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Top 7 early eCommerce trends of 2021

Top 7 early eCommerce trends of 2021

Published on 2021-01-11 by Brad Houldsworth

Roll up… roll up… whilst every online retailer is competing for the online consumer’s attention and transactions, attempting to convince them why they should buy from them and not their competitor, the challenge to stay on trend becomes even harder. Then add the pressure which COVID-19 has placed on retailers and the teams which run the eCommerce operations have an even harder job to do. This leads to retailers needing to innovate at speed and ensure their eCommerce stores have the latest functionality to remain on-trend.

Here are the top 7 trends that UK retailers will be focusing on in 2021: 1. Live Streaming 2. Re-Commerce 3. Product Renting 4. Subscription Models 5. Integrated Chat 6. Multi-model Product Images 7. Social Selling (Click to read more about each trend)


1. Retailers Live-Streaming to their customers

Often referred to as the ‘QVC for the digital age’, live streaming is a new concept that only started to become common outside of China in 2019, however, fast-forward 2 years and we are now beginning to see many agile retailers use live-streaming to engage with their customers.

There are two main types of this concept: live streaming via social channels, and live commerce via the retailers eCommerce storefront. Live streaming is easily achievable, by simply setting up a studio and hitting ‘Go Live’ on your social media accounts to broadcast your video to all fans and followers of your accounts. This is a strategy which can be used to announce new product lines, product collections or simply to give your brand a face.

Live commerce can be auction-based (think eBay and other popular marketplaces where consumers bid to win), or live commerce can work by using fixed-prices within a short and specific time period (think QVC, where price-drops and huge savings are applied to product prices for limited time windows, e.g. 70% for 1 hour only).

Here is a great article from Econsultancy from July 2020, going into more detail about live streaming being included in retailers digital strategies.


2. Re-Commerce, Re-sale and the 2nd-hand market

Particularly in the fashion sector, retailers can see a product return rate of up to 50%! This causes several headaches and challenges for retailers to face, including operational issues as well as commercial problems.

If a retailer can re-sell these returned products (providing they pass a thorough quality check of course), then retailers can recoup lost costs and retain a stronger P&L. This trend has been slowly growing in the luxury market for the last 18 months, and this year could be when we see high-street retailers begin to take note. Here are a few luxury re-sale websites reported on by Luxe Digital.

When consumers are looking to save money, and accept a cheaper option for the same product, the 2nd hand market becomes very attractive. However, the conversion rate (percentage of consumers purchasing product once they view it) is incredibly low with this model. This is likely due to consumers having lower confidence to purchase, this is because when a product is not new, the value of a product becomes harder to appreciate, especially when the quality of the product is not fully described.

Another reason why Re-commerce is becoming a stronger trend is due to consumers wanting to be more ecological and kinder on the planet. So buying a product which was previously owned, leads to a smaller amount being created in the long term.


3. Rent a Product

Have you ever wanted to use or wear a product for only a few occasions and would likely never use it again? Well, hiring/renting/leasing has always been a common concept for particular industries – and this is now starting to spread into many other industries.

Over the last few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in new hire technology and systems updating their capabilities to handle renting a product instead of fully purchasing.

Our client Moss Bros. have been renting suits and formalwear for over 100 years and relaunched their Hire website proposition with us in late 2017. This particular project gave us insight into the huge complexities and processes that enable a hiring process to be possible, and also how popular a rental proposition can be.


4. Subscription Services

An eCommerce subscription model is a common business model in which a company provides ongoing services or products on a recurring basis in exchange for regular payments from the customer. This isn’t exactly anything new and this model dates back to the 1500s, yet we’ve seen in recent years, the subscription model isn’t just for “traditional” niches like magazines and Netflix. Sectors like fashion and food have started to adopt and offer a subscription model, typically with a discount attached.

‘Fashion as a service is currently only available for higher-end brands and retailers, who have customers that can afford a monthly subscription and enjoy the luxury of having clothes chosen for them. However, we expect to see retailers offer this model in a more cost-effective approach – such as a quarterly box of men’s shirts, or a monthly fresh set of ladies tights.

This trend really plays on consumers who are looking for ease and convenience, and usually have a spare chunk of change to pay for it. Here is an article from Business of Fashion, published in 2016, explaining the early adoption of the trend.


5. Integrated Chat – WhatsApp, FB Messenger, WeChat

Chat systems have been available since the birth of the Internet, and are commonly favoured by consumers if they wish to get in touch with a retailer quickly, without calling. Text-chat is usually preferred due to many reasons, like being able to reply when it suits you, and being able to refer back to the conversation in the future – both cannot be done when speaking on the phone.

Systems like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat are becoming particularly common for retailers to offer their customers. These systems are preferred over more complex and advanced live-chat systems like Zendesk, LiveChat, Olark or Tawk, and this is due to a consumer being able to integrate this chat with the rest of their personal chats, instead of it being strictly only accessible on the retailer’s website.


6. Multi-model Product Images

Diversity and inclusion are much more important to what a brand stands for than they used to be. Consumers look to buy from retailers who are aligned to their same values, so if a consumer believes in a company’s purpose and values, they will buy from them.

Many retailers have started to simply demonstrate their inclusion by using different models to wear/showcase their products. This is often achieved by models of different body types, sizes and races wearing a piece of clothing; this helps the consumer to see how they might look in that piece of clothing and feel inspired to purchase.

Retailers like ASOS have been leading on this front since 2018, where they updated their group marketing strategy to express their diversity focus. They often launch products which have multiple models all wearing the same product, however, the cost of this is a huge factor and should only be actioned when the particular product warrants it.

With the majority of the UK working from their homes because of COVID, we have begun to see many seasonal products include product images taken in homes instead of photography studios. This is another trend likely to continue for the foreseeable, and it is likely having a positive impact on conversion rate because customers are relating to the environment the model is in and seeing themselves using or wearing the product, easier than before.


7. Social Selling

There are 1.5 billion daily active users on Facebook and 60% of Instagram users say they find new products on Instagram. 30% of online shoppers say they would be likely to purchase from a social media network like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.

So although an eCommerce website will allow the retailer to display more information about the product, and introduce the potential customer to the brand… if the customer wants to buy without any of that… then let them – and this is where social selling becomes powerful. There is (currently) not a smoother process than a customer 1-tapping a purchase through a social media app. The setup of this is becoming easier and easier, with platforms now simplifying their integration processes and the technical setup now being possible within hours, instead of days or even weeks.


It is easy to forget the basics and focus on attempting to impress your potential customers by developing trendy functionality or launching new strategies like the 7 trends above – but these should only be included and looked towards once your eCommerce is selling well and you have a strong loyal customer base. We’re looking forward to revisiting these trends in 12 months time and reporting on how they have each progressed.

Credit to for the header image on this article.

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