Tech Trends in 2021: Mobile, Video, and Bots Will Continue to Reshape E-Commerce

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Click to learn more about author James Brear.

This has been a wild year for e-commerce. Online shopping was already growing steadily each year heading into 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic sent more consumers than ever before to the Internet. Virtually every retail sector – from furniture to medical supplies to electronics to food and beverage – has experienced a sharp rise in online revenue.

Ultimately, 2020 will go down as an inflection point for e-commerce, a period that helped change buying habits forever. In 2021, even if the pandemic eases and economies fully open, consumers will still continue spending record amounts of money online. To accommodate the massive growth in e-commerce and provide these customers with an optimal, engaging experience, retailers will increasingly leverage several emerging technologies and new approaches next year. In 2021, these seven trends will define online shopping.

Mobile commerce will eclipse traditional e-commerce: Next year, mobile commerce revenue will surpass, or at least match, revenue from traditional desktop-based e-commerce. More consumers are using their mobile devices for online shopping than ever before, and retailers are responding by improving and promoting their mobile platforms. Personalization is key in e-commerce, and the mobile experience is far more personal than the PC experience.

Video will drive increasing online retail revenue: In 2021, video content will become an increasingly important part of the e-commerce experience. Video provides customers with a much more immersive and in-depth view of products, bringing them to life by demonstrating how they actually work in the real world. In addition, video gives retailers the chance to better showcase a brand’s creativity, personality, and sense of humor, which goes a long way in connecting with target demographics. We will continue to see e-commerce companies partnering with social media platforms (e.g., Shopify with TikTok) that allow for shoppers to view videos and purchase directly through the app seamlessly.

E-commerce will experiment with augmented reality: Just as video and social media will grow in online retail, so too will augmented reality (AR). AR enables customers to experience a product without seeing it in person. This provides a more intimate, personalized experience. This experience will be critical for shoppers to differentiate between common consumer products such as computer mouses and furniture that are difficult to evaluate in an ordinary online experience.

Good bots will defeat bad bots: More retailers will start leveraging bot technology for good, particularly to combat bad bots that are being used to snap up the supply of a hot new product and then sell it on secondary markets at a huge markup. NVIDIA recently made headlines when its highly anticipated Ampere GPU was sold out almost immediately after its launch online, with scalpers using bots to purchase the GPUs in mass, then resell them on sites like eBay at outrageous prices. The same problem has plagued the concert and shoe industries for years. It’s terrible for customers, which also makes it bad for retailers. But these retailers are learning that they can train their own bots to recognize the malicious bots that are buying their products online and prevent them from completing the transactions.

Cryptocurrencies will gain ground: More e-commerce platforms will accept cryptocurrency payments as the technology continues to become more mainstream. PayPal, the world’s leader in online payment processing, recently announced that it will support bitcoin transactions, while Square already supports bitcoin. Online retailers will follow the lead of these payment processors and begin accepting major cryptocurrencies.

Video conferencing will drive the electronics sector: Video conferencing is here to stay. More consumers will look to purchase electronics and A/V products that support a smoother video conferencing experience, including headsets, microphones, cameras, and laptops. In addition, retailers will lean heavily on popular online streamers to promote these products.

Consumers will care more about where products are made: As shoppers become increasingly socially conscious, they will start to care more about where products are manufactured, guided by sustainability concerns and a desire to support local economies. E-commerce platforms can leverage these preferences to further personalize their experience and shape their recommendations.


Some of these trends, such as mobile commerce, video content, and the use of cryptocurrencies, have already began to unfold, but they will significantly accelerate in 2021. Other more cutting-edge technologies, like AR and anti-scalping bots, have yet to be employed widely but will start to see strong experimentation next year. In any case, the purpose of these trends is to make the e-commerce experience more engaging for customers, boosting repeat business, conversion rates, average purchase value and, ultimately, revenue.

E-commerce is only going to continue to grow, and businesses in every sector will beef up their online presence accordingly. Expect retailers to keep rolling out new technologies and strategies as competition in this booming market segment heats up.

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