The Future of eCommerce: Trends to Drive Growth in 2021

11 Dec
The Future of eCommerce: Trends to Drive Growth in 2021

Okay, so...

It’s been a strange year, for lack of a better word.

While we’ve all been thrown for a loop this year, one thing that has managed not just to grow but thrive is the eCommerce industry — especially in the US.

Findings show that while 2019 saw an average increase of 14.9% YoY in online retail sales compared to 2018, 2020’s second quarter skyrocketed up to 44.5% YoY.

eCommerce sales have been booming!

2020 has been a bit of a Black Swan; however, the trends to have emerged from this year won’t vanish when things go back to whatever version of normal we settle into.

The world is shopping online, and now there are a handful of marketing trends worth capitalizing on for eCommerce businesses in 2021.

In this article, you will learn:

  • 5 newly emerged eCommerce marketing trends
  • Why each marketing trend is essential to thriving in 2021
  • Actionable steps to implement these strategies into your marketing plan

5 eCommerce Trends To Fully Embrace in 2021

Omnichannel Marketing is the Way

Chances are, as a marketer, the idea of being on multiple channels to gain awareness to drive leads and sales isn’t new to you. But this year made way for a new focus for better omnichannel marketing as more people were stuck at home and on the internet browsing for new brands to try.

Harvard Business Review surveyed 46,000 shoppers, and 73% said they use multiple channels throughout their shopping journey.

Omnichannel is the way, and we all need to be on the path of unifying our customers’ experiences across all the channels they can connect with us.

Just look at some of the data proving the need for this:

Now, you might have heard of multi-channel marketing before, and we want to clarify, no, they are not the same thing!

Omnichannel goes much deeper than a multi-channel marketing strategy. Because while a multi-channel marketing plan aims to be on, well, multiple channels for you to market, omnichannel is about using various channels to offer a cohesive experience relating to your brand.

If you want a prime example of Omnichannel marketing, consider REI.

With their Omnichannel strategy, they utilize email, an online store, physical store locations, a print magazine, YouTube, online shopping through social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and more.

REI’s branding, experience, and core values all ring the same across these channels, which is partially why they’ve continued to do well.

Without diving too deep into the Omnichannel realm, it’s easy to assume that going this route is complicated and expensive. However, you’re likely already marketing on multiple channels as it is.

So to truly capitalize on this eCommerce trend for 2021, there are a few things you can tweak to start building out a more unified experience.

Action Steps For Omnichannel Marketing in 2021:

  • Consider adding SMS to your marketing mix. Brands using SMS as part of their Omnichannel strategy see an average of 48% higher conversion rates. If you have a Sendlane, we have SMS features built into our platform, making this an easy option to start on right away.
  • Monitor all your marketing channels regularly. Part of the experience that you want to wrangle is the customer service aspect. People will reach out to you through Instagram or Twitter DMs or email with support questions. If you’re not monitoring all these channels and quickly responding and resolving issues where people come to you, this area needs attention.
  • Reevaluate the marketing channels you’re on. Usually, 3-4 is a good number to start with, but the key is to make sure the experience across all of them is the same. Once you have a good handle on being on-brand and monitoring and offering support as needed, then continue to branch out.

If you’re unsure how cohesive your Omnichannel marketing plan is, take a trip through your customer journey. Go to the sites you think someone would come across, click links, read and share content, sign up for your email list, and try to purchase things through the various methods you have available.

Experience it for yourself and be honest about how well your brand is doing. Take notes then make changes as needed.  

Mobile Commerce for the Win

Is mobile commerce different from eCommerce? Mmm… no, but yes.

Mobile commerce is specific to sales that happen through a mobile device. Those mobile-based sales could happen through many different channels like an online store, a mobile app, or Instagram Shopping, just to name a few.

And this year, as more millennials and Gen Z kids stayed home, mobile commerce took a significant uptick.

According to Statista, 2019 saw 268+ billion in US mobile commerce sales, 2020 has seen 338+ billion in mobile sales — and we haven’t even made it through the holiday shopping season yet.

This climb isn’t a new trend or specific to what the pandemic kicked up. This increase has been happening steadily over the past five years. However, what 2020 has done is make it clear that mobile commerce isn’t so much a “nice marketing option” as it is now a part of modern retail marketing.

The proof is in the profit because $2 out of every $3 spent through online purchases happen through a mobile device.

OldNavy is a fantastic example of a brand that has made changes over the years to capitalize on things like eCommerce and mobile commerce.

While they started as a brick-and-mortar store, as times have changed, they made changes right along with it as times have changed.

When eCommerce became important, they got online. When responsive design of that eCommerce site was needed, they made that change. And with mobile commerce, not only do they have a mobile app, but they also make it easier for online shoppers to purchase things through channels outside of their own.

For example, you can see in the photos above that you can purchase products through Instagram Shopping.

You may not be able to go as far as creating a mobile shopping app, but you can certainly take some steps to set yourself up for mobile commerce success in 2021.

Action Steps For Mobile Commerce in 2021:

  • Test your site design across multiple device types. You can get into your Google Analytics to find out what devices are most commonly browsing your website. See what those are and test how your site is viewed and experienced on each device. You may find you need to make adjustments to help with speed or how your site is displayed. Whatever change helps to improve the experience for your customers is probably the right change to make.
  • Simplify the checkout process. You may think your checkout process is simple but is it, really? Fewer steps equal less friction, which usually equates to more sales through your site’s mobile version. If you can simplify this without losing out on security, then it’s worth consideration.
  • Consider branching out to other sales channels. Social media channels are taking a shift toward mobile commerce these days, with ones like Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest making it easier and easier to find and purchase items right within their apps. If most of your audience comes through your site through these channels, then selling your products on them could prove fruitful.

Subscriptions Become The Norm

I’d bet all the money in my bank account that you’re a member of at least one subscription-based service.

Most of us are accustomed to subscribing to services — some more necessary than most. But this year, building a subscription model to your eCommerce store has a whole new meaning for both those who run online stores and those who buy from them.

As brands tried to find new ways to keep up revenue, and buyers were finding online shopping experiences minus the hassle, subscription-based offerings not only leaped forward but have become the new norm.

Before this year, the subscription eCommerce market has grown consistently by more than 100% YoY, and this year, the numbers have continued to climb.

Thanks to the convenience, functionality (and fun) aspect that comes with subscriptions, more and more people have subscribed to services they didn’t sign up for before COVID-19.

Right now, more than two-thirds of American consumers have multiple eCommerce subscriptions. And this year, 22.5% of subscription-based businesses or those who’ve added the model to their online business saw subscription growth and online sales accelerate.

This shift makes it easier for consumers to get what they need while helping eCommerce platforms turn customers into repeat buyers for increased lifetime value and lower acquisition costs — both critical things to nail during an economic downturn.

You don’t have to shift your business model to be entirely subscription-based to take advantage of this trend. Take a look at the brand, YourSuper, an online superfood mix brand.  

Initially, this brand didn’t have subscriptions for their business. However, over time, they added the option where customers could subscribe to the order after hitting that "buy button".

To incentivize going the route of subscribing versus a one-time purchase, YourSuper offers a 20% discount for being a subscriber. And since everyone loves a good deal, it’s an enticing offer.

One that works for the company that now generates 7-figures regularly — even in 2020.

As you can see, instead of entirely shifting to subscriptions, they simply added it to their business model and use email marketing and other marketing channels to support both the single products AND and subscriptions they offer.

You can get the ball rolling for your brand with a few starting steps, which we’ve listed below.

Action Steps For Adding Subscriptions To Your eCommerce Store in 2021:

  • Look at your options for creating a subscription. You might have one or many products that could sell as a subscription if you packaged them together. Take a look at what you have, how often customers repeatedly buy a particular item, and what your customers are saying to find a good place to start offering a subscription.
  • Consider creating a new option just for your audience. If you don’t have anything that seems like it would fit into a subscription model, consider getting creative and adding new products that fit your brand and your audience. This takes a lot of time and customer research but could be well worth it.
  • Find a tool to easily add subscriptions to your site. You’ll need the tech to make subscriptions happen, and there are many options out there. Look at the platform you're on and start exploring the integration options for adding subscription services to your site. After that, figure out how that tech connects to other parts of your marketing tech stack so that the customer experience can flow nicely.


Automation Continues To Make Everything Better

While most of the points thus far have spotted trends on the consumer side of things, there have been trends in the market that eCommerce brands have been setting as well.

This year has been the year of brands figuring out how to work smarter to free up more time to double down in areas that prove fruitful.

That meant two things:

  1. Automating as many things as possible within your marketing workflow AND
  2. Making sure all your tech was working together correctly to gather better data to help make the automation as seamless as possible

This year, marketing automation took a big uptick as brands decided to double down in providing better customer experiences with good results:

  • Marketing automation reduced marketing overhead by 12.2%.
  • 77% of users saw an increase in conversions after using marketing automation software.
  • According to Email Monday, spending on automation tools will grow rapidly, reaching $25.1 billion annually by 2023.

Online retailers are taking advantage of marketing technology and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. Currently, the most common marketing automation is email marketing and social media tools.


Wanderer Bracelets is a great example of a brand that uses marketing automation and many of the other points we’ve covered so far.

They utilize a mix of email automation, automated retargeting ads, and automated SMS for promotions and even shipping info.

It’s just one example of marketing automation that takes advantage of Omnichannel marketing simultaneously, which is why it’s an example we love to use when we can.

If you’re not using as much marketing automation as you’d like or you’re not sure where to start, here are some action items for you.

Action Steps For Personalizing Your Customer Experience in 2021:

  • Start by tracking all of your website browsing behavior to build better eCommerce experiences. Tracking the behaviors of those browsing your website might sound creepy, but it’s not. Especially with you can use it to give them a better overall customer experience. At Sendlane, we do this to help you create automated, personalized messaging for each person based on their browsing behavior.
  • Test a chatbot on your site. One easier way you could take some tasks off your plate is by using a chatbot. That would mean using it as a customer support tool, for driving leads or even to suggest products to customers. There are many potentials to sourcing tasks to take items off your plate or increase revenue with less work, so it’s worth exploring.
  • Save yourself a headache and aim for tools that integrate with your main marketing tech. This is really important, and we want to make sure we covered it in this section. Integrations are the saving grace of any great marketing tool. You can find the tool with all the features you want, but if it doesn’t integrate with your website, your email marketing platform, or your other vital marketing tech stack, it will cause so many issues for you down the road. Soooo… whatever marketing automation tool you land on, be sure to look at what it can integrate. If you’re curious, here’s what Sendlane integrates with ;)


Personalized Customer Experiences Takes Front and Center

For years, marketers have heard every marketing blog talking about personalization and the customer journey. This year, the importance of giving people better, more personalized experiences became the name of the game. Especially when competing for market share with giants like Amazon and Apple.

For many brands, customer retention overtook conversion as the main focus of personalization, with more and more marketers relying on tools that let them dig into the data.

This isn’t without a good reason.

52% of consumers said that if an email is not personalized, they’ll go elsewhere, and 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized user experiences. (Instapage)

Personalization can take place on various channels. You can personalize eCommerce website content, emails to customers, ads, and much more.

One example of personalization is Target.

They personalize the entire store experience from email, website content, and ads based on what you click on, purchase, and where you live.

For example, if you choose in-store pick-up for website personalization, the options will tailor to the store you set to pick up from.

There are automations triggered for their emails depending on what you’ve saved to your cart, what you buy regularly, and much more. Take this email, for example. Target included some personalized product recommendations that go hand in hand with the original product left behind.

While Target has many resources to dedicate to these types of personalization, their continued success shows that it’s well worth it.

You don’t have to spend as much time or money in personalizing the customer experience as you may think. Here are a few action steps to give you as a jumping-off point.

Action Steps For Personalizing Your Customer Experience in 2021:

  • Take stock of where you’re at and how you’ll improve. Look at your marketing strategy and be honest with how well you’re doing with personalization across your channels. Could your email marketing and personalization there use improvement? How creative are your retargeting ads? Could you make changes that make it seem more personal to your audience? It’s good to take stock of things as your benchmark and map out where you need to improve so you can move forward.
  • Get nitty-gritty with email segmentation. Email marketing and personalization go hand-in-hand and have a great impact on revenue and ROI. If you want to dig into this and how to do it well, check out this free email segmentation strategy ebook.
  • Utilize marketing automation to do the heavy lifting for you. We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating here. Marketing automation can help A LOT in the personalization department. So if you really want to run with this, find tools that help.

Plan Now and Go For It

The new year is almost here! So now is the time to put your creative caps on and let the optimization begin!

As you can see, there are a good handful of trends that are here to stay for the coming years.

This hasn’t been a season where we can sit back and relax a little. Thankfully, you’ve risen to the occasion, and there’s a lot of good to come out of what’s been a hectic year.

Ready to take Sendlane for a spin? Try us out free for 14 days! 

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