel retailing refers to providing shoppers with a seamless experience across channels and devices. According to research 73% of customers use multiple channels during their purchase journey. With the increase in the adoption of mobile devices and voice assistants, the number of omnichannel customers is expected to increase even more during 2022. Research suggests that omnichannel strategies can drive a higher rate of incremental store visits (up to 80%). An annual study, The State of Commerce Experience 2021, indicates that nearly half (44%) of B2C buyers and a majority of B2B buyers (58%) said they always or often researched a product online before going to a physical store. Some would continue their research online while in store. It is worth to note that omnichannel operations focus on the entire customer experience journey, not just individual experiences on select channels.
eCommerce personalization is the process of delivering individualized experiences on ecommerce sites. This is done by dynamically showing content, product recommendations and specific offers based on previous actions, purchase history, demographics and even browsing behavior. Personalization helps merchants to engage shoppers as well as increase repeat business, increase conversion and drive sales.
Personalization can take many different forms: from personalized product recommendations on a merchant’s home page, to cart-abandonment marketing emails, and onboarding quizzes are some of the strategies that have been employed this past year. Small business owners have a wide variety of options available when it comes to selling online. However, finding the right business idea requires some research. Fortunately, The Really Great Information Company has compiled a handy resource for aspiring entrepreneurs looking for small business ideas.
Although the pandemic helped to create the impetus for click-and-collect (especially curbside pickup) behaviours, it is likely that this trend will carry into the future. A 2020 Deloitte study found that some of the top reasons consumers cited for making use of click-and-collect include: faster, safer and less stressful shopping experiences.
Social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat) have introduced features allowing retailers to upload their product catalogs, helping to make discovery easier by using the power social media has when it comes to audience aggregation and brand discovery. Several platforms integrated checkout experiences to streamline conversion. This has helped to drive a clear shift in commerce purchases. According to CivicScience, the percentage of American adults who have purchased products directly on social media has nearly doubled from 13% in 2018 to 25% in 2020.
Headless and API-driven Commerce
“Headless commerce” is an ecommerce solution that manages, stores and delivers content without a front end delivery layer. With the headless platform the front end (which in most cases can be a template or theme) has been detached and removed, leaving only the backend. There is a method to this madness, as developers can then use APIs to deliver content (blog posts, customer reviews, products) to any screen or device, while front end developers can work on how to present that content. In a nutshell, all functional elements of the system can be programmatically managed – this includes the creation and management of content components. More ecommerce businesses are seemingly gravitating towards the headless approach due to its flexibility on the backend as well as added SEO, content marketing and digital experience capabilities.
Premium Subscriptions to Drive Loyalty
According to the Mercator Advisory Group the subscription economy has become a growth segment of the American services economy. It is expected that through 2022 online subscription will find higher growth due to continued consumer popularity of streaming services and software. Raymond Pucci, director and spokesperson for the group, stated: “Video and music streaming has led the rapid growth of online subscription services for stay-at-home households during 2020. Online subscriptions have become a growth area within e-commerce and will continue in the foreseeable future. Bundled subscriptions prove to be a winning marketing strategy for the leading industry players such as Amazon and Apple and consumers have responded enthusiastically.”
Ecommerce businesses looking to dominate the market must be prepared to adopt the latest trends and strategies as soon as possible. In 2021, we’ve seen omnichannel shopping and the rise of headless commerce making headlines. As more and more online businesses start to accept crypto payments to entice more customers to choose their brand, it will be interesting to see how the ecommerce landscape will continue to evolve in 2022.