2021 Ecommerce Strategy & Beyond

The trends for 2021 ecommerce are changing – are you ready?

Ecommerce is continuously growing and will grow even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although online shopping has become one of the most popular online activities, the world of ecommerce has become more competitive. To keep up with the competition, online stores need to monitor new 2021 ecommerce trends constantly.

For those of us in ecommerce, 2020 has somehow managed to feel like the longest and the shortest year at the same time. The longest because there have been many difficult challenges, and the shortest because we’ve had to work doubly as fast to meet demands and to compensate for the loss of sales from physical stores. It’s fair to say we’ve been in overdrive.

How has your business responded to the rapid changes in the distribution and logistics industry this year? Chances are that the rapid evolution of your processes and how you supported them are not just a temporary fix for making it through to 2021, but the blueprint for your current and future facilities well beyond this crisis and into the future.

Consumer’s and their shopping habits have changed and it also looks like for good.

A survey conducted in June designed to gauge how Christmas shopping behaviour may be altered by concerns over COVID-19 found responses that indicate the potential for even greater strain on Distribution Operations than in a typical year. Of the 500 respondents polled:

  • 51% expect to begin Christmas shopping earlier than normal this year.
  • 57% plan to have more gifts shipped directly to recipients than last year.
  • 76% intend to purchase more than half of their gifts online.
  • 62% plan to purchase more stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts online.

The macro level numbers tell the same story too. Data from the Department of Commerce compiled by Digital Commerce 360 shows ecommerce Sales growing over 30% in the first half of 2020 versus 2019. Perhaps surprisingly, TOTAL retail sales grew by 4% as well. The spike for Q2 alone was 44% versus 2020, and while the rate of growth has slowed in Q3, the growth beyond 2019 is still far beyond any standard growth forecast.

And while the pandemic has brought on a long list of national retail chains filing for bankruptcy, others have leaned into ecommerce and now curbside pickup as a survival strategy with nearly half of the retailers in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 list offering it by the end of Q2.

2021 Ecommerce has just got more complicated

The challenges for many warehouses until now and those for the Christmas and sale season are on different levels of complexity. In Spring, businesses were faced with challenges like shifting from retail distribution to direct customer fulfilment (or finding a way to manage a hybrid model) and keeping people safe from an entirely different workplace hazard. But now? It’s not enough to coordinate multiple items and orders to be delivered to the same customer ordering them, but now they are required to take multiple orders from the same customer and send them to different addresses – along with the different treatment provided for gifts. And the stakes for safety are still rising. Facilities will be employing more people, and those people will be indoors on duty AND off duty as winter curtails outdoor activities.

Are these changes permanent?

Chances are you have probably made a lot of the changes below this year to your processes, training, workflow, equipment, software and more as part of your efforts to keep up with demand AND keep everyone safe:

  • Creating or expanding direct-to-consumer shipping options.
  • Creating or expanding a Returns area with related processes (online return rates average as high as 22% versus 10% for in-store purchases).
  • Re-designing picking processes, racking and related equipment to allow for picking both cases or single units
  • Kitting of multiple products that are meant to be shipped together
  • New sorting processes that bring items from the same order together for packing
  • New facilities to accommodate the growth, or to separate different processes that previously did not warrant their own space
  • Additional shipping partners to accommodate the larger range of products going to a wider geography with more options, more frequently.
  • All the equipment needed to accommodate the new processes – additional label printers, carts, racking, etc.
  • And finally, all the safety-related equipment that is new from 2020.

If you take a walk around your facility and look at all the changes you made this year that were initiated as a result of the crisis, just how many of them would you roll back IF and WHEN the crisis is deemed to be over? The reality? Very few.

2021 Ecommerce Focus

If your leadership is thinking ahead to 2021 ecommerce trends and beyond, then they are probably recognising a few aspects of the “new normal” we keep hearing about:

  • Consumers will never go back to in-store experiences at the volumes prior to 2020
  • “Omnichannel” marketing and fulfilment is now a reality for any business expecting to be around next year.
  • “Flexibility” will be a key element of successful and efficient Distribution Centres going forward as they will need to adapt to variable demand over seasons between retail and direct order models. Your own in-house DC will need to take some lessons from the 3PLs in regards to being nimble and adaptive.

Social Media in 2021 Ecommerce

The number of people who are shopping on social media is rapidly rising. When Facebook and Instagram Checkout decided to add the “Buy” button to their platforms, social media instantly started playing an important role in mobile commerce.

Brands quickly discovered that social media is an excellent opportunity for them to be discovered. With the help of Instagram users, ecommerce businesses are gaining momentum more than ever.

Technology and automation

Intelligent automation is having an unrivalled impact on levels of productivity, efficiency and value for businesses everywhere.

For example, using marketing systems enables you to present personalised offers to targeted customer groups, automating your selling process gives you more time to grow your business, and tracking facilities for shipments in transit can provide security and peace of mind should anything happen.

And that’s not even scratching the surface.

With all of the data and insights that you can glean from using multiple intelligent systems, such as inventory management software & WMS solutions, you can quickly identify your product sales cycles and predict trends, enabling you to grow strategically and scale your business from the ground up.

The more that your company embraces new technology, the better position you put the business in to achieve more sales and growth throughout the whole year.

Plus, if you’re selling in a highly saturated or competitive industry – and let’s face it, we all are – then you’ll need to accept and adopt new technologies to either keep up with the competition or to leapfrog over them. The choice is yours.

A final thought on 2021 ecommerce

If there are adaptations you’ve been avoiding because you are under the assumption that this current crazy world we live in will pass, then you’re also probably starting to hear yourself say “Better Late Than Never”, because you will need to start making changes to your business to this year’s reality, as these changes are here to stay moving into 2021 and beyond.

A WMS solution will reduce operating costs, increase order accuracy and improve your customers’ experience. Clarus’ modern cloud warehouse management system, developed and supported by UK based industry experts, is available on any device from as little as £250 per month

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale/retail distribution, online fulfillment, and manufacturing warehousing.

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