Consumer Trends

9 Global Retail Trends for 2021

Ray Poynter
October 19, 2021
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One of the key benefits of working with CX and community data from around the world is the ability to identify key global trends. In this post, I highlight nine key trends we are seeing for retail.

1. Things will keep changing

Google has highlighted that everyday 15% of the searches it sees are brand new and they show growth in lots of new areas, such as the 800% growth in search for “milk deliveries” since the start of the pandemic. Google’s research also showed that 81% of consumers have discovered new brands online during the pandemic, and 50% had discovered at least one form of online shopping. (1)

2. People want it now!

There seems to be a shift away from deferred gratification, perhaps because so much gratification has had to be deferred during the pandemic. Google’s search data shows there has been a 700% growth for “in stock” and a 100% growth for “near me” in its global search data.(1) Also, a Brandwatch report on social media conversations, where people are asking questions that combine eating trends with the convenience of delivery, e.g. “Looking for a healthy meal prep delivery company. Any recommendations? Thanks!” – which has implications for how retail needs to monitor and utilise social (4). The chart below shows the jump in Google searches for ‘Same Day’ from March 2020, through the pandemic.

The chart shows the jump in Google searches for ‘Same Day’ from March 2020, through the pandemic.

3. Value and Values are converging

People care more and more about the ethics of the organisations they trade with. Google reports that searches for “ethical online shopping” have grown 600%, year-on-year, but there is also a growth in being cost-focused.(1) Social media is providing an amplification of socially-conscious consumption, with the rise of social movements such as “Support Black-owned businesses”, “Shop local” & “Support small businesses”.(4) Similarly, a study by The Center for Generational Kinetics showed Gen Z shoppers put pressure on brands to take action on issues such as climate change, racial equality, and social justice. (6)

A recent report from Yelp showed that from May 25 to July 10, there was a 7,043% increase in searches for Black-owned businesses on its platform when compared to the same time period last year—from approximately 35,000 to more than 2,500,000

4. Direct to Customer Brands Continue Growing

Many brands have been seeking to bypass the retail gatekeepers for years, and the growth in e-commerce and subscription models is facilitating this change. To take two examples from the world of sport, Nike now gets 30% of its worldwide revenue from direct-to-consumer sales, while Swiss running shoe company On has launched a subscription service (£25 a month), to provide a continuous supply of sustainable running shoes made from recycled materials.(3)  

5. BOPUS – Buy Online, Pick Up in Store

This trend has been growing for years but has exploded in the context of the pandemic – bringing together the benefit of wanting it now and wanting to be in control. In a US study by GlobalData, 68% of US customers said they would do more curbside collecting in the future, and 60% said they would do more in-store pickups in the future.(2) (Also, BOPIS - Buy online and pick up in store and BOPAC - buy online and pick up at curbside – or kerbside, in other variants of English)

6. Digital Fitness and Health are on the move

From Strava to Peleton, to Apple’s Health app, the worlds of fitness and health are becoming fully digital, with massive implications for retail. Peleton’s data shows that, in the year to September 2020, the number of subscribers to their platform doubled, and the average number of workouts per subscriber increased from 12 a month to 21.(2) Digital fitness links well to subscription sales models, as well as in-app sales and advertising.

Online Retail from Peleton

7. BNPL – Buy Now, Pay Later

This is an old idea that has become popular again and is growing. The key driver seems to be a range of issues around owning and using credit cards, including avoiding credit card charges. A study by The Motley Fool showed that, in the US, 39% said they used BNPL to avoid credit charges, but it is worth pointing out that 38% said it was about matching their spending to their income in a better way.(2)  

8. Frontline workers as superheroes

As a Brandwatch report shows, many people feel indebted towards the retail workers who have kept things running through the pandemic and lockdowns.(4) However, it is not clear how long this goodwill will persist and there is a loud and aggressive minority who are antagonistic towards frontline retail workers who are simply trying to enforce company rules, such as wearing masks or showing vaccination status. Can this goodwill towards frontline staff be leveraged to promote in-store shopping (including ROBO – Research Online, Buy Offline) and in the context of omnichannel retailing?

Retail workers are super heroes

9. Marketplaces

A growing number of retailers are leveraging e-commerce through marketplaces, for example the services offered by Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Alibaba and Rakuten. These marketplaces lower the barriers to entry. Among the issues facing marketplaces are topics such as niche marketplaces, the decline in the importance of being first in organic search, social selling, and the role of AI and NLP processing in the context of non-English marketplaces.(5)  

Are you a retailer wanting to launch a VOC program or an Insights Community? Or would you like to conduct some ad hoc research? Contact us today.

Sources:

1 Google Retail Report Trends https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/trending-visual-stories/retail-report-trends-insights

2 Insider Intelligence https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/future-retail-trends-industry-forecast/

3 On website, Cyclon https://www.on-running.com/en-gb/cyclon

4 Brandwatch https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/retail-industry-trends/

5 Webinterpret https://www.webinterpret.com/uk/blog/ecommerce-trends-2020-marketplaces/

6 Hitachi Solutions https://global.hitachi-solutions.com/blog/top-retail-trends

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