4 Retail and Commerce Trends for 2021

For retail, 2020 has been a year like no oth­er. True, the indus­try was hard hit by the chal­lenges and restric­tions imposed over the past 12 months, but — for brands that were either will­ing to embrace change, or already pos­sessed the abil­i­ty to adapt quick­ly — it was a year where many retail­ers weren’t con­tent to mere­ly sur­vive … they active­ly thrived.

Hav­ing a strong ecom­merce pres­ence proved more impor­tant than ever. Retail­ers that were able to evolve their oper­at­ing mod­els and deliv­er great dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences have since fos­tered a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion for con­ve­nience and reli­a­bil­i­ty, which will invari­ably serve them well in 2021. The lessons we learned this year will stand the retail sec­tor is good stead in 2021 and beyond. Here are our key predictions:

1) Ecom­merce freed from its silo, and ful­fill­ment hubs will evolve

Almost overnight, the habits and behav­iours of con­sumers trans­formed. Mil­lions moved online, at first to stock­pile essen­tials (here’s to you, toi­let paper), but as time passed and restric­tions stretched into the sum­mer months, many peo­ple relied on dig­i­tal com­merce to help facil­i­tate new hob­bies and pas­sions devel­oped dur­ing lockdown.

It all means that the home deliv­ery infra­struc­ture has become infi­nite­ly more com­plex, and will have to become infi­nite­ly more sophis­ti­cat­ed next year and beyond in order to not only meet increased demand, but to pro­vide the kind of pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences that con­sumers now expect as commonplace.

Next year will see a mas­sive change as ecom­merce is redesigned, not as a silo, but as a hor­i­zon­tal line, with stores begin­ning to resem­ble hybrid deliv­ery hubs, capa­ble of hous­ing the tra­di­tion­al browse-and-buy way of shop­ping, but also boast­ing seam­less click and col­lect capa­bil­i­ties. Phys­i­cal stores will become anoth­er link in the online deliv­ery chain, as ful­fil­ment cen­tres become more agile and multi-faceted.

2) Authen­tic brands will win the race for long-last­ing cus­tomer loyalty.

2020 saw a tip­ping point in the atti­tudes towards brand authen­tic­i­ty. Momen­tum has been build­ing for a few years now, but sus­tain­abil­i­ty and eth­i­cal prac­tices were often rel­e­gat­ed to the ‘About’ sec­tions of a retail brand’s web­site. It was seen as a box-tick­ing exer­cise, not a true cul­tur­al shift.

How­ev­er, with envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness receiv­ing per­haps its biggest-ever boost over the past year – thanks to such a huge surge in online shop­ping and real­i­sa­tion of its envi­ron­men­tal impact – retail­ers need to demon­strate that true brand authen­tic­i­ty flows across every sin­gle fact of their busi­ness. To dri­ve this mes­sage home, just look at mil­len­ni­al shop­ping habits: Adobe research reveals almost two-thirds (63%) of them have made a delib­er­ate effort to pur­chase goods that incor­po­rate recy­clable or com­postable pack­ag­ing, while 81% of them think retail brands should lim­it han­dling and shipping.

Our research also found that younger shop­pers were chang­ing their habits, with 70% of mil­len­ni­als more like­ly to pur­chase direct­ly from brands, rather than mar­ket­places, and 80% say­ing they would buy from more authen­tic brands. With this audi­ence one of the least fru­gal when it comes to their dig­i­tal wal­lets, prov­ing true brand authen­tic­i­ty will give retail­ers an edge in the race for long-term cus­tomer loyalty.

3) The high street can recov­er, but it won’t look the same

It’s no sur­prise that despite retail enjoy­ing a dig­i­tal boom, the phys­i­cal high street has tak­en a big hit. In fact, more than half of Brits say they’ll con­tin­ue shop­ping online for the fore­see­able future, sug­gest­ing that more peo­ple have con­vert­ed to the appeal of quick, con­ve­nient, one-stop online shop­ping experiences.

How­ev­er, as bricks and mor­tar shops begin to re-open, con­sumers have lent their back­ing to the high street. There’s also increas­ing sup­port for Val­ue Added Tax cuts for high street retail­ers and com­pul­so­ry deliv­ery fees to lev­el the play­ing field for inde­pen­dent retail­ers and pro­mote more sus­tain­able online shop­ping practices.

Next year will also see a num­ber of dif­fer­ent trends com­ing togeth­er – AI, robot­ics, and VR/AR – to cre­ate in-store expe­ri­ences that pos­sess the con­ve­nience and sophis­ti­ca­tion that makes online shop­ping so appeal­ing. 5G will, undoubt­ed­ly, be the dri­ving pow­er of these expe­ri­ences and will, hope­ful­ly, give shop­pers enough rea­son to return to the high street, regard­less of how dif­fer­ent it will now look.

4) Omnichan­nel will evolve, with help from 5G

Anoth­er area that will ben­e­fit from 5G’s influ­ence is the omnichan­nel shop­ping expe­ri­ence. Its impor­tance with­in retail is no secret: for exam­ple, research shows that almost three-quar­ters (73%) of con­sumers use mul­ti­ple chan­nels before mak­ing a pur­chase, and retail­ers with a true omnichan­nel pres­ence enjoy 13% high­er spend on average.

Where 5G promis­es to lend most aid is in help­ing retail­ers make even bet­ter use of both the data they already have, while also unlock­ing new ways to gath­er new data from phys­i­cal retail spaces. The increas­ing­ly advanced insights will mean they can under­stand cus­tomers far bet­ter and design omnichan­nel shop­ping strate­gies that blend offline and online.

Final­ly, 5G’s blaz­ing­ly-fast speeds and almost lim­it­less band­width mean that bil­lions of devices and sen­sors will sat­is­fy­ing­ly click into place, sat­ing even the most data-hun­gry tech­nolo­gies like AI, facial recog­ni­tion and extend­ed reality.

To learn more about how Adobe has helped brands cre­ate busi­ness growth through commerce, go the Com­merce Cloud_cus­tomer suc­cess sto­ries on Adobe.com. _