Boosting online capabilities, creating safe shopping spaces and bringing the out-of-home experience to consumers' houses are among the key trends that are likely to shape global retail in 2021, according to a new study by IGD.
“The industry faced unprecedented challenges and had to adapt to ever changing government policies, and shopper and consumer behaviour changes," said Toby Pickard, head of innovation and futures at IGD.
Following the most disruptive year for businesses in recent history, retailers are likely to continue to focus on upgrading their digital operations, particularly in areas that require low capital investment.
According to IGD, this means we can expect to see increased partnerships with third-party tech providers, as well as more use of machine learnings and artificial intelligence at store level.
“The pandemic has accelerated retailers and shoppers’ digital awareness and capabilities," said Pickard.
"Numerous companies have been testing and learning from new digital initiatives, and in 2021 companies will need to move beyond this to improve and implement at scale. Digital transformation will require new leadership and a fresh cultural mindset as companies create flexible and agile ways of working.”
Allied to this, e-commerce investment is expected to accelerate, with the focus on online profitability. Retailers are expected to seek to reduce their overall operating costs to accommodate more of an online presence, improving processes and automation, while encouraging shoppers to avail of click and collect services.
Rapid delivery options are also likely to see increased investment according to IGD.
“With many shoppers using the channel for their large weekly shop, we have seen retailers focus on enhancing the pickup, or click and collect, experience to help improve profitability," said Pickard. "This has included adding more collection slots, expanding order staging areas and parking bays and ensuring a contactless experience."
Making A Meal Of It
The year 2020 was one in which at-home dining saw a resurgence, with out-of-home venues shuttered due to the pandemic, and retailers are expected to capitalise on this trend over the coming year, according to IGD.
Retailers are likely to increase investment in inspiring meal solutions for all occasions, as well as seek to capture shopper spend that was previously taking place out of home.
"By highlighting both value, ease of preparation and cooking along with inspiration, retailers have a real opportunity to capture shopper spend that was previously taking place out-of-home," said Pickard.
The importance of maintaining hygiene and safety standards is likely to linger well into the new year, while shoppers themselves are also likely to seek out healthier product options. This too offers an opportunity for retailers, as they will try to differentiate themselves by helping shoppers live healthier, safer lives.
“We will see more retailers educating, informing and rewarding shoppers for living healthier lives," said Pickard. "Companies will look to champion both their health and sustainability credentials, as the two key trends merge, of their existing and new products. Personal health will increase in importance, but ultimately affordability may take precedence during economic downturns.”
Building Back Better
Lastly, with the climate crisis likely to remain a top priority for many shoppers, retailers will continue to push ahead with initiatives to support goals in this area, such as plastic and waste reduction measures.
"Climate change will remain a top priority in 2021, as it is recognised as the most likely source of major future disruption," Pickard noted. "While there will be much focus on how sustainability supports the climate change and resilience agendas, we will also see initiatives to build trust and loyalty with shoppers.”
© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.