Updated January 8, 2021
2021 is upon us. For e-commerce brands and marketers alike, it’s an exciting time of the year -- a fresh start after a busy (and likely stressful) Q4 season.
Undoubtedly, 2021 will be unlike any other year we’ve experienced. That being said, recognizing and preparing for emerging trends will help brands and advertisers adjust and execute their marketing strategies accordingly.
Despite all of the craziness, 2021 can still be a killer year.
Read on for the e-comm trends you need to be aware of going into the new year.
4 e-commerce trends to look out for in Q1 2021 and beyond.
1. Higher competition online
This is a big one. Because of the pandemic, a lot of shopping has shifted from in-store to online. In fact, according to consumer research, 52% of adults plan to spend less time in stores, or visit stores less frequently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On top of that, 33% of those who weren’t purchasing online regularly prior to the outbreak plan to spend more time shopping online after the outbreak.
What does this mean for your digital strategy? Well, the competition online will continue to increase. As a result, expect higher-than-normal cost-per-clicks (CPC), especially compared to previous years.
2. More frequent promotions (and way earlier, too)
With increased competition, e-commerce brands will need to do more to set themselves apart from their competitors. For this reason, expect to see a lot of promotions throughout 2021. This certainly isn’t unusual for larger holidays (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, etc.), but we anticipate more promotions than ever before.
Additionally, with less people shopping in-stores, it’s likely that big retailers will shift a lot of their in-store promotions to an online format. Be on the lookout for more frequent giveaways and doorbusters happening online.
Not only will there be more promos this year, they will also show up a lot earlier, too.
In fact, in Q4 2020, Hilding Anderson, head of retail strategy at Publicis Sapient, said “Amazon’s Prime Day (in October) marks the earliest start of the full assortment holiday shopping season in 50 years, as COVID permanently reshapes the holiday calendar.”
At the end of 2020, big retailers like Walmart, ASOS, and Best Buy offered customers Black Friday deals as early as October.
With limited in-store shopping and higher competition online, e-comm retailers will be eager to capitalize on holiday-related spending as early as possible.
3. An increased emphasis on unique & engaging creative
On and leading up to major holidays, users’ social feeds are often inundated with ads. For this reason, it’s crucial that e-comm brands create and utilize fresh and engaging creative to grab peoples’ attention.
Especially on Facebook and Instagram, higher click-through rates (CTR) mean cheaper cost-per-clicks (CPC). This is especially important during times of higher competition.
With overcrowded social platforms, now’s a good time to diversify and stay top-of-mind with an omni-channel approach.
Vibrant (and festive) colors sprinkled in with some eye-catching animations will also go a long way in Q1 2021 and beyond. Don’t let users miss your unbeatable deals because your ads blend in to their feed.
4. The continued importance of AI-powered strategies
The rise of machine learning has taken e-commerce digital marketing by storm in the last few years. More and more, e-commerce advertisers are relying on machine learning to optimize campaigns in the moment.
Our two cents? Embrace machine learning, because it's not going anywhere.
On Google, don't hesitate to test Target ROAS, Smart Shopping, and Smart Display. As an added benefit, these smart campaigns are incredibly easy to set up.
On Facebook, use Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) to let their algorithm do the heavy lifting when it comes to allocating budgets across ad sets. With the extra competition, 2021 will also be the perfect time to embrace Targeting Expansion and Automatic Placements to get in front of additional eyeballs.
But keep in mind that AI-powered features always have a learning phase, so implement these at least two weeks before peak sales or holidays, just to be safe.
It’s never too late to adjust your e-commerce strategy and embrace trends in the digital world. And with COVID-19 expected to last well into 2021, these trends are here to stay.
Looking for more e-commerce insight? Download our free resource, How to Put Together a Successful Social Ad Campaign for E-Commerce.
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