Digital Commerce Trends for 2021

Astound’s experts weigh in on what the future holds.

In the course of a grueling 2020, online ordering became a lifeline for many. Not surprisingly, ecommerce has skyrocketed, with global retail ecommerce sales projected to grow to US$6.54 trillion in 2022.

Of course, digital channels have been more than a lifeline for consumers; brands have also depended on them for their survival. Ecommerce capabilities are now fundamental to businesses across all verticals––and even those that historically depended on physical channels will now need to take advantage of the path that retail has cut.

Whether your organization is new to digital commerce or simply looking to bolster your ecommerce strategy into 2021 and beyond, trend predictions from our experts will help train your eye to emerging opportunities to ensure digital success.

David Outplays Goliath

“Due to months of lockdown, neighbourhoods and communities have become our focus. Subsequently, consumers developed an affinity for smaller brands and local shopping. Sustainability and enhanced social responsibility are now an influential part of the purchasing mix. Larger retailers will need to differentiate themselves from their small, local competitors by driving an emotional connection and demonstrating a laser-focused understanding of their customers’ needs to drive loyalty and lifetime value.”

—Gita Samani, Consulting Director, Astound Commerce UK
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Differentiation and Representation at Scale

“Brands will strive to stand out and build upon their rapid digital evolution that took place during 2020 to rise above their competitors. Content evolution or art direction could prove to make sites more sticky and memorable. Those who haven’t already will actively ensure their content and photography (and in some cases products) represent their audiences. Brands should allow more choice across the board: payment, delivery, and subscription types will all require more ubiquitous UX to enable the continuous scale we have been experiencing in 2020.”

—Samuel Cane, Head of Agency, Astound Commerce UK

New Channels Increase Engagement

“Speed to market in activating new channels while meeting new customers at every brand touchpoint will become critical. Expect to see brand engagement in the post-COVID world shift focus; look for video interactions . . . digital showrooms where buyers video-chat with sales associates from the comfort of home.”

—David Murack, Vice President of Technical Services

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Real-Time Data Activation

“You can expect to see the rise of real-time data activation. Businesses will find ways to activate customer data within seconds while their interest is still fresh. Another interest-piquing marketing strategy we will likely see is the influencer as a media buy. Brands will be able to buy influencer campaigns alongside other ad buying they are doing, and it will become a more established part of the media buying process.”

—Rigel Cable, Director of Analytics and SEO

Fight Screen Fatigue With Exclusive Experiences

“People are screened out! To cut through this digi-fatigue, we will see brands shifting to offer smaller/private, creative, ultra-safe curated experiences to their customers in person. Think outdoor pop-up shops, drive-through events/displays, and timed ticketed entries. These experiences will bridge digital with store by including preshopping, ticketing, and UGC [user-generated content]. Exclusivity, loyalty, and a hint of “normal” will be the underpinnings.

—Bridget Fahrland, Head of Digital Strategy

Moments, Not Clicks

“Brands complete the shift from click streams to nonlinear moments. To do this requires data, dynamic content, and personalization in messaging that tracks behavior, predicts outcomes, and propels sustained, meaningful relationships. With this, a unified customer record across all touchpoints forever changes retention and customer service strategies. As successful organizations move away from campaign and channel strategies towards data-driven customer journeys, we will connect nonlinear moments, not just clicks.”

—Sean Dunn, Head of Demand

Importance of Margin Protection

“The step-change in 2021 for smart retailers will be the shift towards margin protection. After a year where many retailers have turned to discounting or promotions to stimulate demand, 2021 will see retailers working on margin protection as a business imperative[emdash]and technology plays a key role in supporting this endeavour.”

—Terry Hunter, Managing Director, Astound Commerce UK

Progressive Payment Options

“Payment options for consumers will continue to evolve, especially with buy now, pay later options. Companies like Affirm, Klarna, and AfterPay are changing how consumers expect to both shop and make payments. Also expect to see the rapid adoption of “banking as a service,” with companies like Stripe.”

—Igor Gorin, CEO, Astound Commerce North America

Power in Partnerships

“With the right fundamental infrastructure and partners in place, along with a creative mindset, brands and retailers will find success in the most difficult business situations. The ability to scale and evolve with speed and flexibility will continue to be required. Brands will continue to have to respond to––and stay ahead of––marketplace and consumer trends that can change overnight.”

—Vanessa Cartwright, Chief Client Success Officer

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Alicia Lynch

Alicia Lynch is a senior writer on the Astound Insights team.

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