eCommerce in 2021: Lessons, trends and discoveries

December 20, 2021 by
Frank Calviño
Photo by Mark Konig for Unsplash

eCommerce in 2021 gave us a lot to learn: mobile devices became absolute kings of global sales, SEO changes affected deeply many retail sectors - mainly for those using Google, who also happen to be the vast majority - and multimedia formats spread like wildfire thanks to higher connection speeds and first continental implementations of 5G technologies. 

Indeed, 2021 was a year of changes but also, a year that consolidated trends and techniques, and henceforth: a key year for understanding the future of eCommerce

Let us review some of these lessons, trends, and discoveries, in order to brace ourselves for what the near future of eCommerce could bring! 

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The smartphones ruled eCommerce in 2021

The use of smartphones for buying or selling online, something that was not so long ago was considered a “complementary way of selling online”, became for the first time the standard in 2021. 

Up to 51% of online traffic is sourced from mobile devices, according to Statista. And over 53% of the people who bought something in 2021, did it via a mobile device, mostly, a smartphone.  

Rounding up, 54% of total eCommerce sales came from mobile commerce during 2021. And the overall share of the retail sector for mobile eCommerce reached $3.56 trillion by the end of 2021.

These are some of the most relevant statistics for mobile eCommerce in 2021

  • Mobile accounts for over 67.2% of all e-commerce.
  • 67.03% of the global population owns a mobile phone in 2021.
  • 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile devices.
  • In 2020, US mobile retail revenues were $339.03 billion.
  • 72.9% of all e-commerce will be m-commerce by the end of 2021.
Photo by Adrien Pvck for Unsplash

All kinds of eCommerce can benefit from mobile? 

Mostly yes. But fashion and food seem to be the two sectors most benefited - o better suited - for mobile eCommerce in 2021. 

This is further enhanced by social media like Instagram or TikTok, which have developed into fashion and food as main content sources. Creating communities that are interested and oriented towards the consumption of this kind of content, and thus, of this kind of product. 

 Mobile banking and mobile wallets 

Another key factor that propelled mobile eCommerce in 2021, was mobile banking and mobile wallets. Due to the Covid pandemic, many banks decided to enforce full mobile functionalities or at least, push most of their traditionally physical services into the app format. This happened on a global scale and currently, more than 1 billion mobile phone users do their banking through their phones worldwide.

With these changes, banks became more capable of handling mobile transactions, by de facto including these capabilities in their own official banking apps on both the GooglePlay Store and the App Store.

At the same time, the Covid derived complexity of using cash, pushed mostly all major global payment methods to optimized payment options for mobile eCommerce in 2021. 

Services like PayPal, a major global player for online payments, became even more efficient in their mobile versions, and added functionalities like deferred payment options and credit options, to help surf the wave of increasing mobile eCommerce sales in 2021. 

Photo by Bruce Mars for Unsplash

What products were “bestsellers” for eCommerce in 2021? 

According to Amazon statistics, the most sold products of 2021 are small retail products. These products were the absolute beasts of eCommerce in 2021, accounting for well over 80% of the total products sold. 

With an average ticket below $30, these products also defined themselves with other shared characteristics: small size and the fact that they are durable goods. 

Things like digital alarm clocks, scales, phone chargers  - and curiously enough - a survival straw… became the objects of desire of global buyers. 

Not all was peaches and roses for global eCommerce in 2021

Two major things happened to the global eCommerce in 2021: the massive container crisis - which still lingers on -  and the global inflation that is starting to spread due to the economic impact of the pandemic. 

These two phenomena have left us with three key lessons to learn: 

  • Keep secondary production centers as close as possible to your market: The Covid situation halted commerce and industrial activities in Asia, de facto rendering the global factory of the world inoperative. Companies that depended entirely on manufacturing in China faced massive operational problems. Also, the container crisis originated in South Asian ports, meaning that it started to spread there and affected most, companies that imported from Asia.  
  • Automatization is key: Having multiply automated - obviously, at very different degrees - warehouses all around the world was a key factor for Amazon to weather the storm of the pandemic. And in the future, having the capacity of automatization will be of paramount importance: it could be the only way to prevent a company from freezing production under a quarantine. And automatization does not mean letting go of workers: In Japan, several supermarkets sent their employees to work from home by driving and remotely controlling drones that did the physical job inside the supermarket.  
  • Flexible payment options: The need for products will continue to rise during 2022 - 2024. And most of the countries have already have informed of a coming global recession. Wise brands will do good in having flexible payment options: deferred payments, credit lines, and the like, will be of paramount importance to guarantee future sales. Also, cash has - for the time being - become almost irrelevant. Keep this in mind and open your store or eCommerce to the possibility of accepting Bitcoins and other forms of cryptocurrency, although… with the proper precautions. 

All in all, eCommerce in 2021 grew fast, wild, and powerful. It has become the main format for buying and selling things on a global scale. And, thanks to its capabilities it is the best-suited industry to weather disasters like the Covid pandemic. 

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