E-commerce 2021: What we learned in 2020 and what’s changing this year



In 2020, when COVID-19 hit, we all shifted so much of our commerce to online channels.

Now it’s 2021. Though there is no going back to shopping like it's 2019, we learned a lot in 2020, and this will change e-commerce forever.

Here are some of the changes you can expect in 2021 and beyond:

  1. Messaging as a commerce communications channel:
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According to research from cloud communications platform Twilio, messaging is the most preferred channel for customer service in South Korea, India, Singapore, and the US. Furthermore, messaging is among the top three preferred channels globally. This means that if you haven’t integrated messaging into your customer’s journey, it’s time to get started.

Twilio has created a list of five ways for businesses to get started with messaging to their customers:

  • Convenience notification – Communicating with customers to inform them that their products are on their way
  • Sales & marketing – Messaging to highlight new products or services which would be relevant to a prospect based on their purchasing history
  • Customer service – Providing customer service via messaging
  • Access security – Sending verification codes and other pertinent information
  • People coordination – Using messaging to coordinate a service call or a visit

Drilling down into sales & marketing, Munich-based messenger service and chatbot specialist MessengerPeople offers the following action items for Conversational Commerce:

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  • Conversational marketing – Using Push Notification to proactively send information to users and Pull Notifications to encourage clients to initiate a dialogue with your company
  • Consultation over messaging – Offering customers pre-sale advice to move them through the customer journey towards a purchase from your company
  • Order & payment Encouraging customers to purchase products or services via messaging
  • Delivery – Parcel tracking, payment reminder, or sending a customer their boarding pass via a messaging service are excellent ways to delight your customers
  • Customer service – As noted above, messaging is one of the preferred channels for customer service
  • Loyalty – Accompanying the customer and/or incentivizing them towards their next purchase after the initial purchase via messaging helps to cultivate a loyal customer relationship

2. Social Commerce

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Are you still uncertain about social commerce? If so, research compiled by squarelovin is compelling.

55% of shoppers have purchased via a social media channel in 2020 while 31% purchased a product directly from a social media ad and 19% bought a product after seeing/reading a post from an influencer last year.

So you want to check out social commerce? Here’s a great introduction from Mobile Marketing Magazine, which we’re summarizing for you below, by platform/channel:

  • Facebook – The company launched ‘Shops’ last year which enabled businesses to create a storefront on Facebook. On this storefront, businesses could either upload their product catalog or create a new one from scratch and invite users via shoppable ads. Smart Insights found that one in four businesses are now selling via Facebook while a survey from eMarketer showed that 18.3% of US adults purchased on Facebook in 2020, spending $55 on average.
  • Instagram – This platform, also owned by Facebook, has historically been commerce-friendly, driven by the strong visual aesthetic. The algorithm sends users relevant and tailored content that creates a curated shopping experience.  Instagram recently announced Instagram Shopping across IGTV, its long-form immersive video offering, and will start testing shopping on Instagram Reels, the company’s answer to TikTok.
  • TikTokAs the most popular social platform last year, the company enables brands to create shareable content via In-Feed video ads which enable targeting users by age, gender, user behavior, or video category. TikTok recently announced a global partnership with Shopify, extending its platform to their one million merchants to reach TikTok’s youthful audience.

For more about creating a shopping experience on TikTok, check out our blog post on the fast-growing platform.

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  • Pinterest – The company, which also has a partnership with Spotify, offers marketers shoppable Product Pins. Pinterest also offers marketers dynamic retargeting to enable sellers to re-engage with prospects who have previously expressed interest.

For more on using Pinterest for social commerce, check out this blog post about Pinterest.

  • WeChat When it comes to China and other neighboring countries, WeChat remains the top social media messaging app. The company was an early e-commerce innovator through WeChat Stores. Later on, the company launched WeChat Mini Programs, apps that function within the eco-system. In 2020, more than 100 million people purchased from shopping malls and department stores on WeChat Mini Programs
  • YouTubeThe company is innovating in e-commerce by enabling creators to tag and track products featured in YouTube Live videos.

3. The ‘new’ in-store experience

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E-commerce is here to stay. That does not mean that brick and mortar businesses are dead.

Far from it.

Brick and mortar businesses provide an opportunity to enable prospective customers to experience a product. The stores that will succeed and grow in the future are the ones that provide an engaging experience that increases product sales and brand delight.

There is one brand whose retail focus is on experience, and that brand is Canadian outerwear manufacturer Canada Goose. The company recently opened a store in their hometown of Toronto with no inventory. If you buy a coat, it will be delivered to you later that day.

Instead, the store, dubbed ‘The Journey’ by the company, is 100% experiential.

In the “Cold Room”, customers can try on jackets in a room set to 10º F (-12º C) surrounded by real snow and floor-to-ceiling arctic scenery. Shoppers enter the store passing through a two-story glacier façade and then progress through “the crevasse” featuring arctic backgrounds as shoppers walk over OLED panels under the glass floor, which simulates the sound of cracking ice accompanied by an arctic soundtrack. In the retail area, shoppers can engage with interactive displays to learn about product features or speak with employees – “brand ambassadors” – to answer questions or help navigate the store.

One more reason to visit Toronto.

4. Improving the supply chain

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One of the earliest lessons learned a few weeks into the pandemic was the need to diversify supply chains. With so many products manufactured in China, the first country impacted by COVID-19, marketers were hurt by supply shortages just as their customers increased their usage of online channels.

Now is the time for logistics managers to study their supply chains and make plans to diversify them in order to ensure that they have alternative supply options if another disruption occurs in China.

5. I want that delivered yesterday

Historically, most customers were satisfied with the typical 7-10 day delivery window.

According to research from PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey, 88% of respondents are willing to pay more for same-day delivery. Services like Amazon Prime have created the demand for instant delivery within two hours, which is forcing marketers to rethink their approach to customer service.

So what will the future of delivery look like? Check out this video from the Girl Scouts who tested drone delivery for their cookie sales.

Looking for marketing support for your e-commerce initiatives? Reach out to Creative Clicks and let us work with you to implement a marketing program that’s ready for 2021 and beyond.

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