What We Learned From 2020 And The Future Of eCommerce In 2021

The Year of Change

2020 was an odd year on so many levels and we don’t need to bang on about lockdowns, tiers, tears and the rest of it. What it did do however was advance technology across the board at a faster pace than anyone expected. The speed of these changes included the massive proliferation of communication apps like Zoom, Teams and Houseparty for business and education with lockdowns restricting the ability to meet face to face. What we did see in 2020 was the impact Covid and the pandemic has had on Retail and online Commerce.

According to Shopify’s First Annual Future of Commerce Report, they estimate that ecommerce has advanced 10 years in 2020 alone and that in 2021 there will be a “new normal” in the way we shop as a result.

“It’s no secret that 2020 has pulled commerce forward by 10 years“

From Shopify's Future of Ecommerce Report:

We saw this ourselves, as an ecommerce agency that had to pivot on the day lockdown was announced in March 2020. Overnight the casual high street shopping experience was removed, forcing customers to head online and leaving physical shops with a bare bones online presence in a race to catch up. We did what we could and helped just over 50 businesses get online in 2020; from building new shops, transferring from legacy platforms right through to sorting the best shipping providers and choosing the cheapest payment providers.

eCommerce Shipping Agency

We have collected some statistics from a variety of sources to use as an overview of 2020 from an ecommerce perspective, to help us understand what 2021 might look like. What we can say for sure is it is going to move very quickly, with almost daily advances in technology available to shop owners. The winners are going to be those who can pick the easiest technology to implement, combined with one that gives the best return. AV and AI will be in this space but if you don’t have the money to invest in this, we think 360 product viewing, marketing automation and improved use of video will be at the top of your list.

Younger generations are growing up and becoming a huge part of your customer base. They really care about where they shop and the impact it has on the world around them, this awareness is illustrated in our infographic.   

Shop Local and Green Issues:

53% of Consumers prefer green or sustainable products.

23% of consumers shop at local or independent retailers to reduce their environmental impact.

50% of consumers look for independently owned business to support for reasons including: supporting entrepreneurship, buying unique products and experiencing good customer service. Read more:

Our Experience:

Brexit, Trump and populism are leading to an increasingly divided world. Shoppers want to support their local economies more than ever. Using Amazon for everyday purchases is so easy and offers best in class customer service, but where does a large percentage of your spend go and how does the buyer get treated. We have seen a large upsurge in people wanting to buy from local businesses. Our online marketplace Designed in Dorset benefited from this sentiment at Christmas with shoppers spending 3 figure sums on the basis that they wanted to support small businesses from the local area. They were happy to pay more for shipping and waiting a bit longer for delivery knowing more money went to someone who lived nearby.

Ecommerce on a Mobile Device

The last decade has seen the growth of smartphone use when viewing the internet. Have we finally reaching the tipping point where the figures will no longer change? It has taken a while, but finally the majority of websites are now responsive.

According to Shopify 67% of sales in 2020 were made on a mobile device compared with 68% in 2019.

Live Chat Success

This wasn’t something new for 2020 as such, but the figures speak for themselves, as did our own experience. Email response times are typically 12 hours plus, phone lines are expensive to man and can be counter productive when busy. Live chats can typically be answered within 2 minutes and be dealt with on the go using mobile phone apps if you are a small business user.

Forrester data reveals that site visitors who use web chat are 2.8x more likely to convert than those that don’t.

Shopify’s data shows businesses that respond to a customer’s chat within five minutes are 69% more likely to get a sale.

Our Experience

A third of our own business online sales include communication using live chat. We have used 5 different apps to get to where we are now and will discuss these in another blog. We believe this is the missing trick that a lot of small business owners should take advantage of. The cost is very low and can even be free with some apps. If you don’t mind always being online, then it is very unobtrusive to your everyday life. You can even answer questions automatically if you set up the Bots correctly. Things like size guides can be delivered to customers without the need for any human interaction at all.

Black Friday Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Results for Shopify:

Total sales increased by 76% on #BFCM weekend compared with 2019

That equates to $5.1 Billion Dollars compared with $2.9 Billion in 2019

Average Order Value for Shopify was £54.07 over the weekend

Info gathered from: Shopify

Our Experience:

#BFCM was not as big as we expected this year over the specific weekend. However, if you take into account the previous and post 3 day period there was an upswing of sales of 50% against the previous period. The need to offer huge discounts is not something we want to be a part of. Why sell at huge discounts for a loss just to follow a trend? We and many other small businesses cannot afford to lose the margin. Our customers shopped around and didn’t find the discounts they were hoping for so continued with their usual buying practice. We think it is evident that BFCM delivers an unreal expectation on shop owners to discount.

What Changes Did We See During Lockdown?

As part of our response to the lockdown we developed a click and collect and delivery service for our local area. The team responded at speed to develop an online marketplace with the ability for customers to choose between collection or delivery within a 10-mile radius of our location. Gone was the simple shipping parameters and costs, in came the need to code new options for a range of businesses including pubs selling fresh fish, coffee companies selling direct to consumers and of course, the rocketing demand for handmade masks.

Not only were we faced with the online technological difficulties, we also had to develop a delivery system and do the driving ourselves. You cannot beat a bit of first-hand experience to understand how a business works as opposed to sitting behind your desk and hoping it goes ok! In 6 months, we learned more than we could have in years and began to understand the full extent of Shopify’s capabilities as an ecommerce platform.

At the same time, we continued to work on our online pet business Dogs Dogs Dogs Ltd, which has gone from strength to strength. The pandemic has increased the nations love for dogs to a new level. Every day we are testing out new apps and functionality to increase sales and improve customer service through the use of live chat and social media. We are using video to enhance the shopping experience and replace the need for a physical presence in a shop. With another 3 months of lockdown ahead we will see even faster development of applications which bring online shoppers closer to the real high street experience without having to leave their sofa.

In Conclusion:

The numbers from BFCM speak for themselves. The move to online has been given a turbo injection and we need to keep up! We don’t believe there were that many actual discounts being offered, it has just become a popular weekend to go online and when you are bored of hunting you have to at least buy something.

We don’t think the high street is gone; it just needs to evolve to support the web instead of the other way around. Online stores are going to be trying to replicate the high street experience with new and old systems like 360 product views, Video, Virtual Reality and communication channels like Live Chat and social media. Nothing will beat holding a product in your hand, smelling or tasting it or even taking it for a test drive, but we will try.

Keep an eye out for 3D printing of products in the home, personal shoppers in store holding a video to walk you around, new ways to pay and the rise of more specific marketplaces. For us 2021 is about mastering marketing automation with our subscriber lists, increasing conversion rates by using new apps and tools and, as always, driving down costs by using the latest tech.

Security will also be one of the corner stones of the new year. An increase in cyber-attacks using Covid related themes is making us more wary than ever about how we hold on to customer data and keep it safe.

What are your plans for 2021? How are you going to improve your online presence and what do you think the next 12 months hold in store?