The Top Retail Trends in 2021

The retail industry experienced a major disruption last year, but businesses have been creative and resilient in their response.

The ongoing pandemic influenced consumer behaviour, temporarily closed shops, and forced businesses to adapt to the “new normal”. Creative ways of selling and adopting digital tools were born out of necessity and many will be changing the retail world this year.

Expect to see these amazing trends in retail in 2021 — emphasis on virtual shopping, connected sales channels, alternative business models, and flexible payments. Combined with the right technology, businesses will be one step ahead in this new retail environment.

Virtual Shopping

Shop via social media platforms

Below are the trends you can expect in terms of virtual shopping in 2021:

  • The World of Social Commerce

Social commerce will revolutionize the customer’s shopping experience. Businesses can take multiple steps out of the checkout journey, connecting customers straight to their e-commerce store with one click.

Through cutting-edge technology, retailers can connect their e-commerce shop to popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to market and sell products directly to consumers. The shoppable posts enable product tagging — letting people know about the description, price, and availability just by hovering over a picture. Once customers click, they’ll be automatically redirected to the item on your online shop so they can complete the transaction.

One of the biggest retail channels in 2021, social commerce is creating new ways to reach more consumers. For example, Tiktok ー the fastest growing social application today — is beta testing shopping videos, and earlier this year, Facebook launched Facebook and Instagram Shops, where transactions can be done directly on the app or the retailer’s e-commerce store, putting social commerce at the forefront.

According to statistics, in November 2020 social commerce was an $89.4 billion market and it’s predicted to grow to $604.5 billion in the coming years.

  • Clickable Videos

Video has always been a central factor in effective digital marketing. However, they required some work on the customer’s part to find the item they just saw on their screen. Clickable videos are changing how customers shop, providing convenience and fast results. When a customer sees an ad, video, or commercial on their social media page, they’re able to click their screen when they see an item that catches their attention.

Video marketing continues to grow, with 54% of customers wanting more video content from a business or brand they patronize. Through clickable videos, businesses can immediately convert their viewers into buyers.

  • Shopstreaming

Shopstreaming is a combination of shopping and live streaming that emerged with the global pandemic.

As tech expert Laura Marchesi said, “Shopstreaming, the art of combining live streaming and e-commerce, will be the next big trend in consumer retail and brand development.” Now, more than ever, brands and stores have to establish a strong online presence to remain competitive in the new decade.

Flexible payment options

With the emphasis on safety and convenience, expect more innovations in cashless transactions:

  • Digital wallets

A digital wallet is probably the easiest way for customers to pay. Using an app on your phone, transactions are processed safely and quickly. Businesses can prepare for this trend by adopting a modern POS (point of sale) systems and smart payment terminals. This digital tool enables retailers to accept new forms of payments that their customers might prefer, like Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and more. Based on research, 21% of U.S. e-commerce shoppers abandon their carts at checkout due to a complicated or lengthy process. However, this seamless and secure one-click e-commerce checkout experience is the key to an improved conversion online.

  • Mobile payments

Contactless, mobile payment offers businesses the freedom to accept payments anywhere in their store — or curbside — with one swipe, insert, or tap. This technology has been evolving for years, but the pandemic accelerated its adoption. Mobile payments allow zero contact which contributed to its popularity and businesses need to embrace this shift in consumer behaviour.

Studies show that nearly one-third of US consumers used contactless payments for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic and in March 2020, contactless payments increased by 25%.

Connected Sales Channels

Omni channels are the ultimate game-changers

If you’ve never heard of the term omnichannel, here’s a quick lowdown:

  • Omnichannel retail

So what does omni retail mean? Omni retail is a unified brand experience across several channels, wherein each seamlessly connects with the other. It allows customers to discover, research, engage, and buy and get post-purchase support using the channels they want, at any time they want.

According to Shannon Vissers, a retail analyst from Merchant Maverick, “Omnichannel presents many opportunities for smaller retailers, who have in the past been largely shut out of e-commerce by eCom giants like Amazon.”

  • Omni Loyalty

Loyalty programs have always been popular with business owners, but with the emergence and importance of the omnichannel solution, every tool must be incorporated across every channel. Consumers must be able to connect their in-store and online experiences so that they can easily move between the two.

Alternative Business Models

Modern technology and the pandemic has changed the way we shop

The ability to adapt is key to surviving the harshest conditions. To maintain their bottom line and meet current demand, companies have turned to alternative business options including:

  • Curbside pickups

Ever since businesses temporarily closed their physical stores this year, curbside pickup acted as the lifeline between retailers and their loyal customers. Based on CNBC’s report, the number of orders placed online and picked up at shops increased to 208% between April 1 to April 20 compared to last year. We’re living in an era where almost everything is moving to the digital age. It’s anticipated to continue from now to the next five years and business owners have to adapt. Businesses need to stay on top of curbside pick up and of the orders that are coming in. They might need to put their stocks aside so they can focus more on this popular retail trend.

  • Subscriptions

Subscriptions are convenient and personalized ways for retailers to offer consumers a new way to shop their products and discover new ones at a lesser price. Whether it be through membership fees or monthly packages, businesses can get recurring income. Remember, subscriptions should allow retail consumers to develop a loyal customer base and a stable recurring income stream while effortlessly integrating into their existing platform.

Other Retail Trends

Expect more technological advancements in retail in 2021

Here are more trends you need to look out for:

  • Virtual Reality

VR (virtual reality) environments will be used by more online retailers to offer a highly interactive shopping experience. Moreover, VR will also be deployed by offline businesses to allow consumers to get information about the items they find on the shelves. With the ongoing pandemic, businesses are devising tech-heavy solutions so consumers can virtually try out make-up and apparel, thus minimizing contact between shoppers and in-store goods. This means that online and offline retail will both benefit from cutting-edge tech and changing patterns of consumer behaviour.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI-focused big data retailing has been developing for some years now, with big businesses relying on advanced analytics to determine what should be stocked in their shops and foster efficiencies in logistics. Modern developments witnessed this technology evolving from back-of-house to front-of-house, with consumer-facing features like virtual assistants and chatbots. Expect also robots to assist with inventory management or moving around shop floors.

The past year has shown the resilience of independent retailers. Businesses have taken huge risks, pivoted quickly, and changed an industry. Many retail industry trends that emerged in 2020 will continue to revolutionize the way retailers conduct business and how customers shop.

Advanced technology and digital tools are still crucial to selling this 2021.

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