In 2020, retailers were forced to rapidly adapt and change their ecommerce offering. Click-and-collect, same-day delivery and even the way they engaged with customers quickly became methods of differentiation; an added bonus for consumers and a way for retailers to stand out amongst the competition.

While these standards of convenience initially served as a way to attract customers, when we look towards the future of the retail industry, there’s a decision to be made as to which will be converted from short-term convenience to long-term standard of ecommerce.

When it comes to retail in 2021, what features should retailers implement to attract or convert customers?

Click-and-collect and express delivery

For retailers, adapting to ever-changing lockdown regulations, the loss of foot traffic and the sudden reliance on ecommerce created a number of challenges. Seemingly overnight, they had to find a way to bridge consumer expectations and convenience, which saw a surge in click-and-collect usage.

Data shows 85% of shoppers have increased the use of Click-and-Collect since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The service, driven by convenience more than immediacy, is likely to remain important throughout 2021 and pure-play online retailers should consider click-and-collect style options such as collection lockers and drop boxes along with other delivery options.

Over time, consumers have come to understand the complexity of unavoidable delivery delays and have become more patient and brand loyal as a result. While fast shipping will always be a growth accelerant, free delivery is far more important to 71% of consumers than fast delivery (at 19%) according to our 2021 State of Ecommerce report.

If click-and-collect is an untenable solution, retailers should offer online shoppers free delivery or discounted delivery options where possible.

Contactless payments

With the buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services on the rise, offering the option for customers to pay via BNPL service in addition to card payment methods will become a key part of the shopping experience.

On top of this, the appetite for different payment options has noticeably increased in the past 12 months where online retailers offered, on average, two or more payment options at check out in 2020 than they did in 2019.

That said, it’s important to note that retailers need to be aware of their demographic when offering payment options for different age groups. The BigCommerce 2021 State of Ecommerce report shows those aged 24 to 34 are more reliant on BNPL services as a payment method compared to 55-65+ years who are more reliant on secure payment methods like PayPal.

Digital experiences

Ultimately, it is technology that makes the shopping experience (whether in-store or online) easier for the customer. Retailers need to be thinking with a digital-first lens.

Fast page load times, live chat features, personalised customer service and prompt issues management are essential for businesses to survive online. A massive 99% of online shoppers would become repeat purchasers if a retailer could respond and resolve a problem with speed, showing that the back-end of a business needs to be as reliable and seamless as possible.

At the end of the day, it’s about communication – consumers want to know that there’s a human to talk to at the other end of the business. It means that successful retailers need the right technology to support their online presence.

Social commerce

Social commerce is playing an increasing role in attracting new customers through brand discovery. It enables retailers to meet the consumer where they are – with the overall goal to simplify the path to conversion, build consumer confidence and optimise the user experience. 

While Facebook and Instagram are dominant channels for social commerce, other platforms like Tik Tok and Snapchat are growing. With this, we also are seeing an increase in the number of retailers experimenting on and commercialising social media platforms.

Retailers should be looking into how social media platforms can be used to resonate with their audience and existing customer base.

The challenge for retailers now is deciding which of those rapidly adopted strategies survive in the long term. Time has shown consumers can be understanding if they know and trust the brand, highlighting that above all, convenience along with clear and consistent communication with customers are the most fundamental elements to success for retailers in 2021.

Shannon Ingrey is vice president and general manager for Australia and New Zealand at BigCommerce.