As much we may be glad to see 2020 come to a close, businesses will still have to take a good look back at the past year and identify the trends that will continue into the new one.
Whether you’re a retailer building out your online presence for the first time, or a DNVB that’s only focused on your website, there are many lessons that 2020 can teach. Especially as we dive into 2021 planning, it’s important to investigate which innovations consumers will continue to expect heading into the future.
In this article, you’ll find some of the evolving trends our agency has seen throughout the past year and what they may mean going into 2021.
5 Trends and New Year Predictions
With the COVID-19 pandemic upending the economy and accelerating eCommerce growth by a decade, merchants and retailers have quickly adopted the eCommerce model out of necessity. Others that were already built on a direct-to-consumer (DTC) foundation have also been forced to innovate in order to stay relevant in a dramatically different environment.
Here are some of the things our agency finds important for brands to consider going into Q1 2021.
1) A FAST & FORCED DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: RETAIL IS EVOLVING
As we have seen, there have been more than a few major household name brands building out their online selling channels. Food and beverage companies like Lindt and Heinz were early ground-breakers with their quick moves to the Shopify Plus eCommerce platform, showing that even enterprise-level merchants recognized the need to go digital.
With this shift, Shopify itself saw immense growth this year, resulting in revenue nearly doubling YoY in Q3. The eCommerce platform is set to branch out with even more solutions geared to solve merchant pain points in the coming year, aiming to provide new and improved offerings around everything from media, marketplaces (hello, Walmart), to subscriptions.
There will undoubtedly be more brands following the eCommerce and Shopify bandwagon next year, and they will have to find ways to connect their online and offline experiences through an omnichannel strategy. Additionally, merchants will have to work to learn the art of continuous optimization of their online storefront.
What about in-store shopping?
Where has brick-and-mortar fallen amidst the chaos of 2020? Many brands that previously relied on in-store, big box retailers, and pop-up shops for revenue had to majorly pivot their approach. It’s no secret that major retailers have been forced to file for bankruptcy and the landscape of physical retail has been dramatically changed forever.
That said, brick-and-mortar is by no means dead. In fact, for some verticals it will need to remain a core element of their omnichannel strategy. Specifically for CPG and Food & Beverage brands, the pandemic may have opened up more opportunity to acquire customers online, but it did not take away from the need to remain present in-store.
In other verticals, disruptive brands like Casper and Warby Parker, are still moving forward with plans to open retail locations in 2021 as well. Despite an increase in eCommerce spending throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these merchants are still anticipating a need for physical stores to enhance their customer experience. These new stores may differ from the traditional, however, with a stronger connection to their online experience via integrated Point-of-Sales (POS) systems and buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS).
What about Amazon?
In addition to physical storefronts, many direct-to-consumer brands have been forced to consider the relevance of online marketplaces in their omnichannel strategies. There is no denying that Amazon has reigned supreme in 2020, with an estimate of at least a 40% market share in eCommerce.
That said, only time will tell what becomes of the discourse between brands, retailers, and online marketplaces. Heading into 2021, it’s safe to say that some brands will have to consider Amazon, as the channel may serve crucial in customer acquisition. With predicted increases in customer acquisition costs (CAC), and many consumers using marketplaces to discover and buy products, merchants will have to find the right balance between selling through their DTC website and Amazon.
2) CONTENT MEETS COMMERCE WILL ONLY GROW
2020 has shown us that people are consuming more digital content and companies are starting to invest in new media channels. Beyond traditional content marketing, this new wave of media consumption is causing a need for more comprehensive omnichannel strategies. Merchants are starting to show up in new and different channels to meet customers where they’re at right now.
Here’s what we’ve observed over the past year when it comes to content-meets-commerce:
- Changing Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) CAC may have lowered in 2020, but with a predicted return to pre-COVID levels, brands will need a more sustainable way to acquire customers in 2021. Investing in content creation and building out a brand narrative is one-way merchants will have to differentiate themselves. When it comes to the Gen Z segment that is quickly stepping into its purchasing power, 70% of these buyers credit content like YouTube and Tik Tok videos for how they were introduced to new brands.
- The Rise of Live Streaming The acceleration of the Live Stream trend in China has led companies like Amazon, Tik Tok, and Facebook to invest in the new format. The announcement of Shopify and Tik Tok’s global partnership in October further highlighted the intersection of media and commerce. This is just one of the ways brands will be incorporating new kinds of content and new channels into their strategies.
- People Are Spending More Time on Their Device Consuming Media Consumers have added an hour to their daily total of time spent on their devices. More and more, we are finding that people want to be educated and entertained, and they’re turning to the wide swath of digital content channels available to them right from their mobile devices.
- Headless Commerce is Trending Omnichannel is only becoming more important. Among mid-level companies with a desire to update new content across all channels quickly and efficiently, a Headless CMS has become the solution of choice for some. As technology continues to innovate, we’ll find more brands adopting solutions that foster a more immersive customer experience.
3) BRANDS ARE FINDING WAYS TO INCREASE PROFIT WITH SUBSCRIPTIONS
The pandemic has changed people’s perspective on subscriptions. Consumers weren’t particularly fond of subscriptions before, but what they’re starting to love are the savings and convenience that comes with them. Shoppers that may not have previously subscribed started enrolling in subscription programs during the pandemic for items that they didn’t want to buy in-store.
Highlighting how many merchants are choosing to build out subscription programs, Shopify reported a 47% increase YoY in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) from their Subscriptions Solutions in their Future of Commerce Report.
Subscription models are beginning to take all shapes and sizes. Brands ranging from consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies all the way to fashion and apparel merchants are finding ways to provide their customer bases with subscription offerings.
Native‘s Subscription Program is a great example of a delightful customer experience.
It’s important to create an optimized subscription offering that encourages loyalty, increases convenience, and delights the customer. This will lead to higher lifetime value (LTV) and increased average order values (AOV). Merchants have worked to create enticing offerings, but will have to continuously update and optimize these programs as consumer needs evolve.
4) GOOD CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WILL ALWAYS WIN
If there’s one thing that 2020 has reiterated to brands, it’s that no matter what channel you’re in, nothing beats a good customer experience (CX). Even with many customer interactions occurring online during the pandemic, shoppers still expect top-notch service.
Here are three areas in CX that we’ve been seeing innovate throughout the past year, and that we anticipate will only continue to expand:
- Customer Service: In addition to personalized communications, shoppers have grown to expect high-quality customer service through online stores. Just because they’re interacting with a chat bot instead of an in-store sales associate doesn’t mean that their shopping experience should be any less tailored and convenient. BVA and our customer experience solutions partner, Gorgias, have worked with many clients that leverage all channels — ranging from onsite, social media, SMS, and email — as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service.
- Site Optimization: Consumers won’t tolerate poor website experiences. When it comes to site speed and load times, online visitors will quickly ditch a website if it’s not up to par. 66% of shoppers will leave a website if it does not load within 3 seconds, meaning that site speed is not just a technology issue, but a hurdle against hitting revenue goals. BVA and our optimization partner, Yottaa, work with brands to ensure that their site speed is optimized and serves to increase revenue.
- Personalization: Trends around personalization have only continued to expand with the rapid digital growth of the past year. With the rise in SMS marketing, more consumption of digital media, and an overall increase in online orders, many brands have sought to find ways to connect with their customers in a personal way. Personalization platforms like Nosto and Dynamic Yield are solutions partners to the Shopify Plus platform and provide technology that allows merchants to customize many different touchpoints throughout the buyer’s journey.
5) DIVERSITY & INCLUSION IN ECOMMERCE MATTERS
A topic very near and dear to the BVA team’s hearts, diversity and inclusion has come to the forefront in 2020. With the death of George Floyd and the rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, it has become apparent that not only should individuals take a stance on these issues, but so too should businesses.
When it comes to the impact that brands and retailers can have on diversity and inclusion, there is a significant opportunity to create social change. With 69% of consumers having growing concerns about brands’ impacts on society, this is not an area that businesses can ignore. The brands that people love have the opportunity to not only speak out or make monetary donations but to also choose how they showcase their brand values.
Everything ranging from the models pictured in product photography to marketing messages provide an opportunity for merchants to stand against racism and foster inclusivity. When it comes to a brand’s online store, taking steps to create an inclusive shopping experience is also becoming increasingly important with ADA compliance leading to legal ramifications.
Not only is it the ethical thing to consider, but now more than ever before, Millennial and Gen Z consumers expect brands to align with their values and to offer inclusive experiences. Consumers want to purchase from companies that help champion and move the needle on the causes they care about, and they will be vocal about their opinions on social media.
As brands dive into the new year, it will be important to find ways to stay on top when it comes to technology innovations, content, and meeting consumer expectations.
BVA is here to help merchants as a strategic technology partner. As our clients plan for the new year, we’re working to help them craft strategies that will allow them to meet their goals in 2021. If you’re interested in discussing how we can help with your new year strategy, feel free to reach out to us here.
BVA is a commerce agency that incubates and grows the direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that people love. With the largest and most versatile client roster in the industry, we’ve launched more brands on Shopify Plus than any other agency and currently manage a client portfolio that generates nearly one billion dollars annually in gross merchandise volume (GMV).