We hope the vaccine being deployed starts to send us back to ‘normal,’ but what will happen to the way we’ve been living life for the past nine months? What will stay and what will go? How will it impact the work we do in eCommerce? Here are a few predictions based on the trends we are seeing:

1) Change is Here to Stay

During the pandemic, we have come to expect interactions with brands that didn’t even exist mere months ago. Now, this has become the case even at the most basic level of shopping and buying online. 

The great news is that eCommerce business is up by 34% according to eMarketer (Link- https://content-na1.emarketer.com/haves-have-nots-divides-deepen-across-retail-amid-pandemic ). We don’t expect this number to come back down in 2021 and beyond.

However, this experience has revealed another long-term trend that isn’t really that surprising—consumers want to be able to choose the way they interact with brands. For instance, look at curbside pickup and meal delivery, both new conveniences that are definitely here to stay.

These innovations were required to keep businesses open and functioning given the situation. However, think about how these opportunities provided consumers with access to their favorite brands in ways that better fit their lifestyle. Something that came from necessity has turned into the new norm. You can see this in the way Google has increased the amount of listings for the Google My Business local map pack to 47% (Link - https://www.searchenginewatch.com/2020/12/28/search-engine-saturation-the-ever-evolving-serp-and-how-brands-are-responding/).

So now is definitely not the time to lament or look for ways to backtrack. Instead, this is the moment to keep the innovation flowing.

Action to Take:

Think through your customer experience today and what it needs to be to survive in the new world as it evolves. One thing we’ve found is that many brands lack the flexibility to integrate and fully flex their eCommerce experiences quickly enough to capture market opportunities. Oftentimes, this is at least partly (if not mostly) due to the constraints of their current platform.

Having the ability across your marketing and tech stacks to have this flexibility is key to success and it can only be done on a next-generation platform that’s ready to grow with you, like ZiftrShop. With eCommerce set to rise rapidly, this is a key time to evaluate whether your current platform is ready to meet the demands ahead. 

2) What Does Buying “Local” Really Mean?

When local first became a thing, shopping might have been limited to a person’s geographical community. We’re talking back when American Express started and trademarked Small Business Saturday in 2010. But now, that annual call to shop small has evolved, and consumers are focused more broadly on independent businesses.

As eCommerce and digital have grown, the definition of local has really just shifted to independent vs. national chain stores. There’s no better proof of this than the growth of Etsy. Etsy stock has outpaced the S&P by 20X in 2020 because people still want to buy online but want to support independent businesses. 

According to a survey by The Harris Poll, 37% of millennial women in the U.S. preferred receiving handmade gifts over mass-produced ones, while 65% of all millennial shoppers preferred buying holiday gifts from independent retailers instead of big retailers. So what does this mean for your business?

Action to Take:

Rethink who your target audience is and how you can extend your reach. Is there any reason you shouldn’t be selling nationally or internationally? If your product serves a need, it doesn’t just have to be targeted locally. Etsy proves this and there are more marketplaces opening up to extend your reach. 

We expect the number of multilingual and multi-currency site requirements to increase, which begs the question: Do you have the necessary capabilities? In anticipation of this need, ZiftrShop is designed to include multi-site, language, and currency support right out of the box. If you’re up to your neck in plug-ins to make global eCommerce a go for your business, it might be time for a simplified solution.  

3) Sales, Sales, Everywhere!

Your website is a critical part of your digital strategy. This trend doesn’t change that, but what will change is that the number of places a consumer can interact with your brand and make purchases will increase. 

This might come from a rise in marketplace sales, from sites like the aforementioned Etsy, or WalMart, Target, or Amazon. It could also be via social media platforms, like Instagram or Pinterest, who both added shopping/buy buttons this year. Even Google didn’t stay out of the fray, moving their Google Shopping listings to a free model. With ROI no longer a consideration, this shift should increase the number of brands who participate and certainly increase the number of products available. 

All of these platforms have increased their eCommerce ambitions over the past year and we don’t expect that to slow down. The biggest rumor about Shopify is the addition of a marketplace taking advantage of the millions of independent retailers who operate on their platform. Whatever the next move, we expect options to keep on expanding.

Action to Take:

This is a great area to test and learn. The cost is typically low to integrate various sales streams, yet many brands still don’t have the technical platform or expertise to engage in these areas. Or they just get overwhelmed trying to do it all. 

This is where brands need to create a roadmap and plan. Test, nail the opportunity and then scale. However, when thinking about the agencies or technology partners you want to work with, a key consideration should be how that partner will help propel your business to the next level.

4) The Subscription Economy Expands

If you’ve checked your credit card statement lately, you probably noticed more than one subscription charge. Could be from Netflix, SiriusXM, Apple Cloud, or any number of other options. You’re definitely not alone.

We can see with the $100 Million dollar contract Spotify signed with Joe Rogan (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/20/business/media/joe-rogan-spotify-contract.html) that the subscription economy has massive opportunities. Another obvious example would be Time Warner announcing that all its movie releases will debut simultaneously on HBOMax. They are doing this to drive subscriptions. 

The trend is also popping up beyond just entertainment and media companies. Apple has bundled fitness, music, gaming, TV, and more with its Apple One subscription. All around us, industries are exploring this model, and we think the implications are important for all sorts of businesses, even yours

Think of shoes. Say a person orders the same shoes for running about three times a year, each time searching for the best price. But if a brand offered the opportunity to subscribe and get the shoes every four months and save, why wouldn’t they opt for that?

The same can be said for food delivery with Doordash’s subscription service, or groceries, household goods, etc…So many businesses have similar repeat buying opportunities. 

Action to Take:

We encourage brands to think through how they can interact with customers beyond a single transaction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a subscription; it can be done through any number of approaches:

  • Social Media Follow
  • Review Creation
  • Subscription
  • Loyalty Program
  • Email list

Some or all of these may be appropriate for your brand and the products you sell. It’s really about taking advantage of all the time and effort you invest to get each customer to your site. What strategies can you leverage to keep shoppers engaged beyond that one visit? And what tools do you need to do that seamlessly and effortlessly so you can continue to scale?

Because let’s be real. 2020 was wild, but 2021 isn’t slowing down. There are key challenges we, as a society, will need to wrestle with. How does this relate to your brand’s digital strategy? Look for the opportunities.

While the landscape may get more complicated in the near term, we expect an explosion of opportunities to scale coming soon. As more eCommerce enterprises step into the sophistication of modular platforms, like ZiftrShop, we will likely see digital innovation like never before in this sphere. Are you ready to lead the way? Starting with this list will get you well on your way to a successful 2021 and beyond!