5 highlights from the 2021 Retail Trends Report.

5 highlights from the 2021 Retail Trends Report.

Discover how the retail landscape has changed. The 2021 Retail Trends Report explores key trends such as the opening of hybrid shops, the sharp rise in mobile shopping and how AI can help retailers bounce back from the pandemic.

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With the right strategies, retailers can grow.

The pandemic has disrupted store openings and product availability, causing customers to establish new behaviour patterns and brand loyalties. The 2021 Retail Trends Report shows the insights and strategies top-performing brands are using to capitalise on this opportunity to connect with new prospects.

Hybrid shops are opening.

In-person shopping has been severely affected over the last year. To overcome changes in customer behaviour, brick-and-mortar retailers are now doubling down on mobile and transforming traditional shops to support e-commerce. Many retailers are already using physical shops as hub locations for order collections. Strategies that minimise interaction between customers and staff (such as ‘buy-online, pick-up-in-store’) are becoming increasingly popular. This trend of bridging the physical and digital divide is set to continue. In 2020, the pace of digital uptake skipped forward about ten years, growing to a 33% share of all retail. In response to this shift, 47% of multichannel retailers said their main physical location strategy for this year would be opening hybrid shops, with mobile ordering (49%) and mobile applications (40%) the priority areas for investment.

Our top recommendation for 2021:
Digital touchpoints have become more integral to the customer journey. Retailers investing in these areas will be in a more future-proof position as we emerge from the pandemic.

Mobile is a strategic move.

Over the last few years, improving mobile engagement has become a strategic objective for retailers. In 2019, shopping from smartphones accounted for 61% of online traffic and almost exactly half of all sales online. As well as being a significant source of revenue, it’s also seen as the starting point for omnichannel customer experiences. Whether the interaction begins with a search enquiry, a social media post or a smartphone sale - the journey from mobile can often end with an in-person experience such as a home delivery or store collection. The pandemic has been a catalyst for further mobile investment. According to global research, monthly downloads of retail apps grew 22% year-on-year from September 2019 to September 2020, while in-app revenue for retailers increased by 45% over the same period.

Our top recommendation for 2021:
The areas retailers are most likely to invest are ‘mobile ordering’ and ‘mobile applications’ for in-store shopping. Contactless payments are also a priority as retailers seek to reduce risk from handling cash.

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Retailers need to remain agile.

The disruption caused by the pandemic has forced even the most traditional retailers to evolve. To remain competitive and continue to operate during lockdowns, many businesses have transformed organisational structures, removed cumbersome processes and increased communication between teams. In the 2021 Retail Trends Report, 57% of retailers said they had unusual freedom to experiment and innovate in marketing over the second half of 2020. Going one step further, 79% admitted they have been unusually agile and able to take actions quickly. This was especially true for top-performing organisations. This group was significantly more likely than competitors to describe their culture as a collaborative working environment where every individual is valued and communication is a top priority.

Our top recommendation for 2021:
People are changing their buying behaviour due to shops being closed and preferred products often being unavailable. Agile retailers can capitalise as consumers establish new brand loyalties and patterns of behaviour.

Personalisation remains a priority.

Personalisation is still the key to creating more meaningful experiences across different channels and various environments. 75% of retailers said that using online behaviour to personalise in-store experiences was either important or critically important for meeting customer expectations. However, since the pandemic, customer needs have evolved. Many of the same consumer pain points remain - for instance, wanting the best deals or having concerns about whether the reality measures up to the photos. But in addition, customers are now seeking information about topics such as the safety and cleanliness of store environments. In a digital world, customers often don’t want to wait for an answer. Many retailers are now investing in interactive tools, guides, adaptive FAQs and chatbots to personalise the customer experience and speed up these interactions.

Our top recommendation for 2021:
To continue to thrive post-Covid, retailers will need to focus on the omnichannel experience, underpinning their operations with a 360-degree view of the customer.

AI will lead to better experiences.

Machine learning and AI will play a major role in the race to personalise customer experiences. 44% of top-performing retailers already consider AI as critical for meeting omnichannel customer expectations, compared with only 30% of their mainstream competitors. Aside from automating customer service, AI can also help companies to forecast and increase sales. For instance, retailers are using AI to make more informed decisions regarding stock volume as customer demand fluctuates and to personalise product recommendations based on past purchases, community events and even the local weather. Analytics-driven insights are becoming more essential for navigating the retail landscape. In unpredictable circumstances such as Covid, machine learning and AI can be a valuable forecasting tool to help retailers retain customers.

Our top recommendation for 2021:
Established retailers need to invest in replacing legacy technology that may be holding them back. Without a truly 360-degree view of the customer, personalised experiences are impossible to deliver.

Three retail trends that are shaping 2021.

of multichannel retailers said their main physical location strategy would be opening hybrid stores that serve the needs of both in-store and online shoppers.


of marketers in retail said they had unusual freedom to experiment and innovate over the second half of 2020, while 79% say they have been unusually agile.


of retailers said that personalising in-store experiences based on online behaviours is ‘important’ or ‘critically important’ for meeting customer expectations.

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