Five omnichannel trends to look out for in 2021

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Want to know what’s next for omnichannel retail? Here are the expert predictions.


Omnichannel may not be new, but post-COVID-19, it’s coming into its own.


Omnichannel retail refers to the connection between bricks-and-mortar and digital shopping, with technology the conduit between the two.


These days, consumers expect a seamless shopping experience – from the time they search for your brand online, to the moment they visit a store, opt to order online and then receive their goods (and go back and forth between all these stages).


To meet consumer expectations, it’s vital that retailers learn to navigate the omnichannel retail environment.


Here are five omnichannel trends retailers should be aware of in 2021.


1. The booming market of social commerce


Social media has become a crucial marketing tool to many businesses, but in 2021 experts predict that social commerce – or selling products directly from social media – will take off.


In fact, research suggests that, globally, social commerce will be worth US$604.5 billion by 2027.


So, what is it? Social commerce involves selling products directly from social media, where e-tailers embed links into posts so consumers can easily click through to buy coveted items.


On sites like Instagram, shoppable posts are indicated with a shopping bag icon in the top right-hand corner of the post.


It’s likely that social commerce will grow even faster in the wake of Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, says Michael Betts of AKQA Media. That’s because Facebook has announced that it will be focused on driving more sales within its own apps in response to Apple’s update, which restricts access to third-party app data.


2. The rise of shoppable video


Shoppable video is video that is embedded in social media posts that allows consumers to buy the products featured without having to leave the video.


Discount e-tailer Catch is a great example. It regularly posts shoppable videos on social sites such as Instagram, easily allowing consumers to click through and buy everything from sneakers to swimsuits.

Video is good for long-term brand building but not as good for generating sales.

- Michael Betts, Media Innovation Lead at AKQA Media

Betts says it’s important to understand shoppable video is good for brand recognition, even though people may not immediately buy. “People tend to be passive, not active, when they consume videos – they want to be entertained. This is why video is good for long-term brand building but not as good for generating sales.”


3. Moving beyond 'cost per acquisition' when measuring marketing campaigns


Last-touch attribution is a model where marketers credit the last ad that buyers view before purchasing a product as the reason for the sale.


But this is a very basic measurement tool. In fact, shoppers typically progress through multiple touchpoints when they make a purchase; for example, a consumer might discover a product on a niche fashion website, and then go online to research it using Google, before eventually buying it.


In this example, Google receives the ‘credit’ for the sale, when in fact the discovery channel was the fashion website. So, measuring campaigns by last-touch attribution and cost per acquisition doesn’t necessarily deliver marketers the full scope of an advertising campaign.


An alternative approach is to use deterministic or predictive data to target a group of people who are more likely to buy a product or service. For instance, a person who books a flight from Sydney to Melbourne may also be looking for hotel accommodation or car hire. Hotel chains and car hire companies could access and activate this data in order to target travellers.


4. Click and collect comes of age


There’s little doubt that COVID-19 has caused a surge in demand for click-and-collect services – and the trend is poised to continue long after the threat of coronavirus has subsided.

Everyone’s different and shoppers want the delivery option that suits their individual purchase

- David McLean, the founder and CEO of HUBBED

“It’s important to offer a range of different delivery options to secure the highest-possible conversion rates at the checkout,” says David McLean, the founder and CEO or parcel collection point HUBBED. “Everyone’s different and shoppers want the delivery option that suits their individual purchase,” he adds. “Especially when it comes to valuable items, sending purchases directly to a click-and-collect point, rather than simply leaving the package outside a home. This gives buyers peace of mind that their package won’t be stolen.”


5. A seamless shopping cart experience


A huge number of shoppers walk away from an online purchase once they reach the shopping cart, with one study suggesting up to three-quarters of shoppers abandon their cart before completing a sale. This means that a frictionless shopping cart experience is paramount for converting people who are just browsing into buyers.


“The shopping cart should be a seamless experience,” says McLean. “You shouldn’t have to jump out of your shopping cart, go somewhere else or follow another link. It should all be integrated directly into the shopping-and-buying experience.”


For instance, shoppers now expect to be offered a huge variety of payment options – including buy-now-pay-later services like Afterpay – and for the checkout to be simple, fast and include live chat.


These are just some of the trends driving e-commerce right now. No matter if you’re a small or large e-tailer, what’s important is to understand how consumers are buying – and how their shopping patterns are changing – as well as emerging trends to help you build the right omnichannel strategy for you.


Alexandra Cain is a freelance journalist who writes for titles such as The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald.

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