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After 2020, it feels a little risky to make eCommerce predictions – or any kind of predictions. However, underneath the chaos that was this past year, some eCommerce trends emerged. One of the primary trends for eCommerce was that the industry’s growth sped up. That speed brought its own problems. Still, 2020 does point the way toward eCommerce predictions for 2021.

2021 Ecommerce Predictions

ECommerce predictions for uncertain times

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out in 2021, life will begin to return to normal. However, some of the changes to consumer buying habits over the past year will become permanent. Top eCommerce trends will keep trending. Expect online shopping to retain its popularity and continue to grow. To take advantage of that growth, businesses across the eCommerce industry will need to make some changes.

Here are some eCommerce trends and predictions to help you plan to keep your business healthy during the year ahead.

Understanding and retaining new customers is job #1

McKinsey data shows that 75% of consumers tried a new brand in 2020. Of those people, 60% plan to shop with these new eCommerce brands in the future. That means your business probably has more new customers than usual.

At the same time, the cost to get a new customer has increased. Because more brands are turning to eCommerce, online advertising costs have risen as much as 40%. That makes the consumers who have already found your brand even more valuable.

shipping address vs. billing address for online shopping

The year ahead is an excellent time to expand your efforts to connect with your customers. Leverage CRM apps and data on their shopping habits to form closer relationships with new customers. Fighting through the churn with more competition than ever won’t be the best strategy for most eCommerce companies. In the long run, it will be more economical to turn newbies into loyal customers.

As department stores fade, eCommerce marketplaces will grow more dominant

Even before the pandemic kept customers away from in-person shopping, many department stores were on life support. That model of brick-and-mortar retail appears to be fading.

Customers still like the shopping experience of buying everything from clothing to furniture in one place. They just want to do it online. The department stores of the future will be eCommerce marketplaces.

ecommerce predictions

About half of all eCommerce purchases were made on marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart in 2020. ECommerce trends toward marketplace shopping continue to grow. One-stop shopping for just about everything has a strong appeal. In 2021, more than ever, it makes sense to have a presence in one or more eCommerce marketplaces.

However, marketplace selling has drawbacks as well. When manufacturers sold products in department stores, the store took care of retail sales and customer relations. In eCommerce marketplaces, the work of selling and all the risk falls on the sellers. It’s harder to build a brand identity when the customers belong to the marketplace. And, at least on Amazon, you run the risk of the marketplace using your sales data to knock off your products.

To protect your brand, build other sales channels where you can connect more directly with your customers.

Omnichannel selling is a must

Omnichannel selling isn’t a new eCommerce prediction for 2021. However, it’s a trend that keeps gaining momentum. You can no longer choose between a branded eCommerce site and selling in an eCommerce marketplace. The more channels you have to reach consumers, the better. Fortunately, apps make it easy to manage all your sales channels in one place. And the best 3PL companies can handle orders from different platforms seamlessly.

DIY storefronts on eCommerce platforms will make setting up online  stores accessible to more businesses

In 2020, retailers of all sizes rushed into online shopping. Most didn’t have the time or the resources to build out a fancy website. Going forward, more businesses will include at least a component of online retail. Many eCommerce platforms make it simple and inexpensive to build an eCommerce site.  The DIY approach will continue to gain popularity with online retailers. 

Fulfillment will help eCommerce businesses stand out from the competition

The importance of order fulfillment for eCommerce success is not new. However, in 2021, fulfillment will gain prominence as a driver of consumer satisfaction with online retailers.

The process of picking, packing, and shipping orders is mostly invisible to the end consumer. That changed in 2020 when a massive spike in demand led to backlogs and delays for some companies.

A robust fulfillment plan is vital in 2021. You need to work with a 3PL company that is up to the challenges that are sure to come in the year ahead. A strong fulfillment plan is one of the best ways to grow your business.

ecommerce predictions

ECommerce predictions for carrier capacity limitations

Major carriers FedEx, UPS, and USPS reached the limits of their capacity in 2020. They weren’t able to deliver packages in the promised delivery time. To meet this challenge, Red Stag Fulfillment is expanding its eCommerce shipping options. Make sure you have a plan to deal with capacity limitations, especially during peak shipping periods.

Easy returns will be more critical than ever

Ease of returns has long been a significant driver of online shopping. That is particularly true for customers who are new to shopping online. This year is an excellent time to reexamine your return policies. Make sure you communicate the policy clearly on your website. Work with your 3PL to minimize the cost of processing returns. It is one of the best steps you can take to boost your business in 2021.

handling returns during the pandemic

Resilient supply chains are essential

Hopefully, 2021 will be a much calmer year than 2020. Still, unexpected events and new trends are likely. The pandemic is not over. Climate change will probably bring extreme weather, which can disrupt transportation and manufacturing.

unbroken supply chain

Your plan for 2021 should include a supply chain that can work through disruptions. This could include sourcing raw materials and products from more than one supplier. Make alternate plans for transport, as noted above. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need backup plans for our backup plans.

Business continuity through difficult circumstances is an asset for your company. Treat your suppliers and your fulfillment company as partners in your online retail success. Shared information and goals create a solid foundation for a strong supply chain.

More businesses will open D2C sales channels

As eCommerce expands its market share, more businesses will be able to sell directly to their customers. Expect more brands to open direct-to-consumer sales channels in 2021. This includes both retail and B2B brands. The trend of wholesale moving online shopping will continue.

Opportunities to sell internationally will continue to expand

It’s a big world out there. Expanding your business to sell internationally is a terrific expansion opportunity in 2021.

More people bought cross-border products in 2020, especially in China. That opens a vast market for eCommerce merchants. You can sell internationally through marketplaces that cater to consumers in other countries. Also, consider building web portals tailored to customers in the countries you want to reach.

To maximize your ad budget, go social

More people are unplugging from their cable and newspapers. In 2021, advertising on social media platforms will gain prominence. While ad costs have risen, social provides opportunities for your organic content to reach eyeballs. Use social video to take your brand message viral. Look for niche and unusual social streams to promote your products.


Sustainability and social responsibility will attract customers to your brand

The consumer preference for sustainable eCommerce brands will continue to grow in 2021. In addition, social responsibility will continue to have a higher profile for consumers.

Millennials are the primary drivers of the rise of brands as a force for good. Some popular D2C eCommerce brands are built around a mission to have a positive influence on the world. For great examples, look at Toms shoes or Bombas socks.

You don’t have to plant a forest to let your customers know you care. One of the simplest and best things that eCommerce businesses can do is use green packaging. Recyclable materials will please your customers and might also save you money.

eCommerce packaging

Use eCommerce predictions to plan for a successful 2021

In 2020, existing eCommerce trends intensified. You can expect more of the same in 2021. At the same time, you should expect the unexpected. Contingency plans will make your operations more resilient.

No matter what 2021 brings, Red Stag Fulfillment will continue to do its best to help our clients adapt, respond, and thrive.