Everyone around the world is hoping for a much better 2021. Last year, everything changed, almost overnight, including for many millions of businesses.
In the retail and eCommerce sectors, 2020 squeezed a decade worth of growth and change into a single year. Some companies were able to capitalise on this in a massive way, such as Amazon in Europe and the U.S.
Many smaller and mid-sized businesses were unprepared for the sudden shift to online retail. With lockdowns and other similar orders from governments, forcing shops to close, retailers needed to jump to online sales. A lot of retailers have been forced to go online, or make much more use of websites they'd already launched.
Many others, however, are still struggling with it and aren't quite where they need to be. In some exceptional circumstances, such as Primark, a clothing retailer in the UK losing around $1 billion every few months, the majority of those that didn't have eCommerce websites have now got them online.
In 2021, especially with the global pandemic continuing to affect everyone and the world economy, a BCG Consumer Sentiment survey expects eCommerce sales to exceed $5 trillion this year. Growth last year was exceptional, but now we can expect that to continue in 2021. This means that online and brick-and-mortar retailers need to be more aware of eCommerce trends, and what that means when planning marketing activities. Here are some of the most important we have identified for 2021, and what this means for eCommerce stores and brands.
Key eCommerce Trends in 2021
#1: Server Side Rendering (SSR)
Unless you are a developer, some of these trends may sound like words and phrases from an unfamiliar language, such as Server Side Rendering (SSR).
Server Side Rendering (SSR) is a way of giving web visitors an even faster, and therefore better, user-experience. Not only does SSR, which is implemented using React.js, makes clicking on web pages faster for web visitors, who are all potential customers, but this improves the experience for ‘web spiders’, or crawler bots that search the web and index websites in search results.
What this means is, if automated ‘bots’ can find your website faster, then it should rank higher in search engine results (SERPS). How does SSR achieve all of these aims? From a development perspective, SSR does this quite simply: When an app is developed using a coding language called React, rendering ensures that pages load quicker.
Rendering loads pages even faster for search engine crawlers, which ensures web traffic benefits. It also helps ensure pages are loaded faster for actual web visitors, who are also potential customers, which should have a noticeable impact on sales.
#2: Use Schema.org
Another way to encourage web crawlers to index pages more readily, and quickly, which means positioning them higher in search engine results, is using Schema.org.
Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity, aiming to improve website experiences by using this approach to markup their web pages. This community has been founded by developers and others at some of the world’s largest digital companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. The aim is to make structured data, which includes how websites are built and the information on them, more unified, and therefore, easier to find.
If you use Schema, you are part of a growing community of 10 million websites that markup web pages and websites using the same structure, thereby improving the way the Internet is organised.
This is achieved using a shared vocabulary, which “cover entities, relationships between entities and actions,” and “makes it easier for webmasters and developers to decide on a schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts.”
What this means for eCommerce, is that websites using Schema.org should perform better in search results. Customers will find you faster, if web developers and agencies working on your website incorporate this into the design and structure.
#3: Increase speed, worldwide
The speed a website loads makes a huge difference to the user experience. eCommerce customers expect sites that load fast, and give them a smooth and nearly seamless experience from start to finish. You need to make it easy for customers to find products, go through the checkout, and for search engines to find your eCommerce site, to bring more traffic in.
Speed is essential worldwide. If you want to attract a global customer-base then you’ve got to ensure the website loads as quickly in Australia or Alaska.
#4: Brexit, in Europe & UK
In the UK and Europe, one major political problem that is knocking eCommerce companies is Brexit. Four years ago, 52% of the British public voted to leave the EU. Now this has finally happened, it’s causing extra paperwork and costs shipping goods between the UK and Europe, in both directions.
Although we can expect things to improve, for the moment this is going to cause ongoing challenges. Retailers and eCommerce brands with customers on either side of the English Channel need to be aware of this, and take action accordingly. This will definitely need filling in the right paperwork, such as customs forms, and it might mean needing to find a new shipping/postal provider.
#5: B2B portal for big customers
What if you also sell wholesale to larger customers? It would be useful, so that these B2B customers can place orders directly through the website, to have a portal for them. This way, orders can come in anytime of the day and night, and B2B customers also benefit from a seamless ordering process that should ensure sales values also increase.
#6: Integrate social media and social shopping
Customers are spending even more time on social media. Which means, now more than ever, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to see something on one of your social channels and buy it. On Facebook, Instagram, Google, and even TikTok, there are shopping integrations eCommerce brands can benefit from. Make sure to work with a partner eCommerce agency that can help you achieve these, to drive even more revenue from social media marketing efforts.
- Server Side Rendering (SSR), to increase loading speeds
- Use Schema.org, to also improve how quickly search engine crawlers find a website
- Increase speed, worldwide. Websites should load just as quickly everywhere, which might mean ensuring flexible servers around the world support global scale
- Brexit, in Europe & UK. Not something anyone is benefiting from at the moment, but to be aware of and adapt around as needed
- B2B portal for big customers
- Integrate social media and social shopping