2021: An exploration of the year ahead for eCommerce

The seismic events that shaped the eCommerce landscape in 2020 are expected to echo long into the coming year. Especially as changing consumer behaviour and advancements in technology continue to reshape the world of retail. Payflex explores 6 of the key themes that are expected to influence the eCommerce market in 2021. 

There will be no return to ‘normal’  

Those retailers expecting business to return to ‘normal’ will be sorely disappointed. The pandemic has completely rewritten the rules of retail, pushing retailers to reimagine and adapt their customer offering to cater to the ‘next normal’.  Therefore, even though  brick-and-mortar stores have reopened, the shift to online remains pronounced. 

Customers will demand richer, immersive experiences

The pandemic has signalled a tipping point when it comes to consumer expectations, accelerating demand for more personal, sensory, and richer online experiences. For instance, immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR), 360° video, 3D content and virtual reality (VR) are proving to be the next frontier in eCommerce, providing shoppers with greater purchasing certainty and control over the digital shopping experience.  For example, a recent report by Accenture emphasised the importance of immersive technology, finding 47% would pay extra for a product if they could customize it or personalize it using immersive technologies.

An omnichannel strategy will be key

Multiple channels will be used in the customers’ path to purchase. COVID-19 has significantly catalysed the simultaneous use of both on and offline whether for click-and-collect, contactless delivery, or other fulfillment options.  In addition, implementing omnichannel strategies today will help retailers be better prepared for a post-COVID retail environment. 

Alternative payment options to dominate

Customers are increasingly demanding greater control and more flexibility over the way they pay online. Therefore,  alternative payment methods like Buy Now Pay Later and Digital Wallets have been turbocharged by the pandemic.  Moreover, a recent report by Worldpay from FIS forecasts that BNPL services will steadily gain eCommerce market share ultimately earning nearly 3% of global eCommerce spend by 2023. Similarly, a recent report from IBISWorld predicts the BNPL industry will grow by 9.8% annually over the next five years to $1.1 billion. Consequently, those retailers who fail to offer multiple payment platforms on their site will find themselves on the back foot.

Convenience will be the new currency

Consumers are increasingly demanding convenience on their terms at every stage of the shopping journey. For instance, Deloitte’s 2020 Retail Industry Outlook found consumers are willing to pay more for convenience. As consumers become more comfortable with eCommerce, they’ll increasingly choose brands who provide convenience in the way they choose. Therefore, retailers need to understand how they can adapt their offerings to ensure the best experience possible. 

Sustainability will be high on the agenda

Consumers are becoming  more and more environmentally aware, and demanding greater transparency and meaning in their shopping journey. As a result, 89% of consumers will make more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases in the post-crisis environment. Therefore, retailers need to readjust their offerings by offering more environmentally friendly and sustainably sourced goods. 


It is clear that the virus has fundamentally changed the reality for retailers. Above all, 2021 will undoubtedly be a landmark year for the eCommerce sector. As the sector adjusts to the next normal, retailers will need to set themselves apart. By deploying solutions that minimise pain points, retailers will maximise the customer experience across the consumer shopping journey.