Event Review: Building Your 2021 eCommerce Strategy

To say that 2020 was a transformative year for eCommerce would be an understatement. The pandemic drove a record number of brands and businesses to sell online, forcing them to adapt in order to survive, let alone thrive. Consumers also had to make the switch from in-store retail to online shopping.

Today, there are more consumers than ever shopping online, which has led to more businesses than ever with online stores. It’s no surprise then that the online marketplace has gotten increasingly crowded.

So, how to stand out from the competition? Looking at and learning from last year’s key eCommerce statistics is one way online sellers can succeed in 2021.

In this article, we highlight the key eCommerce trends from 2020 that were discussed between a 5-member panel consisting of top industry experts. The panel included Andrea McFarling (VP Marketing at ShipStation), Dan Leberman (Global Head of SMB & Channel Partners at PayPal), Ilya Kretov (GM, Global Emerging Markets at eBay), Ben Jabbawy (Founder and CEO of Privy) and host, Liat Karpel Gurwicz, Head of eCommerce Marketing at Wix.

Watch the full Wix eCommerce workshop on building your eCommerce strategy for 2021:

A Closer Look at 2020 and Its Seismic Shift Online

“The pandemic changed eCommerce forever,” Karpel Gurwicz posited. During worldwide lockdowns, people turned to the internet for almost all of their shopping needs. In fact, almost every eCommerce product category experienced a surge in growth throughout 2020.

Just look at the Wix eCommerce platform. “At the beginning of 2020, we had around 400,000 active selling stores, which then grew to over 600,000 active selling stores worldwide. In the first four months of the lockdown alone we saw over 139% growth in global revenues,” she said, adding that this growth peaked again during the holiday season.

The shift to eCommerce in global emerging markets happened more rapidly than anyone expected. In fact, Kretov referred to this as a “quantum shift.” According to Kretov, U.S. markets shifted online at a pace that was only expected a year and a half from now and the shift in Russia was forecast to be achieved three years from now. So, eCommerce in Russia is now at levels that were only expected in 2024.

The questions remain: Will this shift last? Will all of these buyers stay online?

Kretov cited research that suggests that between 70-80% of buyers in most countries (e.g., India, the United States, United Kingdom, etc.) will likely continue buying online after 2021, even once the pandemic ends. Therefore, it seems that the world of eCommerce has undergone a change with long-term impact, and the industry will only continue to grow.

2020 eCommerce Trends and Strategies that Businesses Need to Adopt or Adapt to in 2021

To keep up with an ever-evolving market, businesses need to ask themselves what they should do differently this year. Here is where it helps to look at last year’s eCommerce trends to see what to adopt or adapt to for success in 2021.

Here are the main 9 changes that occurred in the world of eCommerce in 2020:

01. What’s selling

The shift in consumers’ buying behavior was most defined for the following:

  • Home goods: During the second and third quarters of 2020, when people worldwide were forced to stay home for extended periods, eBay started to see more purchases of chairs, furniture, monitors and anything else that would make stay-at-home life more comfortable. Sporting goods and yoga mats were also popular.

  • Food delivery. A lot of restaurants and other companies, in various developed markets, shifted to selling groceries and food online. This trend will likely continue through 2021.

02. Focus on price

With less disposable income, people became savvier in their purchasing decisions, focusing more on price instead of just on product quality.

03. The delivery experience

Across emerging markets, there was growing consumer trust in delivery.

The pandemic introduced new rules about contactless delivery and leaving packages at the front door, which consumers adapted to.

Regarding delivery times, consumers were also more understanding, said McFarling. She explained that when surveyed in 2019, consumers expected their packages to be delivered within four days. However, when surveyed in 2020, they recognized and accepted supply chain challenges, saying that 8 days was reasonable.

McFarling suggested that in 2021, consumers will likely go back to their 2019 delivery expectations. This means online businesses will have to overcome any lingering shipping challenges and aim for faster delivery. Real-time delivery updates and more options for free shipping will also be beneficial, according to McFarling.

04. Micro-fulfillment options

In 2020, many merchants and retailers had to get creative with how they stored inventory and got their orders to customers. Some storefronts used lockers for storage and local delivery services. Many even converted their storefronts into micro-fulfillment centers, giving customers the option to buy online but collect their order via curbside pickup. Others explored the concept of dropshipping or using fulfillment networks.

This innovative thinking is here to stay, as is consumers’ willingness to adopt and adapt to merchants’ fulfillment options and strategies.

05. Returns

In 2021, brands will benefit from having more lenient return policies, especially over the holidays. As it now takes longer to get orders delivered to customers, giving them more time and flexibility to get their returns back to you will be appreciated. And as businesses evolve, curbside returns could be worth considering.

06. Moving – and staying – online

As we’ve established, the migration to online selling and shopping will continue in 2021. Those retailers who didn’t establish an online presence will do so this year, while those that did will continue to strengthen it. Even if the world returns completely to it’s pre-COVID form, it’s safe to assume that there won’t be many brands that go back exclusively to brick-and-mortar stores.

That being said, in 2021 online sellers may want to start testing the waters for some kind of hybrid return to physical retail (think pop-up store). While consumers will still want to shop online, they may also want to additionally shop in person. This is where transaction data and browsing history data are key to find, connect with and attract your customer base.

07. Adding multiple selling channels

The general trend, which the data supports clearly, is that if you're seeking to build and grow your business, multiple selling channels are key. In fact, relying on only one selling channel is a recipe for limiting your growth. Your sales will increase incrementally with each new sales channel.

According to ShipStation merchant data, when a merchant added a second selling channel, they saw an average of about 35% increase in their orders. By introducing a fifth selling channel, the merchant saw a 255% jump in orders.

According to McFarling, this shows that there are unique shoppers in each distinct channel, and they’re not going to just come to where your products are; you have to approach them where they exist.

08. Consider the direct-to-consumer (DTC) approach

While eCommerce stores enjoyed an increase in consumer demand and potential shoppers, they also had a lot more competition from businesses selling alongside them.

“In 2020, more businesses than ever before adopted a DTC approach,” said Jabbawy. According to the company, over half of product searches took place on marketplaces compared to 30% on search engines. Consumers also went straight to brand websites, as well.

Looking ahead, while there will be increased pressure for brands to be in more places, they will benefit from focusing on and investing in direct to consumer (DTC) relationships.

09. Payment methods

In 2020, one of the biggest patterns had to do with consumer requests to pay in installments over time. Obviously, this was directly tied to the global pandemic and its effects on people's financial situations. Businesses quickly adapted to these changes with buy now, pay later options.

This trend of accepting payment methods that the consumers want, typically the “pay later” option, will continue in 2021. This means providing reasonable payment choices for your customers but in the simplest possible way.

“Unlike 10 years ago, when there wasn't a simple way to accept cash or debit payments, today online sellers can work with providers like PayPal and have a one-stop shop for all payment types,” said Leberman. Data exists regarding consumer shopping behavior and what payment types are most relevant to offer based on geography and consumer.

Top 3 eCommerce Tips for 2021

With so many choices online, it’s up to eCommerce businesses to deepen the customer experience. Here are three key ways to do so to ensure your business grows.

01. Focus on understanding your customer and their preferences.

Take into account each of your customer’s preferences regarding shipping, delivery, payment, selling channels, and marketplaces. Then, meet them where they are. Most importantly, make sure you have enough variety of choices.

02. Be flexible in finding the right starting point.

The whole eCommerce ecosystem is still evolving; different marketplaces are emerging all the time, and changes are happening every day in different verticals.

“Merchants should feel flexible in trying out different selling channels and marketplaces to find the right niche. Going forward, the speed and ease of establishing one starting point and then either switching to or expanding in another will make experimenting more common and comfortable,” Leberman said.

03. Don’t leave behind those industries that are struggling or slower to move into the digital era

Despite the incredible, continuing momentum of businesses and buyers jumping online, there are still many that aren’t there yet. Many people take for granted that the whole world has become digital. Yet there are still a lot of verticals and industries where the digital experience is not yet up to par for providers or their customers.

Therefore, in 2021, strive for balance in growing more online channels and becoming more sophisticated. One of the big themes for 2021 may be helping industries, friends, family and colleagues find the right tools, channels and providers to improve their online user experience. This is in addition to thinking at scale and globally.

Haven’t yet started selling online? Create your online store today.

Brielle Gordon

Brielle Gordon

Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce

Brielle is a Colorado native with a passion for innovation and helping to mobilize entrepreneurs. Brielle is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce, which powers over 700k online stores worldwide.

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