E-Commerce Tech Trends Everyone in the Industry Needs to Know


  • The e-commerce world is undergoing big changes while recording massive growth. 
  • The tech required to power e-commerce has also changed in recent months. 
  • Here are the five tech trends that industry players need to know right now, according to experts.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an explosion in e-commerce sales. That growth has also meant plenty of opportunities for tech providers to innovate.

Insider spoke to six analysts and e-commerce experts about the tech trends that are important for anyone in the industry to know right now. 

These experts said that anyone in e-commerce should keep in mind the number of different channels that customers now have available to shop from, as well as the changes that tech giants including Apple and Google are making to how consumer data can be tracked. Those shifts mean that the tech required to power e-commerce is also changing. 

Here are the tech trends that industry players need to know as e-commerce continues to evolve: 

Headless commerce is here to stay

A growing number of startups are doubling down on “headless” commerce, which refers to the idea that a website’s consumer-facing appearance can be divorced from its back-end code. The two layers then talk to each other using application programming interfaces, or APIs. 

Separating the two layers makes it easier for business owners to customize their storefronts for different channels. Those channels could be a mobile app, desktop site, or even voice technology like Amazon’s Alexa. 

“People shop in so many different ways, and I think that any service that can help them be where people are looking for them matters a lot,” Laura Kennedy, senior lead analyst at CB Insights, told Insider in July.

Amazon has long used a headless approach to develop its own services. But, startups like Fabric, Commerce.js, and Commerce Layer are seeking to make headless commerce a possibility for online retailers that don’t have the vast resources that Amazon does. 

“Customers’ expectations around the type of experience — or the device that they’re actually using to interact with the brand or the business online — is changing rapidly,” Commerce.js cofounder Andrew Underwood said to Insider. “The benefit of having an API-first, headless approach is that you don’t have to keep up with the front-end technology.”

First-party data is becoming a priority for online sellers

For years, DTC brands have used targeted ads to reach potential customers online. Those ads have relied on third-party browsing data collected by companies like Apple and Google.

But recent changes from Apple that require apps to ask permission to track users for advertising and Google’s plans to end third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by 2023 have hurt brands’ ability to target consumers with analytics tools like Facebook’s pixels. 

That means that online brands are having to reevaluate how they learn about their customers. Some of them are doing that in creative ways, such as by having customers express their preferences through quizzes on the brand’s website. Others are rethinking their approach to affiliate marketing. 

“There’s a big need for brands to work with platforms that have first-party data, or that get first-party data,” Raj Nijjer, the chief marketing officer of affiliate and influencer marketing platform Refersion, said to Insider. 

Once they have information around what their customers want, they can reach and speak to them more effectively. Automation and artificial intelligence can help brands achieve this level of personalization.  

“Online brands need to gather their own data so that they can analyze it to get to know their customers better and provide them more personalized communications and offers to break through the noise from the proliferation of online shopping channels,” John Harmon, a senior analyst at Coresight Research, told Insider. 

Online resale is evolving

As more and more customers show an interest in buying products — particularly clothing — secondhand, more brands are deciding that providing a resale option for customers is a necessity. 

And, they’re turning to established resale players to help them build it up. 

Harmon pointed to the “emergence of resale-as-a-service platforms such as ThredUP and Trove” as a recent trend in e-commerce. 

Building up a resale platform from scratch can be costly and complex for brands to accomplish. Trove CEO Andy Ruben told Glossy that it could cost a brand as much as $50 million to create a resale program in-house. 

Levi’s, Lululemon, and Patagonia have partnered with Trove on resale. Madewell recently launched a partnership with ThredUp for a new denim resale site called Madewell Forever.

Chris Ventry, a former Gilt Groupe executive and vice president in the consumer and retail practice of SSA & Company, said that retailers are embracing RFID technology to reduce counterfeiting in the resale space. RFID tech uses radio frequencies to store and track data about individual items. 

“But this technology will expand beyond enabling the customer to be comfortable in her Gucci pre-loved handbag’s authenticity. Technology will expand to begin a story telling of the product,” Ventry said. “Why not be able to have information from prior owners? ‘This handbag was given to me on my first anniversary,’ or ‘I coupled this handbag with a vintage Dior dress at the 2018 amfAR gala.'”

Loyalty and rewards programs are more important than ever

While it’s never been easier to launch an online business, standing out from the pack has become a bigger challenge, especially for new brands. 

At the same time, changes from tech giants are making it near-impossible for DTC brands to rely on platforms like Facebook and Instagram to reach new customers. 

Because of that, industry observers say that DTC brands should be giving their attention to building long-lasting customer loyalty instead of customer acquisition.

“Now more than ever, you’ve got all this data that’s out there,” said Daniel Binder, a partner at the retail consultancy Columbus Consulting. “You’re really working now very closely with your customer, getting their feedback, watching their purchasing plans, and helping curate unique offers that are very personalized.”

Loyalty doesn’t have to mean a traditional program with perks such as free shipping and opportunities to earn points. Brands can also turn to startups such as Lolli, which give users free bitcoin for their online purchases. Text-based marketing platforms such as Klaviyo also allow sellers to engage with customers more deeply via their cell phones.

Brands can also try creating exclusive products just for their most loyal customers.

“Sheltering at home broke the relationship between consumers and physical stores and reset their relationships online, exposing consumers to a larger number of channels where they can shop,” Harmon, of Coresight Research, said. “Managing loyalty is the way to keep consumers’ attention to your own store and channel and tune out the rest.”

Companies that acquire third-party online sellers are raising lots of cash

Sebastian Rymarz is the cofounder and CEO of Heyday

Sebastian Rymarz is the cofounder and CEO of Heyday.

Courtesy of Heyday


A growing number of companies focused on acquiring Shopify sellers and Amazon third-party brands are raising large amounts of VC funds. 

Thrasio has now raised $1.7 billlion and acquired about 100 third-party Amazon brands. Perch has raised more than $908 million. And Heyday has raised more than $250 million and generated more than $100 million in revenue, according to the company.

After acquiring an online brand, these firms use data and algorithms to supercharge their capabilities and propel their sales to new heights on Amazon.

Industry observers say that Amazon roll-up companies are capitalizing on a period of strong growth for e-commerce. 

“So many of these companies, when you look at when they were founded, it’s 2020, and you could see that Covid and the explosion of e-commerce is what really set them on fire and did the proverbial hockey stick of growth,” Kennedy said.

Shopify sellers are becoming popular with investors, too. The venture capitalists Keith Rabois and Jack Abraham recently teamed up to launch OpenStore, which makes automated offers to online businesses with a focus on Shopify stores. Rabois told Bloomberg in June that the startup hopes to acquire dozens of Shopify merchants over the next year. 

Meanwhile, Shopify has its own marketplace, Exchange, where merchants can list their storefronts for sale and hopefully attract interest from roll-up firms or individual buyers.



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