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Samarth Agrawal

Co- Founder & CEO at MaxWholesale

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The Future of E-commerce

2020 has been the year of e-commerce, here's discussing top 5 trends that are set to further shape the industry in 2021.

 When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out at the beginning of the year, more and more people, wary of stepping out of their homes, shifted to online shopping. Total online spending across the world hit USD 82.5 billion in May, showing a staggering growth of 77% year-on-year. Initially, people mostly purchased essentials but now, a substantial proportion of online purchases is composed of consumer discretionary items.

The pandemic has transformed consumer preferences and expectations. Be it groceries, or electronic appliances, they have come to rely on e-commerce as the comfort, convenience, and safety offered by these sites and marketplaces remain unmatched. So, now, despite lockdown regulations being lifted, shoppers are still gravitating towards e-commerce websites and apps. Businesses, positioned well for this change, have been seeing a major uptick in sales through their online channels and others are trying to adapt as quickly as possible. Every day, a growing number of brands are hopping on the e-commerce bandwagon, while new entrepreneurs are starting their journey through it.

The crisis has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and it has been going uphill ever since. However, in the future, it’ll look very different from what it does now as several new developments are coming their way. Here are the emerging trends, which will shape the industry in 2021 and beyond. 

Generating brand loyalty

Digital saturation has been driving up customer acquisition costs and it is projected to continue rising along with competition. So, the emphasis is now on creating more brand loyalty. In 2021, businesses have to engage more with their customers, create personalized experiences based on the information they share, and ensure smooth delivery and returns.

Increased focus on personalization

By next year, the one size fits all approach will be gone. To compete with an increasing number of digital-first businesses and e-commerce giants, brands have to strive for providing richer, more personalized experiences. Today, shoppers expect brands to understand their preferences based on how they engage with the brand, their past purchases, and determine what they should buy next. Personalizing and customizing products and services will aid in customer retention as they make shopping experiences highly differentiated.

Ensuring customer fulfillment

Automated shipping and fulfillment will be the way forward. Brands must own the entire customer experience, especially after they hit the buy button. The majority of poor reviews on e-commerce sites are attributed to issues with delivery and returns. Shipping must be fast, affordable, and hassle-free, and the unboxing video trend has taken it to the next level. Brands are not only taking extra care in packing and delivering the products, but they’re now investing in custom branded packaging.

A strong omnichannel strategy

This is the age of omnichannel selling. Today, brand interaction with customers is no longer confined to a single platform. Businesses are now aligning content delivery across various marketing channels, all of them working together to gradually push the consumer down the purchase funnel. Engaging with customers through multiple channels and devices and getting the message across in a consistent, timely manner reinforces brand visibility, brand awareness, and recall. Businesses end up gaining new customers and retain old ones. So, having an enhanced omnichannel strategy will be essential if brands are to survive and thrive in 2021.

Leveraging AI, AR, and other smart features

The coming years are going to be all about enhancing the customer’s experience - with the product/services and other facets of online shopping. Artificial intelligence (AI), a trend that prevailed in 2020, will spread to almost every aspect of the e-commerce experience. Besides intelligent product recommendations and answering customer queries, AI will help brands analyze the browsing and shopping behavior of customers. 

Another trend is the use of Augmented reality (AR), which lets customers see how a certain size, fit, or color would look on them even before they buy the product. It will attract buyers, who refrain from shopping online because they can’t try on or physically inspect the product that they intend to buy. Besides AI and AR, other smart features such as voice e-commerce are expected to emerge next year.

While the current scenario is good, better days await the e-commerce industry. The e-retail market is expected to continue its strong growth, having registered a CAGR of over 35%, reaching USD 27.75 billion in FY20. However, with time, competition in the online shopping space will only grow. Only the ones who are adapting by welcoming the new trends will outdo their competitors. In the ever-changing world of e-commerce, aligning business approaches to changing tastes and preferences of customers, and embracing new developments is key to sustaining amidst the cut-throat competition.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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