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Preparing for 2021: Retail Trends & Shopper Expectations to Watch Out For

2020 was a whirlwind of a year not just for the global population, but for businesses too. The eCommerce landscape saw a major change, the likes of which were never seen before. eCommerce was picking up steam before the pandemic, but the pandemic propelled it to new extremes. The US Department of Commerce noted a significant difference in eCommerce sales: from 2010 and 2019, eCommerce sales increased 8% while in the year 2020 alone, within a span of a few months, there was a whopping 5% increase in eCommerce sales. From these findings it is safe to say that the consumer behaviour in online space drastically changed for good during the pandemic, as their preferences evolved to adjust with the ‘new normal’.

A changing retail landscape means retailers and brands must step up their game if they want not thrive in 2021. 2021 will be a fresh start. Now, shoppers have a new set of expectations and retailers must carefully consider every move they make so they can strategize accordingly. At the heart of retail is the understanding of the ever-evolving consumer behavior. The most effective way to do it is through the use of analytics and technology. We, at Intelligence Node, conducted a survey of 1000 US shoppers to understand how shopper behavior has changed to determine the retail trends post Covid. The results are eye-opening.

Retail Trends for 2021

The following are the 10 key consumer buying behavior trends that retailers need to watch out for:

1. Shoppers will continue shopping online

Our study found that over 70% of respondents are interested in shopping online as much as they did in 2020 or even more so in 2021. This trend points to the lasting impact of the pandemic that forced people to shop online as physical stores were shut or were restricted across geographies.

2. Shopping for groceries online will take center stage

Grocery eCommerce was still in its nascent stage before the pandemic hit but its popularity quickly sky-rocketed in the early days of the pandemic. No one anticipated the sudden increase and grocers were left scrambling to adapt to this shift in behavior. Our survey of the US grocery trends shows that over 40% of customers will prioritize spending on grocery and essentials as the pandemic continues into 2021 and online grocery sales will maintain its upward trend. 

Key statistics on buying sentiments surrounding online grocery shopping 

3. Shoppers not as keen to spend on fashion

While spending on groceries and essentials will be preferred, 21% of respondents said they will cut down spending on fashion, beauty and apparel. 53% of respondents said their spending habits will remain the same while some will spend more on furniture or electronic products to make their work from home more comfortable. 

4. Shoppers will continue to spend like in 2020

One shopping trend worth noting is the shopper spend patterns. As per our survey, 45% of respondents said they will be spending as much as they have been in 2020. However, 37% respondents said they won’t be spending as much. Also, competitive prices will be crucial to attracting customers in 2021.

5. Shoppers expect retailers to follow and enforce safety protocol

Masks are the most important factor customers will consider when shopping in-store according to our survey. While masks are vital, respondents also said contactless payment methods, sanitizers, and temperature checking are important in making them comfortable to shop in-store. 

6. Shoppers will shop more from brands that ensure sustainability

According to our retail industry trends 2021 survey, 64% of shoppers are going to promote and support retailers who follow sustainable and environmentally friendly practices throughout their supply chain. To many, sustainability of brands is either very important or important enough to matter. Only 10% of respondents said sustainability isn’t that important to them.

7. Counterfeit products are a serious concern

As per our survey, 45% of respondents said they are concerned about counterfeit products continually rising and wreaking havoc in 2021 while 30% of respondents weren’t sure about how they felt. 25% of respondents said they don’t care about the growth of counterfeit products. This trend reflects the growing concern around counterfeits and is a reminder for brands and manufacturers to tighten their MAP policies and enforcement and curb this parallel market.  

8. Shoppers will focus on supporting local retailers

As economies suffered, one of the consumer behavior trends we noticed is shoppers consciously choosing local retailers. 23% of respondents said their reason was to help brands get back on their feet while others cited better fulfillment and proximity for their choice as reasons to support local retailers.

9. Shoppers will prioritize free shipping

When shopping at online stores, 70% of respondents said they expect free shipping and will only consider repeat purchasing if free shipping is provided. This trend will continue because more shoppers are purchasing online than ever before. Frequent deals and discounts and low prices followed next.

10. Shopping using social media will see a rise

One of the prominent trends for 2021 spearheaded by Generation Z and Millennials is the rise in shopping through social media. 32% of shoppers in the 18-24 age group and 39% of shoppers in the 25-34 age group plan to shop via social media in 2021. This trend will take some time to catch on amongst the older demographic. 

How Retailers Can Be Ready For 2021

Without technology and innovation, retailers won’t last long in 2021. Technology is the backbone of the new retail landscape and the pandemic has proved it. The following are some areas of retail where brands and retailers can harness next-gen technology and innovative best practices to win in 2021 and beyond: 

Implement A Competitive Pricing Strategy

Price is one of the primary factors a shopper considers before making the purchase decision. You don’t want to lose out on your hyper-aware shoppers. Instead, you can make smart pricing decisions using AI-automated pricing solutions that give you real-time feedback into market movements and competitor prices so you can price your product competitively without compromising on your margins. As the pandemic has deterred some people from spending as freely as before, intelligent pricing is key to converting price sensitive shoppers into loyal customers.

Invest in Robust Supply Chain Management

As seen by our survey results, more customers care about free shipping and delivery than ever before. To meet this demand of customers, retailers need to re-think their supply chain management. You need to automate your supply chain management and partner with only those delivery fulfillment vendors who can handle increasing volume of orders. As eCommerce is booming, more people will turn to ordering online which means timely delivery and fulfillment will be critical to any retailer’s success. Without this, you will be losing your customers to your competition in this highly competitive era.

Revisit your MAP Monitoring Policy

As counterfeiting products are seeping into the market from everywhere, and unauthorized sellers are selling gray-market goods unchecked, a robust MAP monitoring solution has become the need of the hour. it is becoming impossible to know who is selling your products and how. But you can be on top of the game by opting for a MAP monitoring solution. With this solution you can protect your business so that no reseller can violate the MAP terms you have agreed upon. An AI-driven MAP monitoring solution that can monitor your products is essential.

Offer a Seamless Omni-Channel Experience

The pandemic might have put a full stop on many brick-and-mortar businesses but not for those who were flexible and pivoted to an omni-channel approach during these trying times. With an omni-channel approach, retailers can use their in-store space to fulfill online orders and provide a unified, seamless customer experience across all touchpoints. From BOPIS, curb-side pick-up to ordering online and offering free delivery, an omni-channel approach can help you reach out to a wider customer base and cater to them wherever they are. 

Create Winning In-store and Online Assortments

Today’s customers have access to multiple channels, websites, search engines, and a host of data to choose from. To convert this informed shopper takes more than just low prices or discounts. You need diverse product assortments for consumers to choose from and need to keep evaluating your merchandise based on consumer preferences, competitor offerings and shopping trends. Instead of keeping the same assortments online as well as in-store, study your consumer demographics and patterns and curate your assortments to meet the consumer demand across each channel. 

Reinforce Safety Measures and In-store Hygiene Practices

For your shoppers to feel comfortable shopping in-store, ensure you have strict in-store hygiene and social distancing guidelines and are maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness. Re-train your employees in store safety, customer experience and social distancing to help them adjust to the ‘new normal’. Curate your offerings by providing shopping by appointment, virtual shopping, and store pick-up options to ease them into returning to in-store shopping. 

The 2021 shopping trends show how much the consumer behavior has changed in a matter of months. Retailers need to be well prepared for the evolving customer expectations in 2021. Innovation and flexibility is the only way for retailers to survive and sustain in 2021 after an arduous 2020 . This is possible with the help of smart, intuitive AI and digital retail solutions and by constantly listening to your customers and pivoting your businesses to cater to them.   

For more details about 2021 retail  insights to the shopping patterns, consumer expectations, and key retail strategies check out our eBook, “Shopping Trends & Consumer Expectations in a Post-Pandemic Economy”

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References:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2020/11/16/the-5-biggest-retail-trends-in-2021/?sh=1fc7527426af

https://nrf.com/blog/retail-2021-what-will-endure-and-whats-going-change

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