2020 was quite a year for the world of ecommerce. The industry has adapted at a breakneck pace in response to the changes posed by the pandemic, from shifting consumer demands to new shopping behaviours and spending patterns.

In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated existing trends, with ecommerce and marketing professionals having to respond by upgrading systems, launching new technology and adapting to new ways of measuring results. In many cases, projects that normally would have taken years were completed within weeks.

This rapid pace of change is likely to continue through 2021. Although it is still uncertain how much longer we will be impacted by COVID-19, what is clear is that we have entered a new era for digital marketing and ecommerce. Here are three trends from 2020 that we at Fresh Relevance expect to accelerate this year.

2021 will be the year of D2C

With Covid restrictions forcing more people to turn to ecommerce, online retail grew from 22% in March to 36% in November 2020. And this increase could be just the beginning. Online retailers have been investing heavily in the battle for market share against the likes of Amazon and eBay, which has inspired greater innovation in online retail.

As part of this development, brands such as Lindt launched Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) strategies in 2020, whereby they cut out the retailer altogether and launch their own ecommerce offering to give themselves increased margin and a more direct and detailed understanding of their customers.

D2C opens up a host of new possibilities, including subscription models and the ability to market directly to consumers via low-cost channels such as email, mobile apps and social media platforms. This also gives brands a more granular understanding of their customers which enables them to drive a better experience for shoppers.

Automation will allow marketers to deliver better-converting campaigns

As a result of the economic decline triggered by the pandemic, many ecommerce businesses have had to downsize teams, forcing marketers to respond to the reduced headcount by increasing automation. By pulling real-time customer data into segments and triggering campaign assets based on customer actions and inactions, organisations can engage shoppers with targeted content across the purchase funnel and customer lifecycle.

For instance, a one-size-fits-all cart abandonment campaign is a reliable revenue-driver. But imagine how much more effective a cart abandonment campaign can be if different emails are sent based on the shopper’s segment. Lapsing customers, VIPs and the recently re-engaged can receive different messages or a series of messages based on what’s most likely to resonate, without any manual work required beyond the initial campaign set-up.

The quest for the perfect customer experience will increase AI adoption

While automation makes ecommerce marketing more effective, the use of AI helps organisations become smarter. Many ecommerce and marketing teams enhanced their tech stack with AI-based solutions as a response to increased competition and smaller budgets in 2020.

AI, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics Best Practice Guide

Decision engines use machine learning and predictive algorithms to help understand patterns in large datasets and take a lot of the guesswork out of campaign planning and execution. AI-driven segmentation, content selection, channel execution, and campaign optimisation are at the heart of delivering a customer experience that delights the shopper while helping achieve ecommerce goals.

Refinement of ecommerce strategies will continue

It’s an exciting time for ecommerce, borne out of truly unprecedented circumstances. The rollout of vaccines is great news for everyone. But it is hard to say when we will be able to return to some kind of new normality, and what that new normal will be. However, it is clear that ecommerce adoption has been catapulted forward and will continue to increase in importance. For marketers, this means that they must continue to refine the strategies and tactics that have been deployed as a response to the pandemic, and ecommerce experiences will become ever more sophisticated and creative.

Stats roundup: the impact of Covid-19 on ecommerce