9 Surprising Shopper Insights from 2021

A dark skinned woman cartoon with a purple shirt is shopping

Understanding your customers is critical when running an ecommerce business. From knowing where to prioritize your digital marketing efforts to optimizing your conversion rate, keeping up-to-date with shopper behavior is crucial. 

Some shopper insights remain consistent through the years. People want the lowest prices, quickest delivery, and a user-friendly online shopping experience. But shifts in shopper behavior and expectations do happen over time, and retailers need to be aware of and adapt to those changes.

Shopper Insights from DigitalCommerce360’s 2021 Shopper Survey

Analyzing the data found through surveys and tracking is one the best ways to see how shopping expectations change and what those changes mean for your business.

DigitalCommerce360/Bizrate Insights’ 2021 Shopper Survey studied the shopping behavior of 1,047 online shoppers.

To save you the time of reading through the entire study, we’ve picked out the most surprising shopper insights from the 2021 survey. We’ve also looked at how retailers can use these insights to improve their business moving forward.

The Influence of the Pandemic on Shoppers in 2021

Before we go any further, let’s address the most significant topic of the last year — the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last 12 or so months were an unusual time. COVID-19 caused physical stores to close and shoppers to be anxious about stepping inside the ones that remained open. The pandemic led to a massive surge in online orders and put ecommerce at the forefront of retail.

Many of the shopper behavioral changes found in this year’s shopper survey were due to the pandemic. But that’s not to say these changes won’t stick around post-pandemic. Some of these changes are likely to become part of the “new normal.”

9 Surprising Shopper Insights

Below are nine of the most surprising shopper insights to come out of DigitalCommerce360’s 2021 Shopper Survey and how you can use them to help your ecommerce business.

1. Cause Marketing 

It’s only fitting that cause marketing became more important in a year where social, political, health, and environmental issues were seemingly everyone’s focus. Cause marketing is when a company focuses its marketing efforts on increasing profits while also bettering society.

DigitalCommerce360 found that shoppers are paying increasing attention to the actions of the companies they do business with. They’re also more likely to purchase from companies they know make a positive impact on the planet.

Cause marketing methods include:

  • Partnering with a charity or cause to create an exclusive product,
  • Donating to a charity or cause for each purchase made,
  • Matching customer donations,
  • Giving a one-off donation to a cause or nonprofit organization, and
  • Making more environmentally conscious decisions as a company.

Through cause marketing, you can create a positive brand image and build customer loyalty. This type of marketing helps to increase conversion rate and revenue growth while also doing something good — a win-win.

2. Buy Now, Pay Later

The past year was financially difficult for many people, and not all shoppers could pay for their purchases upfront. 

Instead of relying on banks and credit cards to help consumers pay for purchases, online stores turned to fintech startups to offer consumer financing. This process hailed in the new era of “Buy Now, Pay Later.”

Buy Now, Pay Later allows consumers to get a product without paying anything upfront by committing to a series of interest-free installments. As the retailer, you still receive the total payment upfront from the payment platform.

In DigitalCommerce360’s 2021 Shopper Survey, 13% of shoppers said the ability to finance an order by paying in installments makes them more likely to order when shopping online. Afterpay, Affirm, and Paypal are a few of the companies offering this service.

3. Product Videos

Product videos are more important than ever, with 13% of shoppers saying they’re more likely to purchase a product after watching a video, according to the shopper survey.

Videos, including product demonstrations and tutorials, help educate, inspire, and build trust with shoppers. The videos encourage shoppers to make their final purchasing decision.

Product promotion videos are also an excellent investment because you can use them across multiple marketing channels.

A female cartoon with light skin holds shopping bags over her head in a "success" stance

4. Product Exclusivity

According to the shopper survey, giving shoppers something they can’t find anywhere else is increasingly important, with 17% of shoppers saying exclusive products encouraged them to order.

Avoiding commodity products eliminates comparison with other retailers and stops your products from getting lost in increasingly crowded markets. Exclusive products lure shoppers in with the excitement of something new and unique that they can’t find elsewhere.

5. Customer-Centric Customer Service

Creating a seamless online shopping experience has long been a priority for ecommerce businesses. Easy access to onsite customer service information is an additional shopper expectation that gained prominence this year, according to the survey.

With less face-to-face contact, consumers need to easily navigate your website to find helpful information such as your returns policy, order status, FAQs, and contact details. 

By ensuring all of the information a shopper may need is easily accessible, you bring the personal in-store feel to the digital shopping experience.

6. Virtual Customer Appointments

Another way to bring an in-store feel to the digital world of ecommerce is the addition of virtual appointments.

With many non-essential shops closed due to the pandemic, shoppers no longer have access to in-store sales associates or services such as personal shopping to aid their purchasing process.

Virtual customer appointments brought back this sense of personalization, with shoppers having access to knowledgeable customer service reps over video conferencing platforms.

7. Abandoned Cart Emails

Cart abandonment is when a site visitor adds an item to their cart but never completes the purchase. It is one of the biggest problems for ecommerce businesses.

DigitalCommerce360 found that 97% of shoppers surveyed had abandoned a shopping cart. They may have left their cart because they got distracted by another task or wanted more time to consider their purchase.

Sending an abandoned cart email works as an extra nudge for shoppers to complete their orders. Although it may not work for everyone, it does serve as a helpful reminder for some.

Tactics for improving your abandoned cart emails include:

  • Emphasizing positive reviews of the products in the cart,
  • Shining a light on one particular highly-rated product,
  • Including a unique discount coupon to encourage finishing the order, and
  • Promoting the use of any loyalty points the shopper has available.
A cartoon character stands next to an empty cart

8. Live Chats

We live in a world where people want something and they want it yesterday. This desire for immediacy includes answers to their questions and concerns. 

Being available to customers via email isn’t always quick enough anymore. Shoppers are more likely to abandon a purchase if they don’t get answers straight away.

The integration of live chat on your site allows shoppers to get immediate personal assistance at the click of a button. It’s a feature that increases customer satisfaction and leads to increased conversion rates.

There are many live chat software apps and plugins available, including:

  • LiveChat,
  • Re:amaze,
  • Jivochat, and
  • Helpscout.

It’s important to remember that live chat works well only if a team member is available to respond to a customer chat request immediately. 

9. Curbside Pickups

Curbside pickup is when a customer places an order online for pick up at their local store. When the order is ready, the customer can park outside the store while an associate brings the order out to their vehicle. Curbside pickup became much more popular during COVID-9 because it kept people from having to go into stores.

The growth of curbside pickups is another significant insight to come out of DigitalCommerce360’s 2021 Shopper Survey. One-in-five shoppers said curbside pickup led them to place an order online this year.

Curbside pickup isn’t only convenient for consumers; it’s a great deal for retailers too. 

Benefits of adding curbside pickup service include:

  • Maintaining in-store jobs to handle orders,
  • Keeping physical locations relevant, and 
  • Avoiding shipping costs.


While some shopper expectations — like competitive pricing and fast delivery — almost go without saying these days, others are more surprising.

Monitoring the behavioral changes and expectation shifts of online shoppers is essential for running an ecommerce business and convincing site visitors to convert.

DigitalCommerce360’s 2021 Shopper Survey emphasized a rise in environmentally- and politically-conscious shoppers, a desire for personalized online service through live chats and virtual appointments, and an increased need for curbside pickups and Buy Now Pay Later services.

Many of these changes were because of COVID-19, but they’re likely to stick around as the “new normal.” It’s the perfect time for ecommerce businesses to take advantage of these new opportunities. 

Source: DigitalCommerce360 Shopper Insights Report