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4 Retail Trends to Expect in 2021


he coronavirus pandemic has accelerated retail trends that had been steadily building for years. Businesses of all sizes are struggling to adapt to their new normal and anticipate what’s coming next. Many will need to adopt new business practices and evolve as retail shifts online and customers become used to shopping from home. In order to thrive, retailers need to make the shopping experience easy and convenient across all channels.

As 2020 comes to a close, it’s time to look forward. Here are four trends that retailers can expect to see in 2021.

Omnichannel Expansion

The global pandemic has transformed the role and importance of digital experiences in customers’ lives. Today’s customer expects easy-to-use digital experiences that seamlessly connect offline and online shopping channels. Retailers that can provide those experiences will see greater success and increased customer satisfaction next year. Many offline retailers are adapting to the rise of eCommerce and establishing eCommerce divisions of their businesses. At the same time, online retailers are expanding their physical footprint to offer faster delivery service and pickup options, creating a seamless online to offline experience. Amazon recently launched its Amazon Fresh grocery store. The company already operates cashierless grocery stores in the US and will be expanding in the UK next year. 

4 retail trends to expect in 2021
Retailers are remodeling to accommodate eCommerce growth and partnering with other retailers to gain market share in new retail verticals.

Store Remodeling

Omnichannel features that retailers adopted to meet eCommerce demands in 2020 will revitalize physical stores and allow them to take advantage of proximity to consumers. Among customers who used alternative fulfillment methods, over half did so more often in the past six months than before the pandemic, according to a report by Shopify. This includes a 64% increase in BOPIS/curbside pickup and 57% increase in customers using a pickup point option. Retailers are also taking the opportunity to partner with other retailers to gain market share in new retail verticals. Sephora recently announced it will open 850 beauty shops inside Kohl’s stores by 2023. The announcement comes weeks after Target announced plans to open hundreds of Ulta makeup shops inside its stores.

Repurposed Real Estate

As stores in malls underperform due to a lack of foot traffic, retailers are looking to convert them into fulfillment hubs. Amazon has already begun to see the potential in this model for expanding its footprint and same-day delivery network. It has reportedly started talks with mall owners to take over empty space available after mall staples like Sears and JCPenney filed for bankruptcy. Apple recently started taking advantage of its retail stores, turning them into distribution centers for faster shipping to customers. The coronavirus and resulting eCommerce growth are accelerating the move towards transforming physical retail space into accommodate growing online orders.

4 retail trends to expect in 2021
Retailers have started implementing contactless shopping and payment solutions to protect the safety of their employees as well as customers.

Contactless Technology Growth

As shoppers return to stores, minimizing health risks is a top priority. Retailers have started implementing contactless shopping and payment solutions to protect the safety of their employees as well as customers. CVS Pharmacy recently became the first national retailer to integrate PayPal and Venmo QR code technology in its point-of-sale experience at all standalone locations across the country. This year CVS Pharmacy accelerated the availability of innovative digital and mobile options for customers. Introducing more digital options, including touch-free payments at the register, is one way the retailer is adapting to changing customer preferences.

Despite the difficulties retailers faced this year, it was also an opportunity for many retailers to innovate and grow in new ways. Retailers are rapidly adapting to meet the evolving needs of their customers. Many will continue to adapt through digital transformation and collaborating with new partners in order to satisfy increasing customer demands and thrive as everyone adapts to the new normal.

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