Everyone is slowly getting used to the new normal; social distancing, working from home, and doing everything to avoid the pandemic. This situation has led to huge leaps in the ecommerce world, as online shopping is safer than in-store shopping. Current data suggests that the pandemic has accelerated ecommerce growth by about five years.
With the increasing focus on ecommerce, almost every ecommerce platform has had to refine its services and products to match the demand for specific features. Fortunately, most of these features are here to stay. The earlier you embrace them, you will be able to grow your business online more easily and smoothly.
If you have already started building the ecommerce face of your business, you’re in luck! Most of these new features and trends will call for a store redesign or a platform migration. No, you won’t have to completely overhaul your store — a few tweaks here and there will suffice. You can carry forward the store features you love.
Here are some of the few trends to keep an eye out for in 2021 and how to pick the best ecommerce platform:
1. Speed Remains Essential to Delivering an Optimal User Experience
Many marketing channels and ecommerce platforms focus on mobile device users, which makes ecommerce platform speed and mobile-friendliness necessities. The downside is that while most platforms are designed to provide mobile-friendly theming, speed often takes a backseat. Many platform themes focus on providing numerous attractive features to impress business owners, but they don’t always emphasize optimal speed.
If you are using the native version of most platforms, you might need to make tweaks to improve the site’s speed. This is especially essential for businesses that traditionally rely on Google for traffic. Targeting page speed metrics and Core Web Vitals is a sure way to improve your search engine rankings. Failing to make the necessary adjustments to improve website speed will hurt traffic generation opportunities and your conversion rates.
What Makes Improving Platforms Speed a Bit Complicated
Most basic ecommerce platforms struggle to provide end-to-end ecommerce experiences. In turn, businesses are forced to rely on third-party apps and extensions in the areas their ecommerce platform falls short. Since these apps and extensions are increasingly tasked with the role of supplementing these shortcomings, they can have a significant impact on speed and site experience. If the platform you use doesn’t have an API that is strong enough to support high-volume requests, it will depend on these apps and extensions to remain competitive.
On the flip side, most of these extensions are created for specific customizations that are in demand. Most business owners rarely stop and ask how these customizations will affect site speed.
Lastly, content tends to be a huge bandwidth burner for most platforms. There has been an increasing focus on using new-generation content delivery forms like video, VR or AR, audio, and other forms of interactive content. While most sites can handle traditional content effectively, they might not be strong enough to host modern content at optimal speeds.
What Is the Best Ecommerce Platform in Terms of Speed?
There is no clear-cut winner when it comes to ecommerce platform speeds, but there are leaders in the space:
- Shopify Plus: scores very high on technical speeds, especially if you can limit technical debt in apps.
- BigCommerce: offers a very impressive native version, has a strong API, and depends less on third-party apps for performance boosts. It is also a great option for brands that want to deliver content at optimized speeds, thanks to its headless builds.
- Magento, Woocommerce, and SalesForce Commerce Cloud: all three underperform in their native versions but can be performance kings when optimized for site speeds. Magento can easily beat strong sites like Shopify Plus and BigCommerce if optimized correctly.
The trick lies in picking an ecommerce platform that will perform optimally in terms of speed while supporting the business features you value.
2. Look for a Platform With Optimized Multi-Channel Ecommerce Support
Ecommerce platforms have slowly been turning into centers for multi-channel ecommerce opportunities. It has become common to see platforms build native integrations with high-priority selling channels for their customers. In turn, this enables businesses to offer customers engaging and meaningful experiences. Businesses can easily sell their products on social media and other marketplaces if their platform provides multi-channel support. This is a way cheaper option than looking for third party services for the same.
Considering that 36% of US consumers visit social sites for information on product purchases, delivering information and products right where these customers already shop is essential. Luckily, Facebook and Instagram shops can be easily integrated with Shopify and BigCommerce. This will ensure your brand can easily attract new customers and form stronger relationships with their current ones on these channels. Shopify also provides support for TikTok, and BigCommerce is expected to follow suit soon.
BigCommerce has a new custom channel feature that will help support channels that aren’t widely supported by other stores but are important to your business. It allows you to internally standardize a new 2nd party integration to BigCommerce in the same way a prebuilt one would work. This will help you dodge major costs that would have occurred when working with SaaS middlemen.
The main takeaway: work with the best ecommerce platform that offers optimal support for the selling channels you value as a brand.
3. Look for Channels That Support B2B and International Sales
A lot of pandemic changes in the ecommerce space are bound to outlive COVID-19. For instance, COVID-19 made it tough for D2C businesses to conduct business in-person. While ecommerce has always been an obvious alternative, many businesses are only just starting to embrace it, which might be a norm post-pandemic. Digitally native, D2C brands have also been switching to dropshipping, retail, or B2B for the first time.
For businesses that already have an international customer base, the right ecommerce platform can help fulfill customer needs with ease. It can ensure payment localization, accurate shipping, and fraud detection. Since English is a prevalent language in most markets, creating a strong international front with the right platform isn’t as challenging. The same applies to businesses that are just starting to become global.
The good thing is that most ecommerce platforms have done the heavy lifting to eliminate common barriers to thriving in the B2B and global space. For instance, BigCommerce’s platform can compete with those more dedicated to B2B brands, and you can easily close any gaps with a single app.
Shopify Plus performs well internationally and could be a great choice for American businesses looking to sell in markets like South America, Asia, and EMEA. It all depends on your brand’s needs. Comparing the top ecommerce platforms could help you make the best choice.
4. Platforms That Support Video Content Are Ideal
All indications suggest that video content will be huge in 2021, and the best ecommerce platform is one that is aligned with this trend. With improving technology performance, dropping bandwidth limits, and increasing internet speeds, integrating video content into ecommerce stores has never been easier. To top it all off, the average consumer is expected to watch 100 minutes of video content per day — a 19% rise from 2019. Consumers expect video content.
Unfortunately, many ecommerce platforms aren’t designed with video content in mind. Their native versions are designed to host image content, from banners to product galleries. Brands often have to rely on third-party video embeds to integrate video content into product galleries, UGC gathering opportunities, banner and banner management tools. Shopify is ahead of the curve in this area and could be a great option if you are looking for an ecommerce platform that emphasizes this feature.
5. Compliance Should Play a Central Role
Government policies, legal restrictions, and liabilities are increasingly looking to oversee the ecommerce space, and complying with them can be expensive. The ecommerce platform you choose will determine how easy it is to comply. For instance, many platforms are integrating tax compliance solutions like Avalara, which have been effective at reducing tax liability when selling nationally or globally.
At the same time, most platforms have been nonchalant at helping their users comply with most consumer privacy protection laws like GDPR and CCPA. There has also been less of a push from the platforms to have app developers focus on compliance, especially on app-dependent platforms like Shopify.
The onus is upon you, as the business owner, to ensure your business is compliant. The best ecommerce platform for you is the one that optimizes your compliance.
Make Changes Early On in the Year
Q1 and Q2 might be the best times to redesign or re-platform your ecommerce site. Both times come with fewer external stressors like holiday season sales, which allows you to focus on creating the right ecommerce environment for your business.
Remember, getting most features on the native version of your ecommerce platform of choice could reduce the cost of seeking third-party services. You can also expect better site performance with native features and customizations. List everything that matters to your brand and choose a platform that offers those features.