Retailers and DTC companies are making their holiday planning lists and checking them twice. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the economy and consumer behavior, it is more important than ever for brands to have a pulse on holiday 2021 eCommerce trends.
Despite the pandemic (or perhaps as a result of the pandemic), the rise of eCommerce is not slowing down anytime soon. In fact, eCommerce accounted for a record 18.9% of holiday season sales in 2020, and those numbers are expected to rise by at least 11.3% in 2021, bringing the total eCommerce sales for the season to $206.88 billion.
How can eCommerce brands meet consumer expectations during the holidays? Check out our list of six top eCommerce trends to watch this holiday season.
1. An Extended Holiday Shopping Season
The kickoff of the holiday shopping season seems to start earlier with every passing year. (Think: Black Friday midnight sales, pre-Black Friday sales, November month-long sales, etc.)
But while brands originally followed this trend to beat out the competition, brands followed this trend out of necessity in 2020. Supply chain and logistical challenges led eCommerce brands to start promoting holiday shopping earlier than ever, and shoppers were eager to oblige. Almost 50% of shoppers started shopping before Black Friday in 2020, resulting in a 47% increase in eCommerce sales for the holiday season.
With pandemic uncertainty still swirling, the 2021 holiday season will be no different. Target and Amazon are among powerhouse brands and retailers that launched flash and specialty sales in October 2021 and plan to continue running online and in-store sales. From video games to luxury brand product drops, brands are harnessing the power of the specialized sales event to woo holiday shoppers.
2. Free and Fast Shipping
As a growing number of consumers make the shift to online shopping, the demand for free and fast shipping will continue to climb, too. About 66% of today’s online shoppers expect free shipping on any purchase, while 80% of online shoppers expect free shipping if making a purchase over a certain dollar amount.
Due to this growing expectation, the most competitive eCommerce brands are prioritizing free and fast shipping for the holiday season. More than 65% of online retailers offered free shipping on at least some products, and that number will continue to grow during the 2021 holiday eCommerce season.
Because consumers spend time researching shipping and delivery costs when shopping online, it is important for brands to offer this feature in order to beat out competitors. Free shipping offers many benefits to brands, such as increased customer satisfaction and increased sales for a single order. More than 8 out of 10 consumers in America are willing to purchase more products in order to get free shipping.
3. Social Media as a Discovery Tool
Gift-giving can be stressful for consumers who spend weeks fretting over what to buy and how much to spend. Because eCommerce brands present consumers with endless options at their fingertips, a growing number of shoppers rely on discovery aids to help them decide what to get for their grandma, father-in-law and everyone in between.
Social media is an increasingly popular tool for such discovery, as ads and influencer marketing help consumers narrow down their gift-giving options. Shoppers have spent far more time scrolling their mobile devices during the pandemic, further driving the use of social media as a discovery tool for holiday shopping.
Almost 8 out of 10 consumers reported using Facebook as inspiration for holiday shopping in 2020, and social commerce is predicted to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 28.4% between 2021 and 2028.
4. Immersive Online Shopping Experiences
While 2021 holiday eCommerce will provide shoppers with ease and convenience, consumers still want an immersive customer service experience. Certain parts of the shopping experience like trying on clothes or a shade of lipstick used to be in-store-only events. However, innovation now makes it possible to replicate these events online. As customers become accustomed to receiving the same services online that they do in-person, their expectations for an immersive customer service experience rise. As a result, many eCommerce brands are creating immersive online experiences to meet consumers’ growing expectations.
These brands are seeking to offer the personalization and customization of the in-store shopping experience online, by providing features like virtual try-ons, styling services, real-time chat, live streaming and more.
64% of leading brands are investing in augmented reality, 3D content, 360-degree video and other innovative tools to drive business and boost the efficiency of shopping online. These types of immersive online tools provide tangible ROI, helping to boost consumer confidence by 9% among North American consumers.
5. The Rise of BOPIS
Convenience is king in the 2021 holiday shopping season. Consumers are looking for the fastest, most efficient way to purchase gifts for everyone on their list. For many shoppers, that means turning to Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) features.
Almost 67% of shoppers in America have used BOPIS in the past six months, and experts predict that 10% of all retail sales will be fulfilled by BOPIS/Click-and-Collect features by 2025. Many shoppers are more likely to shop online if a store offers BOPIS, preferring the option because it allows them to avoid shipping costs and return the product instantly, if needed.
eCommerce brands with brick-and-mortar stores can capitalize on this trend by offering BOPIS capabilities during the 2021 holiday season. Adding the feature is well worth the investment: Consumers who use this feature are more likely to make additional purchases, either online or while picking up their items in-store.
6. Streamlined Payment Processing
Many eCommerce brands have long struggled to lower cart abandonment rates. In March 2020, a whopping 88% of online shopping orders were abandoned — displaying the uncertainty many consumers have dealt with in the midst of the pandemic.
Now, consumer confidence may be on the rise, but online shoppers are still looking for a streamlined eCommerce experience — otherwise they may not follow through with their purchase. 42% of customers halt the checkout process if the online store does not offer their preferred payment methods.
Today’s consumers expect eCommerce brands to provide a wide range of payment options: Last holiday season, 46% of consumers used credit cards, 44% used debit cards and 40% used digital wallets while shopping online.
Clearly, streamlined payment processing features are essential to any eCommerce brand’s success.
Implement These 2021 Holiday eCommerce Trends with Scalefast
Keeping up with the latest eCommerce trends can be difficult for emerging and legacy brands alike. Fortunately, Scalefast helps brands stay ahead of the curve with our specialty store platform, enterprise-grade commerce cloud and international expansion tools. We offer DTC retail brands a streamlined solution for product drops, special events, bot protection and more. Talk to an eCommerce expert today to learn more.