A running theme in Econsultancy’s Ecommerce Quarterly Q3 report is the acceleration of online shopping since the coronavirus pandemic began, and how tech platforms are introducing new features accordingly.

According to research, the proportion of online retail sales in the UK is estimated to increase by an additional £4.5 billion in 2020. As a result, platforms including Shopify, Pinterest, Google, and WhatsApp are tapping into the potential of ecommerce, launching new features and updates to align with recent growth.

For more on these trends within the world of ecommerce, you can download the full report. But here are four that caught the eye last quarter.

Shopify partners with Affirm

The shift in online shopping looks set to stay. According to predictions, around 17.2 million British consumers plan to make permanent changes to the way they shop, as the risks associated with Covid-19 redirects spend to ecommerce. Retailers are now aiming to facilitate this by making the online shopping experience as convenient as possible.

This looks to be the motivation behind Shopify’s new partnership with Affirm. The partnership means that merchants using Shopify’s platform will be able to offer instalment plans, giving customers the option to split their purchases into four separate payments.

While ‘buy now pay later’ has been around for a while, the partnership will bring Affirm’s offering to hundreds of thousands more retailers, with the feature particularly targeted towards younger consumers. Max Levchin, Founder and CEO of Affirm said in a statement: “By partnering with Shopify, the gold standard of commerce platforms for businesses that want to sell direct-to-consumers, we can help merchants seamlessly enable a pay-over-time option at checkout. In doing so, we’re helping them reach new customers, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, who are looking for more transparent and flexible ways to pay.”

The demand for ‘buy now pay later’ schemes has hugely increased since the coronavirus pandemic, as consumer finances have also been hit. According to PYMNTS.com, flexible payments company Afterpay served 4.4 million US customers in Q3 2020, which is an increase of 283% year on year. Interestingly, Afterpay was created on the back of the last global recession (in 2009). With the UK recently announcing an official recession, we could once again see a surge in demand for companies such as Affirm.

WhatsApp launches payments

Finally, June saw WhatsApp roll out its payments feature in Brazil, where the service has 120 million users. Enabled by Facebook Pay, the feature allows users to make payments to small businesses within the app, as well as to send and receive money to and from their contacts. In order to do so, users must link a Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card.

Interestingly, the functionality will enable Facebook to create a new revenue opportunity that is not reliant on monetising users through ads. While consumers won’t be charged to use the service, merchants will be required to pay a processing fee in order to receive payments. It’s not yet clear when payments will roll out to other markets, but the company said that it looks forward to “bringing it to everyone” in future.

The launch of WhatsApp payments comes off the back of a difficult time for small businesses, many of whom have been hugely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With the future of many small businesses still uncertain, the feature could help some survive, enabling them to transition to digital (crucially, at a time when retailers are still limiting physical contact as well as cash payments).

Google launches ShopLoop

At the end of July, Google launched the video shopping platform, Shoploop. In a nutshell, Shoploop aims to bring features of Instagram (for inspiration), YouTube (with content such as tutorials), brand site (to enable transactions) into one experience, introducing users to new products through 90-second videos.

As Rebecca Sentance explains, “The video content is a mixture of ‘vlog’ style narrated videos in which an influencer will demonstrate a product and talk about its benefits, step-by-step tutorials, and more ‘infomercial’ style videos with background music, product close-ups, captions and no narration.”

On the back of the introduction of free product listings in Search, Shoploop is clearly another part of Google’s mission to gain back some momentum in the ecommerce landscape, given Amazon has been so successful in product search and Instagram and Facebook in product discovery.

Pinterest Shop highlights small and sustainable brands

In April of this year, Pinterest announced that it would be adding a number of new products from sustainable (and small and medium-sized) US brands onto the Pinterest Shop. With searches for ‘support small businesses’ increasing by 351% on the platform prior to the announcement, Pinterest’s aim has been to bring increased exposure and visibility to these businesses during a crucial time, as well as capitalise on user search interest.

As well as helping out small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, sustainability is also a growing area of interest for Pinterest audiences. According to WWD, searches for ‘eco-friendly living’ were up by 93% on the platform, while searches for ‘zero waste products’ increased 108%, and searches for ‘sustainable gifts’ increased by 73%.

For more ecommerce updates and trends, download the Ecommerce Quarterly Q3.