Cross-border e-commerce retail has accelerated due to the pandemic, but what will 2021 look like?

Even though 2020 is only just behind us, savvy cross-border e-commerce brands are not resting on their laurels when it comes to 2021.

Having navigated a very difficult year with unprecedented year on year growth, ESW experts advise cross-border e-commerce brands how to build and maintain momentum, and what trends they can expect to take off in 2021.

Supply chain and inventory management

As the pandemic has made clear, retailers need to be able to pivot to online at a moment’s notice, and strengthening digital offerings was how many brands managed the chaos of operating in a pandemic.

Moving forward, demand for solutions that optimize how inventory is being managed will become evermore important. Omnichannel was already gaining traction pre-pandemic, but has really stepped into its own as shoppers demand options that provide convenience when shopping online. Whether it is buying online and picking up instore, return to store facilities, or click and collect, shoppers can be reassured by multiple delivery and returns options that they can utilize to make their purchase experience safe and convenient.

Retailers with both brick and mortar and online offerings will find they will capture a greater number of shoppers by combining all channels and providing a unified omnichannel experience.

Sustainability: Good for the World, Good for the Shopper

A key driver of customer loyalty and an ongoing consideration for retailers, sustainability is coming to the forefront across almost all touchpoints of e-commerce businesses.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) even before the pandemic precipitated massive e-commerce growth, “Growing demand for e-commerce delivery will result in 36% more delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030, leading to a rise in both emissions and traffic congestion… Without effective intervention, urban last-mile delivery emissions and traffic congestion are on track to increase by over 30% in the top 100 cities globally.”

From reducing carbon footprint via slower and cheaper delivery, or allowing customers to offset their carbon costs, brands are seeing the sustainability of their businesses and operating models become of growing importance for shoppers.

Packaging is an area that brands are evaluating in order to provide more sustainable options in 2021 and beyond. Boxes should be sized correctly for the items they contain, and packaging materials and protection such as packaging peanuts should be recyclable or reusable. This will not only help the environment but help lower packaging (and shipping) costs for brands.

It’s not just across shopper touchpoints that sustainability is important– more and more brands are aiming to ensure all their facilities reach a carbon neutral status. From warehouses to final mile carriers, the benefits of implementing sustainable measures are good for both the shopper and the business.

Frictionless Payment Methods No Matter Where Or How You Shop  

When selling cross-border, payment methods and a frictionless checkout experience are key to a good shopper journey, and knowledge of the local market and its demographics is essential to maximizing conversions.

As different age groups have their own preferred payment methods, and different markets prefer different payment methods or might have their own such as iDEAL in the Netherlands or OXXO in Mexico, brands need to understand each market separately and the costs and benefits of adding each payment method.

Paying in instalment (known as Buy now Pay Later) with payment methods such as Klarna and AfterPay is becoming increasingly popular with some ESW retailers seeing the method claiming almost 40% of the checkout and uplifting order value by 4-5%.

Using express payment methods such as PayPal or Google Pay also helps shoppers have a more frictionless shopper journey, and it’s especially important on mobile apps, as shoppers move more toward shopping on smartphones. There are also market-specific express payments that are important to be aware of such as KaKao in Korea or WeChat in China.

Post-Purchase Customer Retention

With more and more businesses and more shopper demographics moving online and unlikely to revert, e-commerce brands need to provide the best shopper experience at every step of the journey. This includes an area that is often overlooked – post-purchase retention.

While communication – especially during unusual periods such as a lockdown in a pandemic – is always important, it is especially essential in these times to reassure the customer after their buying experience, whether it’s confirming delivery times or alerting to shipping or other delays. Having visible, clear communication will not only reassure the customer but will also reduce customer service load during these particularly busy times.

In addition, following up post-purchase with personalized recommendations or promotions, or engagement initiatives – such as inviting them to post a pic of their purchase on Instagram for the chance to be featured on the brand’s website – will show the customer the journey doesn’t end once payment is made.

Conclusion

ecommerce trends 2021

With 2020 firmly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start looking forward to 2021 and building on the insights and innovations that came from navigating an unprecedented year. Cross-border e-commerce brands will need to continue to prioritize and optimize the shopper experience across all touchpoints in the business to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, focusing on sustainability, supply chain, post-purchase retention and payment methods.

Cross-border Ecommerce A Buyer’s Guide