5 Ecommerce Trends That Have Dominated 2021

In this article we look back on 2021 to understand what defined this year as momentous for the ecommerce sector. Brands and retailers have had to adapt following the unprecedented changes of 2020 and this has propelled ecommerce forward. We take a look at the ecommerce trends that have made the biggest impact, some of which are still developing, and will continue to map out the future for years to come.
5 Ecommerce Trends That Have Dominated 2021

The Ecommerce Boom

When the global pandemic hit, it steered people to shop online. Consumers who may not have shopped online previously were looking for solutions to buy the products that they wanted and needed from the comfort of their own homes because there was no other choice. The high street was forced to close leading to a highly significant growth in ecommerce sales.

Higher Customer Expectations

Consumers took to the internet to purchase products that they wouldn’t normally look for online. This included groceries, health and hygiene products, food and drink and everyday essentials. Consumers have realised how convenient and quick it is to shop online and if they remain satisfied with their customer experience, it is an ecommerce trend that is likely to stick for the long term future.

With this rise comes higher customer expectations. There is a new informed consumer that knows how to track down products, compare prices, seek product videos and demand a range of different delivery methods and payment options.
To meet the demands of shoppers, ecommerce retailers will need to stay ahead in the rapidly developing ecommerce shopping universe. It is easy for ecommerce brands and stores to quickly fall behind and miss out on sales opportunities if they decide to only sell at the full RRP, ignore loyalty schemes that competitors have in place, don’t offer click and collect or even a Paypal payment option.

Here at Vertical Plus, we have our own ecommerce platform which enables our partners to quickly and easily deploy new technical innovations. This is beneficial to both our partners and their customers.

The Rise In Inventory Management Techniques

COVID 19 is undoubtedly a unique event in human history and many existing online retailers saw their turnover almost double overnight.  This created two very specific events – Spring 2020 and Christmas 2020.  The first was a shock and awe event for many online retailers who were suddenly able to sell products they couldn’t before the pandemic hit (thus enabling them to clear a lot of stock).  They were also able to sell all of their regular products at a much higher price.  However, as the spring of 2020 continued, many retailers began to realise there were going to be supply problems because of both COVID and BREXIT.  This meant that products that were becoming sold out were unlikely to be restocked.  This resulted in some panic buying of new stock often with extremely long lead times.  It became really difficult to manage inventories and supply chains effectively.  It was crucial at this time to know exactly what was selling, how fast it was selling and what the priorities were in terms of stock replacements. 

The second event was Christmas 2020 which saw the second lockdown and the added incentive of Christmas. Sales peaked for a second time but this was also accompanied by increasing supply chain issues. Once again careful inventory management was required to take into account stock levels, what was likely to sell and the supply lead times.  

Both of these events were followed by another year of supply and demand uncertainty as lockdowns continued into the spring of 2021.  Never before has effective inventory management and forecasting been more critical as we continue to operate in an ambiguous situation with regards to consumer demands and supply chain issues.    

Vertical Plus is currently developing a product called ClearGro that aims to tackle many of the issues and opportunities that can arise when inventory management isn’t handled effectively.   

Using a tool like ClearGro you can: 

  • Predict stock depletions and therefore handle potential supplier problems quickly
  • Identify top sellers and make sure they are optimised and marketed effectively
  • Identify slow products and therefore target stock that is not selling to move it on quickly
  • Identify inventory quality issues quickly and effectively

The Increased Relevance Of Sustainable Income, Cost And Profit Differentiators

Another significant consequence of the COVID pandemic has been that, while many businesses could operate effectively in a lockdown or semi-lockdown situation, many of these thriving online businesses are finding it difficult to compete and operate in the current climate.

A good definition of a successful 2021 online business is one that has been able to move effectively from a highly charged online environment to a relatively muted one. In order to be able to fulfil a large number of orders, a business may need to hire a larger premises and more staff leading to higher outgoings. Keeping an eye on expenditure is also extremely important.

A good business in 2021 is able to:

  • Scale up and down quickly and effectively based on consumer demand
  • Recognise key profitable areas and exploit these as much as possible   
  • Maintain a firm grip on costs and margins enabling the business to walk away with profits that can be reinvested

At Vertical Plus, we work with our partners to create a sustainable online business model. This involves creating a long term growth environment, recognising the opportunities to increase sales during peak shopping times whilst remaining mindful of costing and budget margins.

The Increased Importance Of Good Branding And Good Key Benefit Marketing

With the increase in the number of online stores launching and with larger stores upping their game, it’s important to identify who you are, why customers should buy from you and how you define yourself in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Nearly half of all ecommerce sales take place through various marketplaces where shoppers are generally searching for a solution rather than a brand. Brand building has never been more important, but it’s certainly not easy. Online marketplaces have become the key to expanding your target audience on a global level and the sheer volume of transactions is enticing brands to be present in a marketplace. Consumers have recognised that purchasing from marketplaces means that there is a good product selection at competitive prices and a service that they can rely on.

Retention has become a priority for many ecommerce brands due to the rising costs associated with acquisition and uncertain advertising. As many competitors made the move towards ecommerce, digital ads have seen an accelerating growth particularly from paid searches and social platforms. However, regulators are scrutinising large companies which has created uncertainty with regards to digital advertising. This has led to a drop in trust from shoppers because they feel that these ads can be intrusive and are unhappy when their search history has been used to target ads.
Whilst it’s important to reach new customers, the competition for online attention has made sellers realise the true value of retaining existing customers and it has become a main priority for many. It has been recorded that increasing customer retention by just 5% can lead to an increase in profit of 25% to 95%. Loyalty programmes are often a good way to encourage repeat business.

It is also important to define brands alongside those that customers are enjoying. For example, environmental brands or companies with good environmental or ethical policies are growing extremely quickly at the moment. Consumers are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact and are looking for brands who can supply their orders using sustainable packaging. 75% of shoppers may be swayed to buy a product if it is packaged sustainably. This could include reusable or recyclable packaging or reduced or minimalist packaging. Fulfilment differentiators must be competitive, strategic and become smarter in order to stand out and reach more consumers.

At Vertical Plus, we always place great emphasis on reinforcing the value of branding for our customers’ stores by making the reasons to buy highly visible to customers.

The Importance Of Customer Options – Fulfilment

As previously mentioned, shoppers have high expectations when it comes to fulfilling their requirements and these often include fast, free, sustainable and named shipping.  Over 60% of global customers require their orders to be delivered for free.  This has been quite difficult to manage during peak ecommerce times and with same-day delivery cut off deadlines.  Setting free shipping thresholds will protect your profit margins as consumers around the world expect ecommerce orders to be delivered quickly.   

Other factors to consider that have become popular with online consumers include:

  • Subscription options – allowing consumers to subscribe to regularly receive repeat orders.  Not only is this convenient for the customer but it brings many benefits for an ecommerce business too such as predictable revenue, easy to manage inventory and lower acquisition costs.
  • Credit & Instalment payment options – this enables customers to buy now-pay later, pay a small amount at the time of purchase and pay later or pay small, regular amounts.  This can be appealing to those who wish to spread out payments.
  • Loyalty Reward & Discount Schemes – this is a great way to encourage repeat business and is beneficial to both retailers and consumers.  An example could include collecting points with every order to obtain a discount once the threshold has been met. 

Our online ecommerce system has been designed to ensure that customers have access to a wide range of such tools.  Each one has been developed based on the context of our extensive experience that has advanced from working with a diverse range of retailers for over a decade. If you’d like to find out more about our bespoke ecommerce model or any of our services, please get in touch hello@verticalplus.co.uk.