Twelve eCommerce trends ready to reshape businesses
12 min. read

Twelve eCommerce trends ready to reshape businesses

Find the top 12 AI predictions 2021 for eCommerce that most definitely should find mention in your annual business planning.

2020 turned out to be tough for eCommerce sites. As stores were forced to close, digital sales saw a fast-tracked growth. As the digital explosion took center stage, some serious challenges questioned the readiness. Those who decided not to grumble about the situation and changed quickly won. If this year has told us anything, it’s to always prepare for the unexpected.

Here are the top 12 AI predictions for eCommerce that most definitely should find mention in your annual business planning:

  1. Targeting position zero with voice search

AI-enabled household is all about choosing your smart connected speaker–a device you talk to when you need to get stuff done. From turning on the lights and telling you the weather to playing your favorite radio stations, AI-powered devices like Alexa & Google Home have been listening to you and your needs unceasingly. Not just this, they’ve also been quietly taking over the eCommerce industry. Around 20% of smart speaker owners use them for shopping-related activities, whether ordering products, creating a reminder, conducting research, or tracking deliveries. This figure is expected to jump to a staggering 52% within the next four years.

Voice search on the site is a trend that will undoubtedly continue to grow in 2021. Both Google and Amazon are actively investing in the development of voice assistants. Adept at figuring out what you’re asking for, you don’t have to be specific when searching for a product with these devices—just let the cloud think. This is perhaps the primary confirmation that this trend and the way of searching for a product will be fixed for a long time in our society. With more consumers getting used to the AI-driven magic of voice search, businesses who want to remain visible to consumers in the coming years will have to find a way to incorporate voice technology into their digital marketing strategies. Therefore, optimizing your website for voice search in 2021 will open up new opportunities for you, expand your customer market, and modernize your website.

If you’re not currently optimizing your eCommerce and fulfilment processes for voice search, get moving or get left behind. Okay, Google, let the business get growing!

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Enable voice search across all device versions,
  • Invest in capability to help curate and optimize content for voice search responses,
  • Embed consumer-centric design to evaluate shopper convenience, simplicity, and outcomes using voice commands.


  1. Omnichannel is the only normal with the emergence of social commerce

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior in 2020. The biggest imperative is to develop your own brand or product portfolio in every possible direction and on every possible channel. One of the tangible trends will be multichannel sales of services and goods. Give the user freedom of choice in how they want to interact with you. Integrate your site with various networks and platforms. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and others will still be effective platforms for selling.

Marketing across different channels allows you to reach a variety of users on their favorite channel. You meet the customer where they are. Build a more cohesive, integrated strategy from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Develop your brand in every possible direction. When it comes to awareness and reaching a wider targeted audience, a well-integrated multichannel selling strategy will sell more products or services and build brand awareness.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Sell your product proposition on all social networks
  • Create an ecosystem to allow engagement and sales of your brand on all possible channels and platforms


  1. The next revolution in eCommerce: AI & AVR

For online sellers or major D2C players, there is an ever-increasing need to attract interested shoppers, deliver increased revenue and conversions. To do this, artificial intelligence is increasingly attractive. In 2021, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will take a strong place among the eCommerce trends.

By adopting AI & AVR experiences on your website, you would give your customers an immersive experience and enable them to customize their shopping experiences. Moreover, this will also open up possibilities to setup virtual stores that need less capital investment with virtual inventory to ramp up the play on experience.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Unique user experience will be a key differentiator. We will see one-upmanship in most innovative uses of technology by CPG companies and retailers alike.
  • Role of design and digital transformation leader will take center stage.


  1. ReCommerce and Greening will impact sales

The pandemic gave us more spare time than ever before. From aesthetic, Instagram overlays of banana bread baking to DIY home improvement projects, consumers found extra time to think about repurposing old stuff and their shopping behavior, and the environmental consequences of our commerce decisions. ReCommerce then became an easy way for people to find an extra source of revenue from the comfort of their homes.

ReCommerce, also known as second-hand commerce, will see continuous growth in the next year as well. The second-hand market is predicted to double within the next five years. With consumers becoming increasingly motivated by sustainability, second-hand sales of luxury items will shake up the ReCommerce industry rather than price. Buyers assume that the sustainability of a product influences their decision. Moreover, with increasing concerns over humans’ environmental impacts, online resale marketplaces have never had a better platform to thrive.

This applies to sustainable packaging and sustainable delivery methods and companies working to preserve the world around us. This presents an interesting opportunity for brands to open up their reCommerce marketplace and turn second-hand shopping into an exciting shopping experience. Walmart’s acquisition of ThredUP is one such example that shows the emergence of this dominant trend.

Tips to ride this 2021 trend:

  • Show your customers how you care about the environment to win their hearts. For example, you can deliver your goods by electric cars/bicycles, donate some of the funds to charity, etc.
  • Timely communication of specific eco-impact results will help grow your business and help preserve the environment at the same time.


  1. Private Label Evolution

Over the past few years, direct to consumer (D2C) commerce has exploded – giving brands direct access to customers and profits and giving customers direct access to brands and lower prices. But this trend is shifting.

No longer should we associate D2C brands with cheap razor blades, affordable mattresses, and trending makeup. Premium private label brand sales are increasing, creating a new vertical in the D2C sector. While private brands typically had not been well represented online and often got lost in digital format, the pandemic gave them a smoother path to adapt to the new normal. Traditional CPG bigwigs now have a platform to take advantage of this new online shopping behavior and put private brands at the forefront of digital solutions.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Ensure your premium private brand is optimized in digital searches.
  • Private brands should continue to focus on addressing consumer trends that were present before the pandemic.


  1. Offline eCommerce bucks the trend

We will see a growing trend for taking eCommerce stores offline. Pop-up shops, interactive eCommerce kiosks, and bricks and mortar stores are all bringing our favorite online retailers onto the high street. Even Amazon is getting in on the action, with its chain of physical convenience stores. This is crucial for widening the audience reach and reaching different layers of consumers from every segment.

In 2021, we will see an increase in eCommerce brands on the high street, occupying pop-up, and multichannel shops that bring the internet to real life.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Bring customers to digital natives through offline setups to build on network effects and create consumer lock-in.
  • Opportunity to create superior pricing propositions and varied in-store inventory selection.
  • Adopt AR & VR into creating a holistic shopping experience for the customers with automated transaction enabled real-time on the digital channel. This will create a truly immersive experience.


  1. Shoppable and interactive TV: a retail revolution

If you have ever wondered where your favorite TV character gets the clothes they are wearing from; then soon, you would be able to find that out with the click of a button.

Late last year, NBC rolled out shoppable TV ads that connect programs to a mobile phone app, enabling viewers to purchase what’s on-screen. And it looks like this technology will soon be directly incorporated into smart televisions. Get ready to turn your living room into a 24/7 shopping environment and the remote control into a payment device in 2021! Shoppable TV will finally connect viewing and shopping into a seamless experience that benefits both shoppers and retailers.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Retailers need to understand the channels their target customer base uses because it shouldn’t just be the younger generation’s reserve.
  • Break the wall and take your ads beyond a two-dimensional concept.


  1. Businesses turn to AI & automation for customer sourcing

As it may become more difficult to run a business during a pandemic, many businesses might turn to automation for various logical reasons, even if it is an online one. Artificial intelligence is already used in eCommerce to make intelligent product recommendations, help customers visualize products better, and assist you with customer queries. In 2021, AI is going to help find your customer for you too.

Intelligent algorithms will analyze current trends alongside your products, sales channels, customers, and buyer behavior to identify the best channels, time, and price to list your products. This will save hours of number crunching, graph creating, and report writing, and help brands accelerate sales and immediately boost profits. In 2021, AI is not only going to help the buyers work smarter, better, and faster but would also lead to remarkable growth in businesses too.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • AI would lead to better efficiencies and enable better decision making, offering a real competitive advantage to those that adopt.
  • An investment in AI & automation would open up many different avenues through which procurement can leverage it to deliver consistently higher value.


  1. Renting to give returns with P2P rentals

Traditionally, any eCommerce setup grapples with a significant returns problem. Fast fashion is an alarming trend among finicky shoppers; we have seen increased examples of shoppers playing on returns window to dress up for their latest Instagram story. This precipitous decline in conscious consumerism is a defining trend requiring much deliberation from both CPG players and marketplaces. People are rethinking their consumption habits more broadly now more than ever. Could rentals be the solution?

Following the significant growth in P2P (peer-to-peer) platforms, many retailers are looking to expanding into rental eCommerce next year. People now see renting as an attainable way to access experiences and things they couldn’t buy outright right now. By offering consumers the opportunity to rent clothing, furniture, or electronics, you can increase audience reach while reducing returns.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Work on your elevator pitch: if you don’t know what tomorrow holds, rentals that appeal to convenience could be a logical choice and a viable business model.
  • Make your product more feasible through an omnichannel marketing plan.


  1. Advanced customization may become a norm

Have you been on the Nike website recently? You can now customize every aspect of your Nike Airs, even the wording on the back. Consumers have certainly come to expect personalization as standard. From offers to product recommendations, the average consumer’s social media feed and email inbox is a good mix of communications from a wide range of businesses, all vying for their custom. Every consumer wants the brands to make them feel like an individual and not just another consumer.

Product customization isn’t new, but your ability to provide last-minute personalization at an affordable cost is. 3D printing is changing manufacturing and fulfillment processes to enable quick customizations towards the end of the product journey. With 3D printers becoming more affordable and available, it’s only a matter of time before customization becomes the norm.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Incorporate crowd-sourced intelligence to create personalization that is based on intelligence gathered from the behavior or interests of an overall group of people.
  • Gain insight into a consumer’s digital footprint with the right tools that could offer a multitude of real-time insights.


  1. With great AI comes great responsibility

Artificial intelligence (AI) is maturing rapidly with seemingly limitless potential. However, AI also raises concern due to its potentially disruptive format. For instance, millennials’ and genz-ers’ fluency with tech in education, dating, social, and experience of online toxicity and misinformation means they will prioritize brands that prioritize online trust.

2021 may bring forth the worst of artificial data, which comes in two forms: synthetic data that allow users to create data sets for training AI and fake data that does the opposite; it perturbs training data to throw off AI. We will see increased investment from companies to tackle pressure from regulators and consumer interest groups to prove data’s lineage for AI, including data audit trails to ensure compliance and ethical use. In 2021, we may see a wedlock between blockchain and AI to support data provenance, integrity, and usage tracking. Rebuilding your business to prepare to compete in an AI-driven future will be the cornerstone for all organizations with growth founded on digital business models.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • Responsible AI is a framework for bringing many of these critical practices together


  1. Fulfilment via automation

Lastly, 2021 will see increased use of autonomous deliveries, smart sensors, blockchain tracking, and digital twinning to increase delivery speeds, efficiencies, and cost savings. Marketing automation is nothing new; the highlight next year would be its wedlock with personalization and VR/AR.

Tips for riding this 2021 trend:

  • The goal of any kind of automation is to increase efficiency. So, redirect focus to strategy
  • Select the appropriate automation software and train your teams
  • Gather meaningful analytics



Twelve eCommerce trends ready to reshape businesses

Prateek Trivedi

Principal, CPG