Keeping Up With Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping was important pre-pandemic, but the consumer demand for online purchases has driven a boom in the sector. In fact, online sales increased by over 30% from 2019 to 2020. And it’s likely that even as things settle into a new normal, online sales will continue to grow and digital stores will rapidly evolve.

What does the future hold for online shopping? Let’s take a look at some trends that you’ll be seeing more of in 2021 and beyond.

1. New consumer behavior has led to increased competition. Since visiting stores physically was (and in some places, still is) unsafe, more people are shopping online than ever before. Even those who were previously skeptical of online transactions have come to enjoy the convenience and ease of shopping online.

“In the past year, ecommerce has proven to be reliable and convenient, while offering a safety net to businesses that might have otherwise gone under. This has accelerated the boom in online retail and converted shoppers that might have resisted before,” says Hayley Maguire, an ecommerce copywriter and communications consultant.

The quick, massive shift to online shopping has driven competition in the space, requiring brands to work harder for attention, trust and sales.

Now we see brands moving toward (or already offering) streamlined digital stores, purchasing through multiple platforms and a greater emphasis on branding.

2. Know your customer. Consumers have seen a glimpse of what’s to come and are now looking for online stores that can offer a personalized experience. According to one recent study, online shops that offer more advanced personalization saw a 25% revenue lift.

Want to start offering a personalized experience for your customers? Here are a few ways you can use data to enrich your customers’ interactions with your brand:

  • Use their location to cater to their lifestyle. Finding out where your customers live can help you surface appropriate products for them. Area differences, such as climate for example, can affect purchasing decisions. And, depending on their location, you might be able to offer local pick-up or affordable same-day shipping. If you notice that you have a lot of customers from a certain area, you could try partnering with a local brand or offering a product that speaks to the local culture. Google Analytics is a great tool for learning more about where your customers are located. If you’re on one of Big Cartel’s paid plans and you haven’t set it up, check out our help site for details.

  • Use past purchases, searches or other historical data to drive recommendations. Give shoppers unique, relevant product suggestions that are based on their past behavior. For example, if they’ve ordered (or shown interest in) a pair of gloves, you could suggest a matching scarf and cap — perhaps even offering a deal for bundled goods.

  • Use similar shoppers as a starting point for suggestions. Data will allow you to create a plethora of customer profiles so you can show shoppers products that people with similar interests have purchased and enjoyed. You can personalize newsletters to send to these different types of shoppers to promote products just right for them.

  • Use their shopping cart contents to suggest deals, samples or freebies. Rewarding loyal customers is a smart move. Consider offering free shipping over a certain dollar amount, small samples with each order, or a free gift with larger purchases.

Personalized suggestions can lower the chance of cart abandonment, increase order amounts and make customers feel more in-tune with your brand.

3. More simple payment options. Successful online businesses make it simple for customers to shop, so it makes sense to make payment as easy as possible — that means offering them multiple payment options, ensuring secure transactions and providing a simple, elegant checkout process.

What should be the top priorities for brands?

  • Multiple payment options: Six percent of people abandon their cart due to a lack of payment options. If the customer makes it through the buying path and to the checkout page, the last thing you want is for them to bail on the purchase because they couldn’t use their preferred payment method. Keep your customers happy by using both PayPal and Stripe in your Big Cartel shop.

  • Data security: According to recent research, 48% of people in North America are more concerned about their online privacy. As more tasks and activities get moved online, that should come as no surprise. And people have good reason to be concerned. For example, in March 2020, Cloudflare saw a 37% increase in cyber attacks. The good news is all Big Cartel shops are fully SSL encrypted. Make your customers feel even better by letting them know how much you value their privacy.

  • Simple check-out experience: You want to minimize confusion and technology performance issues. (More on this later.)

4. Focus on customer service and fulfillment ease and speed. Customers want to feel taken care of even when they’re shopping online. Shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that offer fast shipping and excellent customer service. In fact, 64% of consumers want their orders shipped for free and around 70% of people who take their business elsewhere do so because of poor customer service.

For online transactions, that means offering support before, after and during their purchase. Brands should have a way to quickly answer pre-purchase questions, give regular order status and shipping updates, and check in after delivery.

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, Chief Marketing Officer of Reeview.app, has seen an increased focus on “free shipping, easy returns, revamped customer service, and the unboxing experience.” Customers want to feel a connection to the brands they’re buying from and that requires a well thought out experience.

A wonderful experience should be end-to-end: A personalized, simple product layout, reliable customer service, fast shipping, attractive packaging and, if needed, easy returns.

5. Retention is a common overarching goal. Getting new customers is more challenging and more expensive than retaining the customers you already have. And (as you may have already figured out) all of the current trends can be wrapped up into one common goal: retention.

Why is that? Well, 81% of customers are more likely to do business with you again if they have a positive experience. Going above and beyond to make your customers happy pays off, earning you repeat business and referrals.

Historically, some companies have struggled with muddled data about how many customers they kept and lost. Now, there’s more of an effort to clarify that information, identify high-value customers and make efforts to keep those shoppers happy.

Quick Tips to Improve Your Digital Store

Now that you know the direction digital shopping is heading, what can you do to keep up with the trends?

1. Make your site simple and enjoyable to use. Shoppers expect a seamless digital experience. If your site glitches or is too slow to load, you risk losing that customer. Make sure your images aren’t too large, and if you’re customizing one of the Big Cartel themes, remember to opt for a simple, beautiful design and think mobile-first. Test your store from a shopper’s perspective to make sure everything runs smoothly.

2. Offer multiple delivery options. Make sure shipping timelines and prices are easy to spot and select. If you offer free delivery and/or free returns, point that out. How about curbside pick-up? Include simple instructions for local customers. Use Shipping Profiles to give your customers the options they’re looking for.

3. Improve the checkout experience. We’re repeating ourselves a bit here, but it’s important: Your checkout process has to be simple and seamless, and Big Cartel’s got your back. All buttons, necessary actions and form fields are crystal-clear for the customer.

4. Keep your store secure. Your store will lose credibility and customers if your shop isn’t secure. Research any technology you are (or potentially could be) using, and make sure it provides top-notch data security.

5. Employ best practices for customer service. Find a system that works for your brand and strive to constantly improve. You can use a combination of chat bots, customer service staff, automated messages, SMS, email communications, and more.

Use Technology Thoughtfully

Online shopping continues to move toward rich, empathic and holistic experiences for customers. To be successful, companies will have to marry convenience and brand personality. Luckily for you, that’s easier than it may sound (especially using Big Cartel) and putting in the time to keep your shop up-to-date with the latest trends will be well worth it.


Article header image created by illustrator Yuko Okabe.

Laura Bauer

Laura Bauer is a Texas-based writer and content strategist. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her riding her horses, training dogs, practicing yoga or hiking.

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