E-Commerce: What Is It? Variations & 5 Trends In 2021

e-commerce art

2020 was somewhat saved by e-Commerce websites. The pandemic affected the way in which we communicated with clients, conducted user research, and ultimately accelerated the growth of e-commerce in a single year. Homebound consumers drastically changed their shopping habits & behaviour. Millions of businesses were forced to invest more heavily in their existing e-commerce channels, with some forced to take to the digital high street for the first time.

Brands now urgently need to adapt if they wish to thrive in this harsh, competitive digital climate. According to econsultancy UK online sales accounted for a record 35.2% of all retail in January 2021! This beat May 2020’s high of 34.1% when the pandemic was first at its peak. So, if you thought that by following traditional e-commerce trends will help set apart your business in 2021 – you’re wrong.

Taunton businesses should look to develop online sales platforms to keep up with the competition across Somerset. This blog can help business owners do that as it looks at online shopping a whole as well as e-commerce strategies & development techniques that are sure to build brand awarness and conversion rates in 2021.

What Is E-Commerce?

E-commerce is defined as the buying and selling of goods or services via the internet, and the transfer of money and data to complete the sales. In 2021, questions about e-commerce usually centre around which channels are best to execute business online.

e-commerce

Since its origin, e-commerce has evolved to make products easier to discover and purchase through online retailers and marketplaces. Independent freelancers, small businesses, and large corporations have all benefited from e-commerce, which enables them to sell their goods and services at a scale that was not possible with traditional offline retail.

Variations Of E-Commerce

As e-commerce continues to evolve, so do the ways that it’s conducted. The following are the most traditional types of e-commerce models:

  • Business to Consumer (B2C) B2C e-commerce is the most popular model, with the sale taking place between a business and a consumer. Taunton’s own Lily Loves Cakes for example, where a direct transfer takes place online and the cakes are delivered to the customer.
  • Business to Business (B2B) – B2B e-commerce refers to a business selling goods or services to another business like a manufacturer or wholesaler. It isn’t consume facing and usually involves raw materials or software
  • Direct to Consumer (D2C) – Direct to consumer e-commerce is one of the newer models. It means that a brand is selling directly to their end customer without going through a retailer, distributor, or wholesaler. Subscriptions are a common example of D2C, as well as social selling via platforms
  • Consumer to Consumer (C2C) – C2C e-commerce refers to the sale of a good or service to another consumer. Consumer to consumer sales take place on platforms like eBay, Etsy, Fivver, etc
  • Consumer to Business (C2B) – Consumer to business is when an individual sells their services or products to a business organization. C2B encompasses influencers offering exposure, photographers, consultants, freelance writers, etc
E-commerce variations

Every business can benefit from E-commerce in 2021, with more than 2.14 billion people worldwide expected to use e-commerce for the whole year according to Statista. If that’s not enough, online sales also accounted for 14.1% of all retail sales worldwide in 2019 – before the pandemic!

With so much competition in the market now, let’s look at the 5 emerging e-commerce development trends in 2021 that can catapult your online business above competitors.

1) Improve Online Customer Journeys

As a result of the pandemic, websites have become the primary source of purchasing goods from brands – rather than a secondary or alternative method to retail (in-store). It is therefore imperative that e-commerce businesses have a clear and pleasant customer journey.

The customer journey is a map of the route a customer takes from the time they first encounter your brand to the time they make a purchase. During this stage many users abandon shopping carts, lose interest, or even find a competitor! To guarantee a pleasant user experience (UX) in 2021, you need to add the following to your business’s customer journey:

  • Personalisation needs to be applied properly. Ideally at each contact point (on pages, in search, in car/checkout) To reinforce your brands colours/aesthetics and overall message

 

  • Purchase Information needs to be rich – an example would be improved size guides, instant chat, and try-ons

 

  • Nearly instant site speed loading with better development practices than before

 

  • Streamlined returns and exchanges as order volume in the home is now higher due to the pandemic

 

  • Ensuring fulfilment at higher volumes will be crucial. “Shipments are delayed due to COVID” isn’t going to work when the competition is solidly back on next-day delivery
e-commerce art
customer buying journey

2) Conduct Rapid Customer Research

An article from Shopify stated that design experts believe retailers seeking to keep pace with constantly changing customer needs, behaviours and preferences will increasingly turn to rapid customer research to accelerate innovation. With change being the only constant in e-commerce, customer experience is going to be more important than ever. Brands therefore must first focus on customer needs to fulfil this pleasant experience. This means embedding customer research throughout the process – from concept to design.

Customer research

Carrying out rapid customer research to shape and validate everything from big transformational ideas to small tweaks and optimisations brings the clarity and certainty merchants need to adapt quickly. With the pandemic causing reiteration of business goals, we’ve seen several global brands putting rapid customer research at the heart of experience innovation. The alternative (to press on without any customer evidence) is a much less certain approach. If were being honest there is one thing, we all need now – a little more certainty!

3) Bring In-Store Experience Online

While we know that it’s not quite the same as seeing a product in real life, Augmented reality (AR) or Virtual reality (VR) experiences help give customers the insight needed to make a purchasing decision.

For example, merchants known as The Sheet Society have embraced this with their AR-enables bed builder.  It allows customers to visualise how their linen/duvet will look in their actual room before adding it to their cart. This gives the customers confidence in their decision which is likely to nudge up conversion rates whilst also reducing The Sheet Society’s risk of bearing the cost of a return. Another prime example of using AR comes from the furniture megastore IKEA – with the use of AR in their “place app” It enables customers to see how furniture would look and fit in their interior all without leaving your home. With technological advances taking place daily, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more VR & AR use for e-commerce in 2021.

4) Connect More With Social Commerce

The future of retail is everywhere. Successful online stores sell across a variety of platforms & channels, whilst connecting with customers where they are spending most of their time. Social media platforms have never been as vital as they are now for businesses, as they continue to evolve to support E-commerce.

Google, Facebook and most recently TikTok have opened to the idea of social commerce. Facebook shops for instance enables brands to create a customised online storefront which allows their customers to find, browse and buy products through Instagram and Facebook apps. These storefronts were key during the pandemic and will only evolve for the good in years to come.

 

5) Diversifying Payment Options

We believe that more payment options than ever before are likely to be offered by merchants in 2021. Digital wallets like Apple Pay will one day be the default payment method, possibly overtaking credit card payments for the first time. As well as this, crypto currency will come into effect for e-commerce merchants. Senior e-commerce consultant for Shopify Kurt Elster believes that cryptocurrency will be legitimised as a payment method in the near future.

We know that e-commerce will explode worldwide, and transactions will occur in more ways than ever. As the technology advances, so will the adaptation of e-commerce merchants – looking to open new platforms for customers to purchase goods through.

The e-commerce trends surrounding the back end of COVID-19 also means it’s the perfect time exploit the techniques above and widen your audience. More people are buying products from brands they’d never previously heard of. So, make room in your budget to lean into your marketing campaigns and tap into this growing opportunity. Let new customers find your business and ultimately fall in love.

E-Commerce Websites Taunton

Taunton Tone River

Local Taunton business owners are finding solace in the fact that their businesses can remain operational and profitable online for an affordable investment. Let the experts at Search4Local transform your business into a bespoke website with complimenting SEO & PPC techniques to ensure a growth in online presence and traffic to your website.

Contact Search4Local on 01823 765095 to create an E-commerce site that can sell products to customer in a matter of clicks from home. Or email us at tauntonoffice@search4local.co.uk for more information.

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