4 Trends to Watch in 2021

This piece was partially adapted from excerpts from our new book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2021, written in partnership with the Ebeltoft Group, a network of global retail advisors dedicated to bringing you the best of the best.

In 2020 the world was turned upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic led to major shifts within retail and transformed the way consumers shop, unlike any previous disruption. What is in store for us in 2021? Our new book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2021 aims to answer exactly that, by bringing together a curated selection of case studies under 4 trends: Omni Integration, Extreme Convenience, Extreme Experience, and Sustainability. Today we will introduce these trends and how they have changed under COVID-19.

Omni Integration

The emergence of COVID-19 sped up the need for technology adaptions and digital innovations that allow consumers to always be connected. They can shop, return, or share products anytime and anywhere at the touch of a button. Bricks and mortar and the online channel are no longer separate entities, but complementary platforms that improve the retail experience. Customers no longer distinguish between the physical and digital worlds. They want to be served at anytime, anywhere and through every channel. An omni experience encompasses everything from online to off-line experiences. With click and collect, augmented reality assistants, endless aisle, lockers, and data-driven stores, omni experience dominates retail today. 

Extreme Convenience

The modern consumer is busy, and the era of seamless, frictionless retailing is here. Due to the pandemic, the customer wants to shop faster and more efficiently than before. Friction is every barrier we put in place to prevent customers from buying a product. Retailers are removing friction from the experience by adding elements of technology, subscriptions, delivery, and pick-up, while also streamlining the key elements of everyday operations

  • Safety, fast shopping, and convenient one-stop-shopping is getting more and more important.
  • Retailers are leveraging technology to expedite services and create a seamless experience.
  • Offering customer service online is a hot topic since 2020
  • Pick-up locations are popping up around the world to get items in customers’ hands conveniently and quickly.
  • Barriers — ordering, checkout, product availability — are removed through technology advancements.

Extreme Experience

Before the coronavirus outbreak, consumers were craving physical experience and entertainment. This trend has been slowed down by COVID-19. Nonetheless, consumers still want to interact with retailers and brands, pushing them to offer innovative concepts that can replace previous face-to-face experience with interactive online solutions.

Consumers do not choose products based solely on functional value, but also based on emotions that engagement and experience invoke. Intensive storytelling and strong content are paramount to creating these emotional ties, which will keep customers loyal through changing situations.

In 2021, the main challenge will be to facilitate physical shopping in a safe manner while developing online engagement solutions that will partly cover the lost advantages of offline experiences. Important topics for retailers and brands include:

  • Ensure a safe shopping environment in the stores at all time
  • Integrate elements that elevate and define the identity of the brand offline and online
  • Offer an ever-changing experience that creates excitement and a lasting impression to attract potential new customers.
  • Develop personal customer service solutions online that were previously only taking place offline.


Consumers are also more conscious than ever. There is no backup planet, and customers are calling for sustainable solutions and transparent chains. Additionally, consumers are more aware that their personal health is not guaranteed. In 2021, a healthy diet, wellness and mental health is at the top of customers’ minds.

Implementing sustainable practices is all about demonstrating social responsibility and highlighting an ethical, honest, and responsible business. It means taking responsibility by offering consumption in good conscience by producing environmentally sound and responsible products and services.

Sustainability, animal welfare, and fair trade are in high demand. Consumers are increasingly looking to align with brands and retailers that share their values. Brands can connect with their customers on a deeper level when they can feel like they are contributing to a greater purpose by spending at a specific retailer.

JCWG Final Word

There is no question that 2020 was retail’s most tumultuous year yet. With it behind us and its lessons under our belt, now is the time to innovate, adapt, and thrive… to make 2021 the best year of retail ever!

Stay tuned for more information on how you can get your free copy today!


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