2021 Online Shopping Trends: Navigating the Shift to Online Shopping

2020 will go down as a tough year, and for obvious reasons.

But at the same time, the year has brought more progress in ecommerce and digital retail than any year in recent times. And you don’t have to look too far to see the evidence for this. In October 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development conducted a survey on COVID-19 and ecommerce. That survey showed two key things;

  • First, the pandemic accelerated major shifts towards online shopping for most of 2020, and;
  • Secondly, these COVID-driven changes in online shopping and consumer behaviors are more than likely to last forever!


Almost everyone will agree that COVID was the defining event of 2020.

However, it’s safe to say it was also the year that online shopping got a major push. Looking back at the past twelve months, here are five of the trends that defined ecommerce and online retail in 2020;


1. Online shopping will keep growing

Global retail sales stood at ‘just’ $1.4 trillion in 2014.

According to Statista, the sector recorded sales of $3.5 trillion in sales in 2019 and $4.2 trillion in 2020.

Ecommerce sales total is projected to hit almost $5 billion in 2021. And according to data from the US Commerce Department, online sales grew by as much as 40.3% in 2020.

To put that stat above in perspective, the US ecommerce sector saw its highest growth in about two decades. This sector is growing at an incredible pace and is certain to keep the momentum into2021 and beyond.

Ecommerce sales from 2014 through 2023 (Actual data and projections).

Image Credit: Statista


2. COVID will permanently change ecommerce retail

COVID-19 drove major changes in ecommerce retail in 2020.

More data from Statista shows the Canadian ecommerce sector will record about $32.4 billion in sales in 2021. This estimate represents about 8% year-over-year growth compared to 2020 figures. In the US, the sector saw $153 billion more sales driven by COVID and recorded growth that would have taken two years to achieve without the pandemic.

Before now, ecommerce has always been touted as the future of retail.

But that future seems to be coming faster than experts initially predicted, thanks to COVID-19 related buying shifts. These changes and trends will likely be prominent even after COVID is gone.

US ecommerce sales

US ecommerce growth in 2020.

Image Credit: Digital Commerce 360, US Department of Commerce


3. The rise of mobile shopping

M-commerce, the portion of ecommerce transactions conducted on mobile devices, has grown 15% since 2016. According to Oberlo, 53% of online shoppers use their smartphones to access ecommerce stores and make purchases online.

But even more critical, Statista projects that this will account for up to 73% of total ecommerce sales in 2021. This sector of the ecommerce market is just too much to leave on the table untapped. To start with, you want to focus on creating ecommerce stores and websites that are responsive and easily accessible on mobile and other channels.


4. More young people are shopping online than ever

52% of online shoppers doubled their spending online after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. While this trend was observed among shoppers of different age ranges, the most significant shift was seen among young millennials and Gen Z shoppers.

Reliable data from Shopify shows that 67% of shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 spend more money ordering products online now than they did before COVID-19.

Ecommerce businesses that want to tap into this market will consider improving their social media marketing efforts and maintaining responsive websites and stores to get started.


5. Augmented reality is transforming how we shop

Finally, there’s also the rise of AR in online retail.

Augmented reality is helping to bridge a gap that has always been a constraint for many people considering shopping online. This has to do with the inability to see the products first-hand. AR is helping potential buyers to better visualize the products they’re considering. This grew significantly in 2020, and PR Newswire predicts that up to 122,000 stores will adopt this technology in 2021.



2020 has been very busy for ecommerce. 2021 promises even more opportunities.

Ecommerce sellers across different sectors saw a massive boom in sales and patronage triggered in part by the pandemic. Niches like health and safety, digital streaming, food and beverage, among others, are cashing out on the shift in online shopping.

While the competition has always been fierce in this sector, creating a happy and positive experience for shoppers will be critical to the success of both new and established ecommerce businesses. Up to 57% of shoppers are willing to shop with a new brand for the first time. However, the purchasing experience you deliver will prove crucial to customer retention, loyalty, and subsequent growth.


What we do at Black Tusk Web

We help new and established businesses, including ecommerce, create and deliver rich experiences on the web with our cutting-edge web design and digital marketing services.

If you care about user experience and responsiveness, and you should as these things impact sales and conversion, we can help build your website from scratch or finetune what you have already to help you maximize your business’s growth potential.

Contact us at Black Tusk Web today to learn more or get started!