To call 2020 unpredictable would be an understatement, especially when referring to the meteoric rise of the DTC eCommerce retail industry. Covid-19 restrictions pushed more people than ever to shop online, resulting in a banner year for eCommerce retailers.
While eCommerce was already on a steady upward rise, COVID-19 accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly five years. Today, there are between 12 to 24 million global online shops serving over 2.14 billion global customers.
How lucrative was 2020 for eCommerce retailers? Globally, consumers spent nearly $4.29 trillion online during the course of the year, up from $3.46 trillion in 2019. In the United States, revenue from eCommerce in 2020 amounted to $4.28 trillion.
As eCommerce enters the fourth quarter (Q4) of the 2021 business year, the numbers look even better. eCommerce retail sales are expected to increase in Q4, which coincides with the busy holiday shopping period. By the time 2021 ends, global eCommerce is projected to bring in $4.891 trillion. US eCommerce sales are expected to close the year at $933 billion.
The point is, eCommerce is booming and shows no sign of slowing down.
Shifting Customer Behavior and Shopping Trends
The pandemic also brought about unprecedented changes in customer behavior. With brick and mortar stores in shutdown mode, the way people shopped and what they shopped for was drastically altered. Beauty, health and wellness, tech gadgets, home fitness equipment, hair care, pet products and even air purifiers all became hot online retail products.
Many of these eCommerce retail trends have diminished slightly as brick and mortar businesses reopened midway through the year. But some of the innovative methods customers use to search for and buy online products have demonstrated staying power. Here are four popular eCommerce shopping trends that are projected to grow in popularity in Q4 2021 and beyond.
In 2021, augmented reality (AR) swept through eCommerce like a rocket. AR is an interactive 3D experience that allows shoppers to virtually ”see” items they’re shopping for, leading to better informed buying decisions and enhanced customer experiences. Through innovative AR-powered virtual dressing rooms, people can actually try on clothing without being in a store. While a relatively new shopping trend, brands like Macy’s, Amazon, Walmart and IKEA are already taking advantage of AR’s tremendous potential. And they’re not alone. According to PR Newswire, by 2022 over 120,000 online stores will be using AR technologies.
Voice commerce is when smart speaker devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Echo are used to search for and purchase products. This shopping trend has gotten so popular, smart speakers have become the fastest growing customer technology since the smartphone. In 2021, voice commerce made serious headway into e-Commerce and will be increasingly present in future online shopping. Here are a few facts that highlight its dramatic growth:
- Projections show that almost 23.5 million Americans will own a smart speaker by the end of 2021.
- A projected 30.7 million U.S. consumers are projected to shop with a smart speaker by the end of Q4 2021.
Voice shopping revenue is expected to grow to $40 billion in 2022.
In the last quarter of 2021, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots will continue to be a shopper’s best friend. In fact, in the past year chatbots have become the fastest-growing communication channel between businesses and their customers. More than 60% of online customers use chatbots as their first choice for customer service questions. By providing quick and reliable responses, chatbots can improve brand awareness and customer engagement, boost personalization and create a more enjoyable customer experience. As they become increasingly more intuitive and people continue to shop online, the chatbot trend in eCommerce is expected to grow even stronger.
Influencer marketing has become one of the most effective ways eCommerce retail brands of all sizes can effectively market their products. By the end of 2021, influencer marketing is projected to be worth $13.8 billion. It harnesses the power of popular social media “influencers” who have a reputation for being experts on a specific topic. Brands partner with influencers to create and share content on popular social media outlets like IGTV, Instagram Live, TikTok and Instagram Reels. This strategy can help niche online retail brands boost ROI and engagement rates, increase conversions, and reach broader audiences. In fact, 92% of people trust recommendations from other people more than they trust recommendations from brands.
eCommerce Shopping Trends Are Here To Stay
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to be unpredictable, one thing is for certain: eCommerce is no short-term trend. In fact, it can be said the eCommerce retail industry has been the pandemic’s biggest beneficiary. At this point, consumers are comfortable with the convenience and benefits of online shopping and contactless payments. As people continue to shop online, the shopping trends highlighted here will not only grow throughout Q4, but go mainstream.