E-commerce trends and challenges in 2021

E-commerce is a sector that is in the process of a permanent change. Each year several new trends emerge to rebuild and further develop it, consequently increasing the level of its competitiveness. And 2021 will be no exception. From the practical point of view, leaving aside such technological trends as further development of AI or advanced customisation, three highly pragmatic trends worth particular attention will prevail in the coming year.

Marketplaces – if you do not think about them yourself, be sure they will think about you.

In Poland, Allegro is still the synonym of the online sales channel. 2021 will be a breakthrough year in this segment. In Western Europe and in the USA, even today marketplaces generate over 55% of total e-commerce turnover. In Europe, the short list of leading marketplaces includes over 30 platforms offering integration and portfolio promotion on the pan-European scale. This potential is virtually unused by Polish players, even though their interest and awareness have probably increased due to the expected Amazon launch in our country. This event can have transformational impact on many manufacturers’ mindset. The influence that Amazon has on the entire corporate strategy is enormous, which results from the fact that the level of platform advancement, e.g., as regards the price policy management, will affect all distribution channels. At the same time, Amazon offers scalable advertising tools based on data. What is noteworthy is that in Germany already over 50% of product searches start on Amazon.

All that will lead to a considerable growth of the entire channel and spending related to it. Such aspects as dedicated, optimised content or the use of the ecosystem of promotions and communication with customers are unique for marketplaces and require relatively specialist knowledge which there is little of on the market at the time being.

The growth of marketplaces will also generate demand for tools supporting dynamic price management. Soon after that, especially the direct-to-consumer e-commerce (D2C) segment will start more actively developing social proof strategies which are an absolute must-have on the leading Western marketplaces.

Direct-to-customer (D2C) – in search of a permanent growth strategy

The development of marketplaces has forced D2C platforms to modify their own strategies. Nowadays direct-to-consumer platforms in Poland are registering a dynamic growth, with evolution being the key to maintaining it. The quality of content, its personalisation to customers and customisation to specific sectors or categories will drive further investment in e-commerce platforms. Their development is inevitable to meet technological challenges related to visual commerce, among other things. Other challenges include constantly increasing costs of traffic acquisition and advanced strategies employed to build customer lifetime value (LTV) which will most probably become the key points that business strategies will be built upon.

Omnichannel – yet another year of steep growth

Omnichannel includes both marketplaces and own platforms with the intention of providing shoppers with seamless and consistent experience across various communication channels and – which is just as important on – on various devices. Four years ago, in a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, as many as 73% of respondents claimed to use various channels during shopping. I am more than sure that in 2021, along with increasing use of mobile devices and voice assistants, the number of omnichannel customers will multiply. At the same time, however, many sites are not fully prepared for leveraging mobile traffic. 

On the implementation level in 2020, we could observe an increase of interest in the PWA (progressive web apps) technology or mobile apps. Estimates according to which 70% of e-commerce turnover will be generated by the mobile channel by 2023 should leave no marketer indifferent. Even today e-store checks should start from mobile rather than desktop versions.