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Given how tumultuous a year 2020 proved to be for so many, you’d imagine that the sensible among us would refrain from making any bold predictions for 2021. After all, who could have foreseen that last year we’d spend over three trillion minutes in Zoom meetings or that we’d all become so obsessed with baking banana bread?

But fortune favours the brave and whilst there are no guarantees as to how the global economy might recover this year (fingers crossed), the growth of eCommerce in 2020 represents a silver lining for many digital marketers and online retail specialists. With that being the case, and with more companies making the shift to digital-first business models contributing to strong eCommerce growth, it’s important to have one eye on future trends as competition for consumer attention ramps up.

To that end, here are 5 top eCommerce predictions digitally-focussed merchants to keep an eye on in 2021.

Tracking a Broader Array of KPIs will be Key

As already mentioned, 2020 saw a rapid acceleration in online sales due to the global coronavirus pandemic and as a result, digital and online channels have become even more critical - especially for those businesses traditionally reliant on brick-and-mortar retail. With that shift comes a degree of market saturation and competition never before seen within eCommerce.

For any data-driven business then, opportunities for growth become harder to uncover using traditional KPIs. Instead, eCommerce professionals will need to expand their horizons in measuring success, and to provide greater visibility on Lifetime Value, Fulfillment, and Consumer Behaviour, all sources of competitive advantage.

2021’s Eventual Winners will Invest for Growth rather than Cut Budgets

Whilst many businesses flourished thanks to their eCommerce success in 2020, for others this merely served as a counterweight to the widespread disruption caused by the sudden closure of their physical locations, forcing many to drastically restrict marketing and advertising budgets for 2021. 

However, this strategy may not be advisable according to the Gartner 2020 Marketing Technology Survey

"Leading organizations take advantage of economic downturns as an opportunity to make a greater marketing impact when other brands are retreating. Those respondents in organizations that are increasing martech investments are using this disruption as an opportunity to capitalize on growth initiatives and get ahead of the competition."

In more practical terms, the survey results also suggest that the positive effects of this strategy include using these budgets to foster relationships with martech integrators, to facilitate quicker adoption of new technologies and their implementation as a means of driving business growth.

Flexible Fulfillment will be a Gamechanger

At the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, consumers turned to online retail for safety reasons but it appears that these habits will persist thanks to their inherent convenience to the customer, according to Kantar’s State of eCommerce 2021. With that being the case, one of the most emotive drivers of consumer behaviour is fulfilment speed and quality of service, says William Harvey, Head of Operations at Huboo, one of the UK’s leading fulfillment start-ups:

“As we move into a super peak and look forward to the (hopefully) increasing normality of 2021, speed of delivery is going to be as important as ever. Consumers will continue to expect products to be delivered fast and for free.”

This increases the pressure on retailers to meet consumers expectations. According to Harvey, the best fulfillment strategies are those fuelled by powerful data analytics as these create opportunities for optimisation across the whole fulfilment chain:

“eCommerce businesses can ensure timely and satisfactory delivery to consumers by leveraging in-depth insights from their sales, fulfilment, and stock data. Analysing this data and spotting trends can be the difference between success and failure as companies reduce the lead times in getting stock delivered to the consumer. Not only do these decisions have to be accurate, but they also have to be fast.”

The Year of Recommerce

As disposable incomes remain under increased pressure due to the macroeconomic impacts of 2020’s global pandemic, consumers have been forced to become thriftier to maintain their purchasing habits for products and services. This, alongside a growing preference amongst Generation Z to buy from sustainable brands, has led to significant expansion across the re-commerce sector globally.

2021 will see the continued development of the resale market globally, with many of those emerging as major players within digital marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart, who partnered with ThredUP. This is backed up by the emergence of several recommerce businesses such as Momox, musicMagpie and (Adverity client) reBuy, as some of the top Amazon Marketplace sellers in Europe.

reBuy Case Study: Download Now!

The Rise of Hybrid eCommerce Marketing Teams

Naturally, as a data analytics company, our position on the importance of being data-driven and embracing marketing analytics as a tool for success in eCommerce is rather clear. Yet, you’d be surprised how frequently we encounter businesses where eCommerce and marketing teams struggle to collaborate effectively. Nich Weinheimer of Kenshoo summarises this challenge well in the Kantar State of Ecommerce study when he says “siloed teams within organizations - especially between sales and marketing functions - precipitate a lack of data sharing, battling information and data intelligence.”

Ultimately, companies set to succeed in 2021 are bridging the gap between these functions in two crucial ways:

  • by unifying all performance data within a single, consolidated business intelligence environment; and
  • by establishing hybrid teams to foster innovation and collaboration, particularly across marketing and eCommerce, that are motivated by the same objectives and united by the same technology stacks and aforementioned dataset.

In light of the significant impact of the global pandemic on almost every aspect of people’s lives across the world, perhaps it is no surprise to see that many of the developments we anticipate in 2021 come as a direct response to the entirely unexpected events of 2020. The fact that many of these focus on ensuring business flexibility and adoption of more data-driven, technologically focussed approaches to growth suggests that most retailers were unprepared for such a disruptive global event. 

It remains to be seen whether or not brands have learned this lesson (the hard way) and can now begin to thrive under such uncertainty, both now and in the future. Here at Adverity, we remain optimistic that is the case and are buoyed by the conversations we have every day with existing and prospective eCommerce clients and alike about their plans for growth in 2021. If you’d like to run your own ideas by us, please do get in touch and schedule a live demo.

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Written by Craig Bryant

Craig is a Sales Director at Adverity, responsible for our development within the eCommerce, Retail, CPG and Travel sectors. With a decade of international experience within the SaaS Industry, Craig has lived and worked extensively both in the UK and France. When he’s not busy working with his team, Craig is most likely found cooking up a storm in his kitchen or under the sea with his Scuba gear.

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