The pandemic has “changed online shopping forever,” according to a United Nations study on its retail impact. One example is e-commerce sales rose by an average of 6% across online platforms from January to March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. As companies continue to adapt to the changing commerce landscape consumers can expect important omnichannel advances in 2021.
Following last year’s three omnichannel trends to watch out for in 2020, this article looks at the top trends that you’ll likely see moving development forward in 2021.
The closure and severe restrictions that non-essential stores faced in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and across the world drove customers online. This posed serious implications for brands, both positive and negative. For instance, stores that relied on foot traffic or of the status allure of having a branch on a trendy downtown street suddenly saw these advantages taken away. And if these brands didn’t have a strong online presence to begin with, chances are that competitors were able to take advantage.
Conversely, brands that were already cultivating a formidable digital customer journey and omnichannel experience before the pandemic’s onset were best positioned to reap the rewards of this aforementioned 6% bump in e-commerce purchases.
The rise in digital shopping means that companies will increasingly battle for customers’ attention via online channels in 2021 and beyond. From email to social media, from their own websites to search engine advertisements, and from store apps to third-party messaging platforms, omnichannel strategies are set to increase focus even more on brands’ digital efforts to drive customer acquisition and retention.
Last year’s article discussed the move towards using brick-and-mortar stores as a top-of-funnel engine and powerful marketing channel in and of itself. And in response to the pandemic — in particularly, lockdowns on all but essential-goods stores— companies used their physical stores as part of their overall omnichannel approach by offering buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and buy-online-pickup-at-curb (BOPAC).
The many prophecies of doom for brick-and-mortar stores are based on what’s really an antiquated, linear view of retail and of how customers shop. They assume that because customers are increasingly buying online, they’ll no longer buy in-person, in-store. The reality is much more nuanced. Customer preferences come in all shapes and sizes now. Some customers may shop exclusively online. Others may prefer to still shop in-store. However, retailers with strong multi-faceted communication setups in place are increasingly seeing more complex behaviors that often combine both online and physical store experiences.
Brick-and-mortar has an essential role in providing customers with greater choice and a richer journey as part of the shopping experience of 2021.
Brands have used imagery on platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram to promote sales for years. By simply clicking on an image, customers can often go straight to the brand’s product purchase page to complete an order. 2021 is the year that will see this trend spread to video. Clips will become “shoppable,” with customers able to click on a video to access product purchase details.
According to Venture Beat, “the future of commerce is shoppable video.” This trend will combine the rise of social selling through video clips, which includes influencer marketing and third party product reviews via video.
For more global consumer trends, check out our retail consumer research. Leverage this study to learn how retailers can anticipate, embrace, and thrive in the New Next.
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Tim is a freelance copywriter and content creator with ten years' experience providing premium copy and content for leading organizations in finance and high-tech verticals.