How to build a grade-A ecommerce platform in 2021

It seems like everybody today is building an ecommerce solution — and not for nothing. Just look at the 2020 year-end shopping forecast: Adobe predicts that online holiday spending will soar to $200B (up 47% YoY), taking into account lockdowns, stimulus payments, and physical store closures.

The Adobe report was titled, “Two Years of Growth in One Season,” which sounds about right. After all, the exodus from storefront to digital cart was ramping prior to 2020; Covid-19 simply put the inevitable into hyperdrive.

The Adobe holiday forecast reveals several key ecommerce trends, such as:

  • About half of all online shopping occurs on smartphones
  • Large retailers will see a +84% daily revenue boost
  • Small retailers will see a +107% daily revenue boost

And 2021 shows no signs of slowing, with total ecommerce retail spend is expected to pass $407B. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story — what about the things like ecommerce related voice ordering, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), cryptocurrency payment, and drone delivery? And what works better for ecommerce, a mobile website or an app?

Curious? Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to create a successful ecommerce platform.

Step one: Find your niche

Many brands want to dive right in to developing their website or app before clearly defining their business. But wait a minute! Slow down and think first. The advertising legend Ogilvy & Mather created over $1.48B in ads, spent $4.9M tracking the results, and found that the most important decision, according to David Ogilvy, is positioning.

So, instead of saying you sell socks, why not sell socks for women? Or even better, say super-soft socks for women. You can even refine it further to super-soft socks for women with sensitive feet!

This process of fine-tuning your niche serves several purposes:

  • It sets you apart from the competition
  • It places you out of the shadow of large mega-brands
  • It boosts product search success since longer, well-defined (“long-tail”) search terms have less competition
Other potential criteria to define your niche can include:
  • By area (neighborhood, city, country, region)
  • By target customer (age, gender, interests)
  • By price (exclusive, budget, high-end, cheap)
  • By sales method (subscriptions, memberships)

Step two: Choose between ecommerce mobile app vs. website

Ecommerce mobile app vs. website

Ecommerce development depends largely on what platform you choose. There are websites and there are apps, and they may seem similar on the surface. Both can be viewed on a smartphone, but mobile websites are accessed through the browser.

Apps, on the other hand, function as a standalone portal and can be downloaded from an app store or accessed through a brand’s website. Both websites and apps should be designed for user-friendliness, but they deliver different customer journeys.

Where mobile web wins:

  • Customers tend to prefer mobile websites for product searches
  • New customers rarely go to an app to get to know the brand
  • Mobile sites appear in web search results
  • No need to develop mobile web for different operating systems (iOS, Android)
  • Easier support and maintenance

Where mobile apps win:

  • They inspire customers to become loyal, long term clients
  • They enable direct customer engagement via push notifications about discounts, sales, new products and relevant news
  • Can be sold on an app store
  • Better user experience (faster load, easier to use, more customizable)
  • Apps can work offline

Many brands opt for having both a mobile web experience and an app for the sake of revenue stream diversification and improved customer experience.

Step three: Emerging ecommerce features for 2021

Emerging ecommerce features for 2021

The speed of innovation never slows down, so what type of emerging ecommerce features can we look forward to in 2021? The businesses that effectively leverage these innovations will certainly stand out, so let’s review the options.

Voice ecommerce

If a feature makes life easier, it will succeed. When consumers can navigate through your website or app by voice commands, it improves the experience. Typing and tapping on a tiny screen isn’t always the best option, but voice commands feel like a conversation. If customers can “tell” your app or site what to do, they’ll love it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI enables you to crunch customer data faster to make predictions later. Why is this important? Because these predictions are made at a very granular level to tailor offers to individuals. This boosts conversion as every person automatically becomes their own audience segment, empowering you to serve them in a highly personal manner. By analyzing customer behavior, AI enables you to maximize the success rate of your ecommerce efforts. Plus, data can even be captured beyond activity directly on your site.

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR knits together the virtual with the real. We’ve all seen the funny, distorted faces people create using smartphone apps; with the same tech, shoppers can take a video of themselves and AR tools will show them how they look wearing different clothes, makeup, or eyeware. Same goes for home goods — snap a photo of your room and you can “see” how furniture or decor will look before you buy.

Multiple payment methods: Cryptocurrencies & social

The days of paying by credit or debit card alone are quickly fading. Cryptocurrency payment will continue to rise in popularity, with some shoppers already actively seeking businesses that accept Bitcoin. Meanwhile, social payment transforms social media into an ecommerce outlet where shopping and buying occur directly on the platform.

Subscription-based ecommerce models

Subscription-based ecommerce enables customers to automate purchase of products or services they need on a recurring basis, increasing customer lifetime value significantly. A mobile app is the perfect vehicle to showcase and sell ecommerce subscriptions.

Enhanced delivery options

Drones may be the most exotic delivery option, but they will probably become commonplace sooner than we think. Meanwhile, advanced third party logistics (3PL) with smart warehousing and fulfillment solutions are making same-day or overnight delivery a major business differentiator. Did you know that same-day delivery can increase purchase conversion during the checkout process by 20 to 30 percent?

Smash hit ecommerce brand examples

To showcase the true power of tech advancements in ecommerce, let’s have a look at some excellent examples from iTechArt’s client roster.

First up, one of our ecommerce development projects for PackageFree included beefing up its Shopify storefront, helping them achieve better customer retention and a 16 percent increase in sales.

In teaming up with Freshly, a leading healthy meal startup recently acquired by Nestlé, we upgraded its checkout and sales funnel components to make the best of its subscription-based ecommerce model.

Another client, Artspace, is a digital marketplace for fine art. We scaled the client’s feature-rich solution by leveraging tailor-made extensions and two-way integrations with other business systems that help elevate Artspace to the next level.

Ecommerce development solutions

With all the incredible technology due to make waves next year, everything should point towards the same bottom line: The best solutions and tools will increase customer engagement, attract new shoppers, and boost conversions. As for the businesses that can distill and incorporate it all into one effective package? They’ll not only thrive next year, but well beyond.

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