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 Cloudcustomer success stories on Adobe.com.