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E-commerce Trends for 2021

Posted: 04/05/2021 | Author: Jim Lochner for Creatives On Call

E-commerce Trends for 2021

When brick-and-mortar stores closed during the pandemic, we all went online. Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with US merchants last year, up 44.0%—the highest annual e-commerce growth in over two decades. E-commerce penetration hit 21.3% in 2020, up from 15.8% the year before. To put this in perspective, no other year has even reached a two-percentage-point gain in digital penetration. Online sales accounted for 101% of all retail gains in 2020, the first time in history that e-commerce sales accounted for all retail sales gains. 

Though last year’s monumental e-commerce growth is expected to decline this year as in-person shopping increases, mobile sales are still expected to increase 15% by the end of 2021. COVID-19 accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly five years, and businesses need to be ready. Check out some of the new (or expanding) e-commerce trends that will set your company up for success.


76% of shoppers say convenience is their #1 priority when choosing a retailer, with 37% using social media to research products and brands. Fewer sales avenues are more convenient than social commerce, which bypasses third-party websites and offers customers an easier, more seamless way to shop online, purchasing directly through a social media app or site. 76% of Instagram users have made an impulse buy on social media simply because it’s easier. With 81% of shoppers demanding frictionless cross-device e-commerce experiences, it makes sense to go where most of us spend a good chunk of our time every day—social media


Shoppers put trust in brands that showcase authentic voices, not fancy, overly-produced ads. As such, influencer content has also transitioned to an aesthetic that is rawer and less polished. Brands should prioritize authenticity in their influencer partnerships to maintain or grow their engagement and maximize their ROI. And make sure you’re camera-ready—video will be the most important medium for influencer partnerships in 2021.


71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values, while 41% of US consumers actively buy from companies associated with social, environmental, and political ideals. With transparency, values, and ethics serving as major priorities when it comes to purchasing, brands need to prioritize them ASAP


Two-day delivery is old news, especially when 88% of consumers are willing to pay for same-day or faster delivery. (Guilty!) Best Buy delivers same-day, Target is growing their Shipt service, and Walmart is expanding their two-hour express delivery options. Then there’s Amazon’s Prime Air, which uses drone technology to deliver orders (up to 5 lbs.) in 30 minutes or less. When it comes to order fulfillment, slow and steady will NOT win the race. 


Nearly 90 million US adults own a smart speaker, over one-third of consumers. And around 20% of smart speaker owners use them for ordering products, conducting product research, or tracking deliveries. More and more consumers are now shopping online without ever looking at a screen. The number of voice shoppers is expected to increase by 55% by the end of 2022


When the pandemic hit, companies had to meet customers where they were—at home. Enter the use of chatbots and personal assistants, which skyrocketed in 2020. Retail, banking, and healthcare had already embraced AI prior to the pandemic. Expect to see more companies embracing the technology this year, with predictions of AI spending to be $7.3 billion by 2022


  • If you’ve shopped online for a product and used the experience to see how it would look in your home, you’ve gotten a small taste of augmented reality (AR) technology. Helping customers better see the size, scale, and detail of your products, especially with 3D modeling, drives conversions. AR for larger items, especially home goods, will become increasingly more relevant in the future. 


The e-commerce market expanded due to the pandemic, but so too did the competition for eyeballs. Deciding how and where to make your advertising stand out will be a prime consideration for marketing dollars in 2021. Companies and marketers that can lead innovation when it comes to advertising content will reap the highest rewards. 


90% of e-grocery customers are expected to continue shopping online, with only 7% of online grocery shoppers saying they will return to brick-and-mortar stores. In 2020 alone, Instacart cornered 57% of the grocery e-commerce market and increased its order volume by 500%. More than half of Americans say they trust Instacart more than Amazon Fresh and Walmart.

* * *

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 years of e-commerce growth happened in just 90 days. And while the growth is expected to decelerate to 7.8% as brick-and-mortar sales rebound, e-commerce will only continue to grow. Online sales are predicted to reach $4.5 trillion in 2021. Position your marketing strategy to take advantage of these trends and you’ll be poised for exponential growth.

At Creatives On Call, we have creative professionals to help.



This is a time for marketers to step up to the challenge and get creative in meeting current demands and behavior changes. Creatives On Call supports your business through this. Contact us here.  We have Marketing professionals ready to start in areas including:

  • Strategy & Advisory
  • Design and Production
  • Content Creation & Management
  • Customer Engagement & Experience
  • Learning & Knowledge Management
  • Digital Technology & Transformation

Learn more here.


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