The State of eCommerce 2021: how much do you know about your retail rivals?

Ruth Peters
March 29, 2022

When you run or manage an eCommerce business, there’s almost no limit to what your competitors can do — or how many of them there can be.

When you run or manage an eCommerce business, there’s almost no limit to what your competitors can do — or how many of them there can be.

In a mall or on the High Street, there’s only a set number of lots. And besides from in-store merchandising, there’s not a great deal that businesses can do to set themselves apart.

Online, it’s a totally different ball game. Between free next day delivery, 365-day return windows, and “recommended for you” personalization, eCommerce brands have access to many more points of competitive differentiation — and they really know how to use them.

Take your eye off the ball for just one moment, and you may end up being left behind; resulting in an on-site eCommerce experience that’s lacking in comparison to the competition. And with 84% of customers (salesforce) agreeing that experiences are just as important as the products and services themselves, you could find yourself losing sales fast.

The remedy? Keeping up to date with what’s changing in the world of eCommerce. Both in terms of the latest tech and trends, but what customers are expecting, too. And that’s why we commissioned our State of eCommerce 2020 report. Comprising 100+ hours of real-world research, exploring 108 different eCommerce sites, we’ve come up with the year’s need-to-know findings: who’s doing what, which sectors and brands are leading the way, and how do you measure up side-by-side?

eCommerce in 2020: what do you need to know?

Our 20 page report goes into detail on the key stages of the on-site shopping experience, from initial consideration to post-purchase support, including returns policies and payment options.

But what are the main findings for each stage of the journey?

The consideration phase

Chatbots have been a topic of debate in eCommerce design for several years, but how well are brands using them to their advantage today?

Only 60% of our total sample is using chatbots to connect shoppers to human customer service agents. And AI-powered bots are used even less frequently across the sectors, with only 7% of websites tested putting them to use.

Why? Chatbots are a great opportunity to support shoppers in the consideration phase; answering questions, recommending products, and otherwise helping move a potential customer closer and closer to a sale. But they’re not easy to get right. A chatbot feature left unattended can actually do more harm than good, given that shoppers expect super speedy responses to their messages.

Are you utilizing chatbot features on your website today? How quick is your response time?

Increasing checkout conversion and upselling

At simplictyDX, we like to talk about conversion as friction and pull.

Pull features are anything that help nudge a customer towards checkout — user reviews, product videos, flexible payment and delivery options. All of these add up and can make your eCommerce experience more impressive than a competitor’s. Friction on the other hand is anything that causes a shopper to falter, second-guess, or (worse) click away.

Payment and delivery options are some of the best examples of possible pull, and possible friction, at play right before check out. At this stage, a shopper will have made their selection… but the sale isn’t in the bag just yet.

In our study, we found that 62% of eCommerce sites are offering next day delivery. And 27% of brands have also built in extra flexibility, with “buy now, pay later” schemes as well.

This matters to customers, especially in 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Shoppers like the guarantee and predictability of next day delivery. While the flexibility of “buy now, pay later” reassures them that the brand has their needs in mind, too.

How do you show your customers that you understand their wants and needs?

Supporting customers post-purchase

A generous returns policy can also help “pull” a customer towards a sale. And while the advertised window can be a differentiator at checkout, it’s not until after the sale that this either really impresses, or seriously disappoints.

So what’s the average return window in 2020? 67 days.

That’s over two months for shoppers to change their mind on a product and get their money back — and evidence of brands going above and beyond what’s legally required of them.

Sector by sector, the return windows differ a great deal. In High-End fashion, the average returns policy is a little over 3 weeks. At the other end of the scale, Sporting Goods brands allow customers an average of 144 days for refund or exchange.

As the industry continues to adjust and adapt to COVID-19, we’re expecting to see these windows grow ever wider as well. Again, providing that truth and reassurance that helps secure the sale.

Moving into 2021, the more generous you can be with your returns, the better. But it’s worth understanding what your rivals are offering customers, too.

Unlock the full insights with our State of eCommerce 2020 report

eCommerce has done well in 2020, but 2021 could be even better.

Armed with the insights and intel from our State of eCommerce report, you can plan to deliver the features and flexibility shoppers have come to expect. Better still, you can begin to out-move the competition — starting next year one step ahead.

Download your free copy today.

Also check out these articles on eCommerce:

Headless Commerce Demystified

What is omnichannel eCommerce?

Product News: Alert! Get notified when your eCommerce customers are struggling

eCommerce checkout best practice: 3 checkout UX tips to secure your sales

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