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6 Retail Trends to Watch in 2021…and One to Wave Goodbye To

Every new year ushers in the new and sweeps out the old in the retail world. Not only is 2021 no exception to that rule, it’s exception-al where that rule is concerned. Never before has the retail marketing world seen such enormous change in such a short amount of time as it did during the global pandemic of 2020. Novel technologies and new sales channels popped up each week, it seemed. Consequently, last year shaped the trends of this year, and although we are a quarter of the way through 2021 already, we’re already seeing the top innovative retail trends emerging strong.

Say “HELLO” to:

  1. INCREASED FOCUS ON SELF-CARE & PERSONAL HEALTH. Obviously, the pandemic brought with it more handwashing and cleaning and cold & flu prevention, and thus, more purchasing of those supplies. Consumers modified their discretionary buying and stepped up their preventative purchases. Even beyond that, however, more people are making healthy lifestyle changes which include food choices, supplements, exercise equipment and apparel, and more. And the focus doesn’t stop with physical health – people are focusing on their mental and emotional health, as well. Aromatherapy, meditation practice, and virtual tools like sleep apps are skyrocketing in popularity. Research shows that 85% of consumers plan to continue these same habits after COVID-19, making it a trend worth watching.

  2. IMPORTANCE OF ETHICAL/VALUES-BASED BRANDS. 71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values. 41% of consumers intentionally look for companies associated with their social and political ideals. These numbers have grown significantly in the last year, meaning that businesses might be more inclined to show transparency in their practices. According to a principal analyst at Forrester, “This isn’t some nice corporate social responsibility activity that looks good on the glossy pages of an annual report. Companies that put their values into action grow faster. . . . Embedding your values into your business operations is hard but necessary to convince jaded consumers that you are truly committed.”

  3. RISE IN UNFLUENCER MARKETING. If you are still treating influencer marketing as some sort of experimental phase instead of a valuable strategy, you are missing the boat. 49% of people (um, that’s almost HALF!) say they “rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchasing decisions.” With all the platforms readily available – IGTV, Instagram Live, TikTok, Insta Reels – it’s easy for people to follow and be active in a digital community. In fact, think of the last time you needed a quick tip for which brand to buy. What did you do? You looked for a recommendation online, didn’t you?

  4. BOOST OF SOCIAL COMMERCE. Even though Facebook Marketplace has been around for a while, it’s only been this last year that it’s surpassed Craigslist as a primary online shopping hub. People are already on social, so it’s easier to click over to another line than click to a third-party website. Users can make purchases right from the FB app. And now it’s on the rise with the recent partnership between TikTok and Shopify, the release of Facebook Shops, and the introduction of Snapchat’s Native Stores. According to the Group Director of Paid Social at Tinuiti, “The idea here is that a user will eventually be able to do all their shopping with Facebook or Instagram, limiting any requirements for direct site traffic . . . similar to brands trying to sell their products on Amazon by reaching a huge user base and making it easier for them to follow through on a purchase.”

  5. ONLINE STORES ADVANCING TO B&M. We’ve seen lots of B&M stores go digital, and this next year we’ll see more digital natives go physical. Most of the online stores that went digital last year – like Warby Parker, Casper, and Glossier – sell clothing and accessories, which is a natural transition because shoppers want to try them on in person. However, when Amazon’s brick-and-mortar Fresh Grocery Store opened in September, it introduced a real marriage of the digital and physical shopping world, attempting to combine the ease and convenience of online shopping with the allure of in-person shopping. According to a Senior Vice President at Avalara, it’s all about trying “to stay relevant in the digital economy.”

  6. AMAZON FEATURING BRAND IDENTITY. “Amazon, Amazon, Amazon!” Here we go again! Yes, they’re still doing things right over there. Amazon rocks when it comes to innovative shopping experiences and intuitive methods. During last year’s Q2, they netted almost $89 billion, their highest revenue yet, surpassing the previous year’s Christmas shopping numbers. And now Amazon has introduced brand-building tools to help brands partner with them and use their platform to attract customers. Amazon OTT, Amazon Posts, Brand Stories, and more are all intended to assist brands in telling their stories and building equity within Amazon. And it’s catching like wildfire!

Wave “goodbye” to:

  1. THE “NOVELTY” OF SPEEDY SERVICE, CURBSIDE PICKUP, AND DELIVERY. While we were all impressed with the quick shift that retailers made in providing online service, delivery, and parking lot pickup in 2020, we’ve come to expect it now. Same-day service and next-day delivery are now the norm. They are here to stay. Even in my hometown, where people are out and about and COVID-19 cases are very low and the vaccinated population is very high, many people STILL often choose delivery and pickup over going into a brick-and-mortar store.

There are lots of exciting developments happening in the retail world, and some of them are surely here to stay. We’ll see if 2021 throws us anymore curveballs like 2020 did, and which trends will have staying power.

This article was inspired by “2021 Was Full of Changes…” by Briquelle Neyens and first appeared at
Photo by Caleb Jones