5 Retail Trends and Predictions to Watch in 2021

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it’s the fact that the world can still be very unpredictable. Who would’ve taught, for instance, that we’d get hit with a global pandemic and go through widespread lockdowns that would drastically change consumer behaviors?

While it’s true that predicting the future is tough, it doesn’t hurt to think about what it may hold for your business. By looking at existing trends, you can make educated guesses on what could happen in the next 12 months. 

This post will help you do just that. We’ve put together a handful of retail predictions that will likely make waves in the coming year. Have a look below and see how you can leverage these in your business. 

1. Certain pandemic behaviors will be here to stay

COVID-19 has accelerated technologies and services that allow customers to shop with as little contact as possible. Most notably, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup saw a surge in adoption in 2020. Research from Kibo Commerce found that BOPIS grew 500% during the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the use of contactless and mobile payments also saw an increase. Industry data shows that nearly one-third of US consumers became first-time users of contactless payments during the pandemic; and in March 2020, contactless payments grew by 25%.

It’s easy to see why shoppers adopted these tools and services this year: people were looking for ways to make purchases in the safest, most convenient ways possible. BOPIS and mobile payments provided that. 

What’s interesting, though, is that many shoppers will continue using these services long after the pandemic is over. According to McKinsey, 56% of consumers intend to continue using BOPIS after the pandemic. We’ll likely see a similar trend in the world of contactless and mobile payments. 

Make no mistake, consumers won’t go back to their old shopping habits when COVID-19 dies down. That’s why you need to ensure that your store can accommodate these new behaviors. 

Pay close attention to how your customers shopped during the pandemic, and use those observations and insights to determine the changes that you’ll have to make in your business in 2021 and beyond. 

If you’ve started offering in-store pickup, for example, it may be time to expand to curbside.

Vend Tip

Using Vend? Enable click and collect for single outlet stores by allowing staff to complete orders that have been picked up in-person.

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On the payments front, make sure you’re geared up to accept all forms of payments, including Apple Pay and Android Pay. It may also make sense to explore other payment solutions, including buy now, pay later — which can be a godsend for cash-strapped shoppers. 

2. Loyalty marketing will be more competitive

Maintaining customer loyalty proved to be a challenging task in 2020. Data from McKinsey revealed that a significant chunk of consumers (36%) tried new brands amidst the pandemic. Of those shoppers, 73% plan to keep switching brands. 

Shoppers clearly aren’t afraid to try new products and behaviors, and this trend will likely be even more pronounced in 2021, as new brands enter the market. 

This means you need to work extra hard to keep your existing customers engaged and ensure that they don’t switch to your competitors. 

One of the best ways to do this is to look at your customer data. Dig into the information and insights you have about your customers. Where are they from? What channels are they using? What types of shoppers do you have, from a demographic and psychographic standpoint?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking. Then once you have the right data, put it to good use by segmenting your customers. 

“Leveraging data will be critical for retailers in the post-pandemic recovery. Retailers must measure and attribute customer value to create strategies that keep customers engaged, and increase revenue,” says Rob Anson, CEO Loop Insights.

“To do so, retailers must embrace real-time data applications to create personalized shopper experiences both online and on-premise — this is key for any hope of visibility for brick-and-mortar operators. ”

Group shoppers based on their profiles and buying behaviors, then tailor your messages and campaigns accordingly. One thing you could do is group your customers based on RFM — Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value. 

Doing so will allow you to determine who your top customers are, which shoppers are slipping away, and which customers need to be re-engaged with an offer. 

From there, you can launch marketing initiatives specifically targeting each segment. 

We can see this in action in Our Bralette Club (OBC), a Singapore-based lingerie retailer. OBC uses Marsello to automatically segment its customers based on their purchase recency, frequency, and monetary value. 

It then uses this data to determine which customers are “slipping away” and should therefore be reengaged. OBC uses Marsello’s win-back email campaigns to reinforce its brand message to customers who haven’t shopped in a while, and this initiative pays off tremendously. OBC’s win-back email has an impressive open rate of almost 40% and generates thousands of dollars in revenue. 

Vend Tip

Grow your business with the complete retention marketing toolbox. Marsello combines data driven automation, email, SMS, and loyalty programs to deliver smart, targeted marketing, designed to increase customer retention and sales. Marsello retailers see an average of 44X ROI.

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3. Brands that get creative with content will win

Compelling content is — and will continue to be — king in 2021 and beyond. With consumers unafraid to discover and switch brands, one of the best things you can do to keep shoppers engaged (and acquire new ones) is to produce content pieces that truly resonate with your target audience. 

Accomplishing this starts with knowing who you’re targeting. You need to be keenly aware of the themes, languages, and communication styles that your audience prefers. Knowing their pain points, aspirations, and the things they can relate to will help you craft your messaging. 

The skincare brand Drunk Elephant does this well. In addition to sharing useful content about its products and skincare in general, Drunk Elephant regularly pots #DEsays, a collection of funny and relatable quotes that people can’t help but laugh at and share. 

Equally important is knowing what communications platforms and media to use when distributing your messages. Video seems to be going strong, particularly among younger shoppers

Instagram reels and Tiktok content have gained a ton of traction this past year, and with companies like Shopify jumping into the fray, it may be worth exploring these platforms for your retail marketing and sales efforts. 

Wear Felicity, a jewelry retailer that lets you add a custom picture inside pendants and rings, uses TikTok to demonstrate its products and drive sales. 

4. Expect a new focus on local retail

The “shop local” movement has been around for years, but it’s seen a major resurgence in 2020, which will likely continue in 2021. Research from YouGov found that as a result of COVID-19, 64% of consumers prefer to shop from local businesses, with women (70%) being even more likely to buy within their community.

If you’re a local business, find ways to promote yourself within your neighborhood. Invest in campaigns or messaging promoting the shop local movement or partner with non-competing businesses in the area to spread the word. 

Another way to improve your local presence is to boost your visibility in local search. Most consumers turn to Google to find businesses in their area, and according to the search giant, 90% of global shoppers said that they use online search before visiting a store. 

To that end, see to it that your business is easily findable online by taking advantage of Google My Business.

Head to the Google My Business site and set up (or claim) your listing from there. The process involves providing your company info and verifying ownership over the phone, via SMS, or by requesting and receiving a postcard to your address from Google.

Once that step is complete, manage your Business Profile by adding and editing as many details as possible including your contact details and store hours so customers know when and how to contact you. 

Whenever possible, go beyond just providing basic info by adding photos of your store and encouraging your customers to rate and review your business. These things make your Business Profile a lot more attractive and enticing to shoppers. 

An excellent example of a Business Profile on Google done right comes from Art Plus, an art supplies store in New Hampshire. 

Not only does Art Plus’ Business Profile contain all the important details about the business, it also has a handful of customer reviews and lots of photos showing the inside and outside of the shop. 

Aim for that level of detail and comprehensiveness with your Business Profile on Google. Like Art Plus, enter as much info as you can, then beef up your profile with photos and reviews. You can also add the See What’s in Store (SWIS) feature as a way to display your in-store products directly on your Business Profile on Google.

5. Consumers will be more intentional and less spontaneous with their purchases

Research from Facebook found that shoppers are being more intentional with buying behaviors. 

According to Facebook IQ’s Future of Shopping Report, modern consumers are “planning their store visits further in advance with the help of online resources” and around “two-thirds of shoppers say most of their shopping decisions are planned as opposed to spontaneous.”

All this to say that it’s more important than ever to show up at the “research phase” of your customers’ shopping journeys. Be aware of the tools, websites, and channels that your customers are using in product discovery and trip planning, and see to it that you have a strong presence in those areas. 

One thing to consider is Google. As mentioned earlier, 90% of shoppers turn to search engines when planning their trips to the store. This makes online search an important channel for getting in front people who are ready to buy. 

You can further beef up your retail presence on Google by making real-time inventory data visible to shoppers on the web.

You can easily do this using a solution like Pointy from Google, which gets your products online, so customers can see what’s available before heading to your store. Pointy integrates with your POS system and displays your in-store inventory info directly on Google, with no data entry required.

Vend Tip

Vend seamlessly connects with Pointy from Google. Setting up is easy and included free for all Vend POS users: once you’ve integrated Pointy with your Vend store, your products will appear automatically, with no work required.

Getting started is easy:

1. Connect Pointy to your Vend account.

2. Your products will appear automatically, as long as you’re using universal product codes (UPCs).

3. Once you’re set up, shoppers in your area will be able to see your in-store products right in Google Search, boosting your foot traffic and sales.

4. When you sign up, you’ll get free Google Ads credit to help get your products in front of even more people!

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Want to see Pointy in action? Check out Dingo’s Diner And Spa, a Colorado-based pet store. Their Business Profile on Google lists the products they have in-store, so shoppers can verify their availability before heading out.

In addition to displaying products on your Business Profile when people look up your business on Google Search or Maps, your profile will appear when people search nearby for specific products that you have available in your store. 

Going back to Dingo’s example — when you’re in the area and search for an item they have in stock, like “primal dog food,” you’ll see Dingo’s product listing along with an “In store” icon, indicating that it’s available in their shop. 

To do that, Dingo’s Diner and Spa is using Local Inventory Ads through Pointy. This feature displays “ads for products that nearby customers searched for,” allowing Dingo’s to get in front of shoppers who are ready to buy and helps the store attract more visitors. 

“Pointy really helps shoppers to find us locally. Unless you have Pointy or are paying an astronomical amount of money, customers will find it hard to find you,” says the store’s co-owner, Cashe Pawlik. “For example, a customer recently told us they searched for doggy PJs and they saw we had them so came in!”

Which of these retail predictions will come to life in 2021?

Time will tell whether these predictions will take place in the coming year, but it never hurts to explore what might happen, so you can be ready. As 2020 comes to a close, we encourage you to take a deeper look at the data, trends, and behaviors, that you’re seeing in your business and community, then take steps to prepare for the future. 

Good luck!

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.