Top Three E-Commerce Trends for 2021

The rise of the “always-on” consumer has been one of 2020’s most significant pandemic-accelerated shifts in consumer behavior. These consumers “shop whenever and wherever the mood strikes them, in so-called ‘micro-moments,’ often while doing other tasks,” according to the IBM Institute for Business Value.

To stay competitive in the new year, brands must target the always-on consumer by influencing micro-shopping moments.

Three key trends for 2021 — media integration, the increased importance of product detail pages and the continued rise of online grocery and last mile delivery — reveal how forward-thinking brands and retailers are seizing these micro-shopping moments.

1. Media Integration

This year demonstrated that brands’ siloed media strategies — separate plans and tactics for in-store, digital retail, social media and other media — are not enough to compete in the future. Going forward, brands’ media plans must be cohesive and include social commerce; over-the-top media (OTT), such as ads found on Amazon, Netflix or Hulu; and digital out-of-home (DOOH) activations, such as digital transit or billboard ads.

It’s important to consider how consumers are spending their time during the pandemic. Case in point: Streaming consumption across all video options is up more than 74% from last year, according to Nielsen. Currently, Amazon OTT reaches more than 40 million monthly active viewers through video ads that help engage audiences across Amazon subsidiaries. This allows brands to meet consumers in those micro-shopping moments.


We see more and more innovative partnerships in this space, such as Kroger’s collaboration with smart food platform Whisk to let users in 35 states shop recipe ingredients from Kroger stores for delivery or pickup. Whisk converts recipes into shoppable lists — using AI and natural language processing technology to ensure the ingredients match what is available in the shopper’s local store. Brands should strive to look outside traditional advertising channels and be willing to invest more in emerging media channels (e.g., augmented reality and virtual reality shoppable recipes, streaming media).

2. Increased Importance of Product Detail Pages

As more consumers take to the digital shelf, product detail pages (PDPs) are more important than ever in driving conversion. Always-on consumers “come highly informed with specific demands,” according to the IBM Institute for Business Value. As such, PDPs should be information-forward, engaging and optimized for mobile search.

According to Catalyst and Kantar’s “The State of eCommerce 2021” report, among all online consumers, 45% visited a PDP at time of purchase and “41% of those that ranked any touchpoint as [most influential] said PDPs had the biggest influence on their purchase.” Videos, lifestyle imagery, infographics and search-engine-optimized copy above and below the fold are all part of creating best-in-class PDPs.

“41% of those that ranked any touchpoint as [most influential] said PDPs had the biggest influence on their purchase.”

Brands should also explore means of engaging with both voice search and visual search. We can expect to see an increase in “how to” videos. CartCast, offered by Brand Connections, an Advantage Marketing Partners’ agency, replicates the experience of in-store sampling events through mobile or desktop by creating videos that feature shoppable links. These links direct viewers to PDPs for instant purchase.

3. The Rise of Online Grocery and Last Mile Delivery

Quick fulfillment is no longer a novelty, it’s an expectation of the always-on consumer. To meet this expectation, businesses are turning their attention to last mile delivery—the final step of the delivery process where the product moves from the distribution hub to the consumer’s doorstep.

The 2020 data of last mile delivery partners like Instacart and Shipt are reasons enough for brands to make optimizing their presence on delivery sites a top priority. Instacart saw a 500% increase in order volume for the first half of 2020. It’s now partnered with more than 500 retailers, making it accessible to over 85% of U.S. households, according to a report in Progressive Grocer. Looking to 2021, both Instacart and Shipt plan to expand their capabilities, including product discovery and controls for self-service marketing tactics (e.g. coupons and banners).

Brands that prioritize their presence on last-mile delivery sites, or the “third shelf” as they’re often called, will have the advantages of increased product visibility and opportunities to establish strong customer relationships.

It’s been a difficult year and while we’ve all grown, e-commerce has outdone us all. To capitalize on its astonishing growth and the always-on consumers who fuel it, brands can make it their new year’s resolution to develop collaborative strategies across platforms, leverage emerging media channels, create best-in-class product pages and embrace online grocery and last mile delivery.


As an Account Executive on the Strategy & Consulting team, Lexi Isernio works closely with clients to uncover opportunities and implement strategies within e-commerce. She joined Sage Tree with five years of retail experience working closely with Consumer Packaged Good brands developing strategic marketing plans, merchandising, and creative opportunities that resulted in sales growth.




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