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What do the experts predict? – Econsultancy


It’s been a major year for ecommerce, as consumers shifted their spend online due to retail closures.

But what will happen on the back of huge acceleration in the industry? We spoke to the experts to find out what they think is in store for ecommerce in 2021.

And if you want to hear more on 2021 trends, join us on January 26th at 3pm GMT as Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlein will reveal his digital and marketing trends for the year. Register here.

Giants to grow while mid-market retailers suffer

Parry Malm, CEO of Phrasee 

“Some retailers – behemoths, online-only specialists, and hyper-locals – will find their market shares increase. This will, of course, squeeze out everyone else. Those who exist in the mid-market, or jacks-of-all-trades, will (continue to) suffer. This is already happening – we’ve seen many not-small-but-not-big companies go bust, and department stores are on their last legs. This trend will undoubtedly continue, if not accelerate.”

New shopper cohorts calls for customer insight

Stuart McMillan, Head of Multi-Channel, Tiso Group:

“This year has brought us a whole new cohort of customers in need of the essential clothing and equipment required to safely enjoy outdoor activities. On a practical level, these means that we’ve had to make sure that our site, our products, and our content are written to suit a number of different groups of customers. In these changing and uncertain times, it has never been more important to understand your customers and your market.”

CRM becomes the hero

James Gurd, Owner and Ecommerce Replatforming Consultant, Digital Juggler:

“For 2021, I’d like to see ecommerce teams obsess more over first time buyers. It’s not enough to send transactional emails and then add them to your standard email campaigns (when you have an opt-in flag). When a new customers makes their first purchase, it’s the start of your relationship. You need to nurture that relationship and give them a reason to stay engaged and active.”

“This is where platforms like Ometria, Salecycle and Intercom fit nicely, enabling lifecycle flows to be set-up based on customer segments and eligibility criteria, with the comms each customer receives being determined by their on and off-site behaviour. There are enough case studies from these providers to demonstrate how some brands are already leveraging this opportunity, so I’d like to see more ecommerce teams taking it seriously and putting an end to generic marketing that hides poor execution behind top line sales numbers.”

Hannah Stacey, Brand and Product Marketing Director, Ometria:

“Instead of preparing for short-term survival, online retailers should be planning for long-term success in a new world of online shopping that is very unlikely to go back to how it was before. And all the evidence points to the fact that the single most important factor for determining a retail brand’s success is how well they are able to build a relationship with their customer – in short, CRM teams are going to become the heroes of the story.”

“Winning retail brands now see the customer experience as much a part of their product offering as their products themselves. The CRM strategy isn’t just a marketing activity that adds that final sparkle – but an intrinsic and core part of their offering and all the other elements of the business need to mobilise around it.”

And brands need to use first-party data meaningfully

Sherene Hilal, SVP, Product Marketing & Business Operations, Bluecore:

“Informed buyers want to buy from informed brands. They expect for brands to understand what they’ve bought in the past and help them to determine what they should buy next, based on all the data that they’ve consciously shared with them by engaging with their sites and channels.”

“This is not just a matter of brands meeting consumers where they are; it’s about brands telling them what they want, when they want it. If brands and retailers are going to continue collecting first-party shopper data, they will need to begin actioning it in meaningful ways, predicting what their shoppers want to see next, and understanding where shoppers are in their buying cycles to predict when they’ll want to buy.”

How machine learning is transforming retail both online and offline

Investing in fulfilment and automation

Ed Hodges, CEO of HelloDone:

“The customer experience after the buy button hasn’t evolved at the same rate as the rest of the purchase journey. We did some research and found that more than half of all 1-star retail reviews on Trustpilot are attributed to problems with delivery and returns.”

“I both believe and hope that 2021 will see retailers prioritise and invest in online order fulfilment that really does deliver their brand to the door. Automation, hyper-personalisation and customer-centric returns will be three areas of focus.”

Nikhita Hyett, Managing Director, Europe, BlueSnap:

“We’ve also seen that customers have different comfort levels and preferences when it comes to how they receive goods that they purchase online, so expect omnichannel fulfilment options, such as ship from store, curb-side pickup and Buy Online and Pick up In Store (BOPIS) to come to the fore in the next 12 months.”

Lucy Hawkes, Regional eCommerce Director, OMG Transact:

“Having speed and agility will be crucial to success in 2021 as more brands will be looking to expand their online capabilities as well as streamline operational processes to ensure maximum order fulfilment is reached. The spike in demand seen during Q1-Q2 of 2020 has been the catalyst for this shift in focus to supply chain improvements as businesses began to realise that they did not have the infrastructure to fulfil such a sharp increase in orders.”

“This has paved the way for more automated fulfilment processes to come to the fore. We anticipate that an increasing number of retailers will adopt this approach and integrate automation within their supply chain from 2021. This will no doubt be in conjunction with data analytic solutions to analyse inventory levels in real-time.”

Achieving Omnichannel Excellence

Sustainability coming to the fore

Lucy Hawkes, OMG Transact

“2020 saw a shift in focus away from environmental matters to those of health, but in 2021 the spotlight will no doubt pivot to sustainability once again. The most recent development in this space is with ASDA who is trialling a sustainability store within one of its Manchester branches to encourage the public to re-use packaging as well as taking an eco-friendlier approach to shopping in general.”

“An increasing number of consumers will expect their brands to step change their business models, introducing sustainable packaging solutions to eliminate plastics completely as well as introducing refillable/reusable packaging options for as many products as possible.”

“We anticipate that last mile delivery partners may collaborate with retailers to play the role of collecting these empty containers from the consumers, in order to deliver them back to the manufacturers to be cleaned and re-used.”

More flexible payment options

Nikhita Hyett, BlueSnap

“With more of us shopping online than ever in a post-pandemic world, 2021 will see ecommerce retailers offer customers greater choice when shopping online, both in the way they pay for and receive their purchases.

“By offering a range of third-party and secure payment options – from traditional card options to emerging payment methods such as e-wallets and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) – retailers can unlock the full spending potential of their customer base in the year ahead.

Messaging apps as ecommerce channel

Lucy Hawkes, OMG Transact

“In 2021, forward-thinking retailers will embrace popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which have been chronically underused as ecommerce channels. Consumers are telling us they want simpler ways to shop and today we have technologies like AI to help us create seamless purchase experiences.”

“If we look at China, which is leading the shift toward new ways of shopping online, the whole process of discovering a new product or experience, buying or booking it and then telling your friends about it, can take place in WeChat. I believe this is the future of shopping here too, with WhatsApp set to become the next ecommerce battleground, thanks to its low bandwidth requirements and widespread adoption.”

join us for our digital and marketing trends predictions. 26th january 3pm GMT, register now



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