2021 Ecommerce Trends Every Canadian Brand Needs to Know

By Josh Walter

To put it mildly, 2020 was an interesting year. With the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, business as usual was anything but. Stay-home orders and social distancing meant traffic to brick-and-mortar stores decreased — and in some cases disappeared entirely. Yet, commerce always finds a way, even if that means shifting to meet consumers where they are currently.

As we gradually emerge from a pandemic-focused world, we’ve noticed this past year has served as a catalyst for new trends, several of which we believe will persist in the year ahead and beyond. Here’s a look at top trends we saw and where they’re headed.

Ecommerce or Bust

Shoppers have been moving online over the past few years, but last year’s lockdowns saw the trend grow 44%. In the U.S. Amazon absorbed about a third of online sales, but independent retailers also saw an uptick in activity. The ecommerce platform Shopify saw unprecedented growth, with the number of stores on the platform shooting up by 71%. It now boasts more than 1 million merchants, most of them small businesses.

In Canada, 48% of Canadians report upping their online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 93% of consumers plan to continue or even ramp up the amount of online shopping they do.

Even for luxury or larger goods such as home furnishings, the online space has dominated the sales scene this past year, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. In fact, according to a report published by Statista last November, furniture and home furnishings e-retail revenue is expected to rise from $42.29 billion in 2019 to more than $54.23 billion by 2024, a 28% increase.

But here’s the big takeaway: brands that are still operating solely on brick-and-mortar sales will be missing out on a revenue engine that will only get bigger.

Meeting Consumers Where They Are: On Their Devices

The pandemic has put technology in a prominent position. When traditional retail operations were forced to shift online, technologies that helped bridge the gap to create true experiences became increasingly important.

Immersive solutions like augmented reality allow consumers to “see” a product remotely — from all angles and sometimes even in their homes. This trend is only expected to grow. One study found that 61% of consumers would prefer making purchases on sites that offer AR technology, and 70% would be loyal to brands whose sites offer this capability.

The pandemic also led to a surge in mobile shopping. This technology lends itself especially well to buy-online-pickup-in-store and curbside pickup, both of which allow consumers to “check in” via an app and eliminate unnecessary exposure to other people. Mobile shopping also played a vital role in facilitating contactless payments like Apple Pay, which saw a surge in usage as people sought to minimize interactions with PIN pads and cash.

Meanwhile, voice-assisted devices like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are also becoming increasingly important in ecommerce shopping. There’s just something about the convenience of speaking commands as thoughts occur. Analysts expect voice commerce to reach $40 billion by 2022.

Convenience is Central

With additional technology capabilities comes greater expectations from consumers. And the top expectation is convenience.

For many, convenience comes down to how quickly they can receive their purchase. For some items, two-day shipping just won’t cut it anymore. Same-day delivery is expected to hit 25% of the last-mile market share by 2025, and customers will be willing to spend more for speedy service.

Also, curbside pickup, which was accelerated by the pandemic, is also expected to expand. Some analysts predict creative solutions like multi-retailer curbside areas may soon pop up at shopping malls.

Teamwork Makes Dreamwork

Sometimes great things happen when you work together. When Lowe’s partnered with designers like Rebecca Minkoff and Christian Siriano for New York Fashion Week, its social media mentions — and credibility among fashion-loving DIYers — took off.

And these days, anything goes — even collaborating with the competition. A few years ago, Amazon teamed up with Kohls to offer in-person return hubs. During the first three weeks of Kohl’s accepting returns, foot traffic in the store rose by 24%. It didn’t hurt that consumers returning Amazon purchases are given Kohl’s coupons, adding further enticement to stick around and shop.

Don’t overlook the potential benefits of working with rivals. There’s some research that shows “co-opetition” can boost the competitive advantage for both parties.

Inspire to Build Desire

Buy-in from influencers will be increasingly important in the year ahead. Whether the influencer is a mega celebrity or an Average Joe/Jane who is able to leverage their home design and DIY skills, aspiration is a powerful medium.

Sites like LiketoKnow.it and poppytalk.com are populated by influencer photos, and Instagram has become a major player on the social commerce scene. Meanwhile, livestream shopping, which first took off in China, sees influencers using live video apps to take their followers shopping with them.

But it’s not just those with great filters and photo editing leading consumers to their next big purchase. Some 32% of Canadian online shoppers have said reviews and other user-generated content influences their buying decisions.

Give Them What They Want

With consumers spending more time at home, they’re willing to wait — and spend more — for a higher quality, made-to-order product. In some instances, consumers are seeking a specific solution to a design challenge.

For example, someone in a restored 1920s bungalow will need pieces with a scaled-down footprint. Those working remotely for the foreseeable future will want versatile furniture that blends into existing décor. And, of course, there are those who prefer to own and show off exclusive, one-of-a-kind collections as opposed to mass-produced, commoditized products. In Canada, 42% of online shoppers prioritize retailers who can provide unique offerings.

For these consumers, customization is going to be a key differentiator, which means there are more opportunities to go big with private label offerings. Quality merchants know their customers best and will be valuable partners in identifying in-demand features and products.

Going Green

While the pandemic captured our collective attention for most of the past year, sustainability and social equity remained important topics. For 46% of Canadian consumers, retailers who take steps to reduce or even offset their carbon footprints are going to be increasingly attractive. Compelling stories about brand efforts and innovations are going to capture the consumer imagination and, hopefully, their dollars.

That said, authenticity matters. Shoppers are savvier than ever, and they can sniff out a green-washed claim from kilometers away. Before touting your bonafides, makes sure you can back up every claim.

While 2020 was quite a challenging year, new insights and opportunities did come from it. Given the lessons learned from the pandemic and economic challenges, as well as the new trends emerging from those trials and triumphs, we expect a dynamic 2021 year ahead.

Author Bio
Josh Walter is CEO and Co-Founder of BrandJump, a Los Angeles-based ecommerce sales and marketing company focused on bringing customized online strategies to manufacturers in the home furnishings space. BrandJump’s unique model delivers merchandising, content, and marketing expertise to optimize their clients’ online presence and drive revenue through internet retail channels.

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