Rebecca Castellani

Do you remember the last time you went shopping without a mask? The pandemic swiftly recalibrated our daily lives in fundamental and lasting ways – but none quite so profound as the method and means of consumerism. 

“COVID-19 massively accelerated trends that we were already seeing—it packed a decade of ecommerce growth into a single year,” reflects Shopify. The numbers back this up. Apptopia reports e-commerce sessions grew 65.9% YoY by Q4 of 2020. 

But even as vaccines bring us closer to herd immunity – and more brick-and-mortar stores reopen – it looks like our new found reliance on e-commerce will remain. Wunderman Thompson Commerce notes, “Almost 40% of consumers report they’re more comfortable with digital technology than before lockdown,” while Statista predicts over 2.14 billion people will purchase goods and services online in 2021. 

If you haven’t already adjusted to the “new normal” of mobile commerce, now would be a good time to start. Here are the top five trends app marketers would be wise to adopt in 2021. 

Get social

Unsurprisingly, social media use also increased during the prolonged lockdown. A survey conducted in May 2020, revealed 51% of respondents “...reported increased usage on certain social media platforms” (eMarketer). Savvy mobile marketers took advantage of this uptick, pushing ads to popular platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and newcomer TikTok.  

Expect social media to remain a valuable selling tool in 2021. Hootsuite forecasts “the world’s social media users will spend a total of 3.7 trillion hours on social media in 2021” – so if you’re new to the idea of advertising on social media, it’s time to get acquainted. 

Paid social media posts are a great place to start, but shoppable video ads are undoubtedly the most dynamic way to sell products and services. “Your videos can vary from unboxing videos to tutorials or explainer videos,” advises Core DNA. “Product images can even be converted into a slideshow and user-generated content can be reposted to capitalize on the video frenzy.”

Diversify payment methods

One of the major benefits of shopping online is the myriad ways to pay. “For convenience's sake, I hope 2021 is the year we collectively agree as ecommerce professionals to let customers pay how they want, when they want, on whatever device they want,” says Kurt Elster, a senior e-commerce consultant for Shopify. Instead of forcing customers to laboriously enter credit card numbers, e-commerce apps should plan to integrate with fintech apps like Paypal and Apple Pay – or even blockchain cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ether

Customer financing options are also becoming more prevalent in the e-commerce marketplace; Apptopia reports “Buy Now, Pay Later” apps increased installs “135.7% and web visits 46.5% YoY.” Installment providers like AfterPay and Klarna are especially useful for “ or lifestyle brands that have higher-cost items” (ecommerce CEO).

Deals, deals, deals

Another big advantage driving consumers to shop online is the ease of price comparison and finding digital coupons – CouponXOO saw a 742% YoY increase in web traffic in 2020, while Statista projects 145.3 million Americans will use online coupons in 2021.

According to Apptopia, customers also favored budget-friendly superstores and wholesalers in 2020. “Amazon, Walmart, and Target were the top-shopped ecommerce businesses in the US,” and “BJ's Wholesale Club increased monthly active app users 114%.”

To take advantage of this trend, app marketers should adopt customer loyalty programs, provide exclusive online discounts, and above all else, offer customers free shipping – of the 70% of shoppers who abandon their digital carts, 49% did so due to shipping costs, taxes, and extra fees (Baymard).

In-store online

One of the major drawbacks to shopping online is the inability to see and feel products. Mobile commerce will never be able to replicate the ability to touch fabrics or test-drive a car, but thanks to augmented reality (AR) technology, apps can now provide customers the next best thing. Companies like Sony Electronics, The Sheet Society, Burrow, and Etsy have started introducing AR preview placements, which allow shoppers to envision products in their own spaces from the comfort of home. Amazon, Zeekit, ASOS, and the Warby Parker app have started using AR to offer the virtual equivalent of fitting rooms. While others – like Brosa, SuitSupply, and Lululemon – have opted to use virtual reality (VR) technology to replicate the in-person shopping experience by connecting virtual salespeople to customers at home. 

With 70% of consumers reporting that they’d be more loyal to brands that offer AR/VR experiences (invesp), it looks like this innovative technology is here to stay. 

Sustainable shopping

After the trainwreck that was 2020, consumers are more conscious than ever about protecting the planet. “There’s a huge growth in the number of small- to medium-sized ethical and sustainable brands, and customers are looking for brands who are honest and transparent about what they’re doing to help fight the carbon crisis,” notes Krissie Claire (Shopify). A 2020 report conducted by IBM supports Claire’s claims, stating 80% of surveyed consumers indicated sustainability was important to them, and of that 80%, 70% would pay a premium for environmentally conscious brands. Besides lowering the carbon footprint of your e-commerce app, mobile retailers can make a difference by choosing sustainable packaging, which has the added benefit of bolstering customer loyalty – according to a 2020 McKinsey study, “55 percent of US survey respondents report that they are extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging.”

What successful mobile commerce in 2021 will look like

  • Take advantage of increased social media usage with shoppable video ads.
  • Diversify payment options to include fintech and cryptocurrencies.
  • Entice online consumers with loyalty programs, exclusive online deals, and free shipping.
  • Experiment with AR and VR technology to replicate the in-person shopping experience.
  • Attract eco-conscious customers by lowering your carbon footprint and transitioning to sustainable packaging.