If you met a time traveler in January 2020 and they would have told you that eCommerce penetration would look like in the chart below in Q1 2020, you would laugh and call them crazy.

Source: Shopify

Well, here we are. One year and one pandemic later.

2020 taught us many things. We discovered how easily we can adapt our online store to changes. We forgot about our plans and followed new trends that we believed would benefit our e-stores.

Those who have the infrastructure in place are looking at eCommerce industry trends for 2021 with enthusiasm:

  • Customers value convenience more than the price;
  • Voice shopping will become more popular;
  • More customers will buy directly from social media;
  • Retailers focus more on customer retention than on customer acquisition;
  • Personalization will go beyond email marketing and the moment of purchase on their eCommerce site;
  • Customers show more interest in green consumerism;
  • Existing customers and increasing lifetime values become top priorities;
  • Omnichannel is the new normal and customers expect seamless experiences;
  • Trying new eCommerce platforms, improving analytics and data insights are top priorities for almost all retailers;
  • Businesses are investing in high-quality visuals and product images because of their major impact on customer experience

But, regardless of the trends that might shape the future, one thing is certain: eCommerce businesses need solid customer retention and customer experience strategies to transform the trends they adopt into sustainable growth.

What trends will stick no matter what happens in 2021?

eCommerce trends work if our businesses are built on healthy foundations. There are three major trends that can help you unlock big strategic moves for your e-store in 2021. 

Analytics tools and first-party data will flourish

COVID-19 forced retailers to shift towards eCommerce and focus mainly on digital due to restrictions and lockdown periods. Inevitably, record online competition and the rising interest in social media platforms and digital ads led to increasing ad costs.

It’s just a little bit of history repeating: big eCommerce players steal the show with generous paid media budgets while smaller e-stores are looking for alternatives to invest their limited budget so they can keep the businesses afloat.

Online retailers that rely heavily on advertising and third-party data might have a challenging 2021. 

But you’re already sitting on a gold mine: first-party data.

Getting the most out of first-party data seems more important than ever, with Google planning to kill cookies by 2022 and Apple making everything tougher for Facebook advertisers with iOS 14 updates.

By combining this vital resource – first-party data from your eCommerce store – with analytics tools designed for eCommerce businesses, you’ll manage to:

  • Generate automated reports and have more time to act on the gathered insights;
  • Better segment your audience and understand who your ideal customer is;
  • Understand what drives repeat purchases and replicate successful campaigns;
  • Integrate CRM data in your personalization efforts;
  • Use customer data for remarketing and to create lookalike audiences for paid ads on social media platforms;
  • Improve your acquisition and retention strategies.

Measuring customer acquisition and customer retention KPIs is equally important, so make sure your analytics tools align with your holistic approach. Also, using a tool that generates automated real-time reports not only saves you a lot of resources but helps you react faster to changes.  

Retaining existing customers remains more important than customer acquisition

The pandemic generated high levels of uncertainty but one thing eCommerce store owners can be certain of is that there’s nothing more important than keeping existing customers close and happy. In fact, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable, according to Deloitte.

2020 forced businesses into adding the missing pieces for an improved customer experience that leads to loyalty and repeat business. A recent study shows that 42% of respondents believe that improved user experience is the biggest eCommerce opportunity for the next 12 months.

You have various tactics to create an excellent customer experience that drives retention and loyalty: 

  • Use first-party data to understand customer behavior and buying habits;
  • Get real-time feedback with pre and post-purchase customer surveys;
  • Offer support and pleasant experiences beyond the moment of purchase;
  • Use various channels to educate, entertain and support them;
  • Design loyalty programs and make them aware of the benefits of a loyal customer 
  • Reward them for their loyalty;
  • Measure and monitor your campaigns to replicate the successful ones and optimize conversion rates and customer lifetime value.

  • 90% of customers are willing to share behavioral data for a cheaper and easier brand experience (Smarter HQ).

In 2021, eCommerce businesses will continue to focus on personalization beyond email marketing to improve user experience. Along with omnichannel experiences being the norm, e-store owners will try to provide a personalized experience no matter where customers interact with their brand. Synchronizing CRM data with various tools will help you achieve the type of interaction that your customers expect when they’re shopping online.

  • 72% of customers only engage with personalized messaging (Smarter HQ).
  • 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand that offers them personalized user experiences (Epsilon).

Shifting towards sustainable growth by increasing customer lifetime value

What companies like Amazon, Ikea, or Starbucks, that dominate their segment, have in common? All of them are focusing on increasing customer lifetime value. 

Why? 

Because keeping repeat customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones. 

Beyond costs, it’s easier to sell to existing customers, who are already familiar with your brand. 

Then, loyal customers purchase more over time than new ones. 

Last but not least, one of the biggest perks of having happy customers is that word of mouth remains the primary factor behind most of the purchase decisions.

eCommerce leaders could not have mastered what we call customer value optimization without a deep analysis of customer data, accurate segmentation, and customer retention strategies that treat segments differently, depending on their behavior and lifetime value.

As developers of Reveal, a tool dedicated to customer value optimization, we are both contributors and witnesses to this trend that is reshaping eCommerce businesses.

Want to see a retention rate increase of 30%? Find out how shoe retailer Otter achieved this result by using Reveal to identify and focus on their most important segment.

For years, e-stores owners have focused on optimizing conversion rates. Now, customer value optimization tactics add to their efforts to generate sustainable growth regardless of the crisis we’re passing through.

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Final thoughts

Although COVID-19 accelerated the development of online shopping, eCommerce brands need to adjust their strategies so they can absorb all of these changes and transform achievements scored during the last 12 months into business opportunities in the long term.

In 2020, Nearly 150 million people shopped online for the first time (eMarketer).

In 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online (Statista).

Even though the eCommerce industry is thriving, businesses need a healthy infrastructure to benefit from this wave of changes that was started by COVID-19. Focus on the trends that are the most beneficial for your e-shop and build a strong foundation that will give you the confidence to make bold moves in your segment. 

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