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5 Retail Marketing Trends to Consider in 2021

Last updated: December 14, 2020


In 2020, the retail industry experienced rapid, large-scale disruption as customers chose to stay home due to the public health pandemic, and instead move to more online e-commerce experiences. Now, retail marketers must determine how they can take these changes and apply them to their marketing strategy moving forward. 

Consumer-facing industries are creating and implementing next-generation marketing strategies to improve the customer experience in the coming year. Already, customers are capable of making purchases through a variety of channels, giving them a considerable amount of control over their path to purchase. To stay relevant with these consumer-centric trends in retail, marketing teams are expected to engineer memorable customer experiences using advanced, data-driven marketing analytics.

5 Retail Trends For the Coming Year

Every facet of a retail organization should be leveraging advanced marketing analytics software to meet customer demands. From manufacturers optimizing their production, to sales staff understanding how to best communicate with customers, data-driven marketing will be central to an organization’s overarching customer-centric strategy.

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Let’s take a closer look at five of the leading trends that marketers will need to be prepared for as we head into 2021: 

1. Eliminating Delayed Gratification

Today’s consumers want their demands fulfilled as quickly as possible. It wasn’t too long ago that online shoppers believed it was reasonable to wait weeks for their products to arrive. Now, about a decade later, consumers are beginning to expect free overnight shipping from online retailers. This coupled with the fact that more people than ever are choosing to shop from home, means that retailers must be prepared to deliver on expectations.

Retailers need to respond to this trend by creating processes that allow order fulfillment to be as agile as possible. This requires precisely forecasting your customer’s demand by tracking purchase cycles within your market, and stocking products accordingly.

2. Streamlining Online and Offline Experiences for Hyper-Personalization

Personalization has been a mainstay in retail innovation for most of the decade. In 2021, this trend is expected to continue as retailers take a more holistic look at customer data. Instead of using a customer’s data to send them targeted advertisements and promotions, retailers will use personalized people-based marketing insights to create simple, streamlined shopping processes. For today’s time-pressed consumers, this is a significant value-add. At a time when many people would prefer to shop online only, creating a personal experience based on customer insights can help to fill the gap that would otherwise be filled by a selesperson in-store.

Retailers should use information about a customer’s likes, needs, and values to provide the most relevant experiences to customers. So, if a customer visits your online storefront, they should view personalized recommendations based on their recent search and past purchases, both online and offline.  It’s critical that marketers consider how these efforts will be measured, as attribution models like media mix modeling and multi-touch attribution cannot effectively provide the granular, cross-channel insights needed to make informed decisions for future media planning. Instead, they should consider taking advantage of marketing technology that can derive a more comprehensive unified marketing measurement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created the clear need for adaptability. Many marketers have found themselves sturggling to keep up as their historical data and usual benchmarks for performance no longer apply. In 2021, flexible marketing analytics will be critical to keeping up with unforeseen changes in the marketplace. Marketers should re-evaluate if their current solutions can take this fact into consideration. If not, they should consider platforms that leverage intelligent algorithms like Bayesian learning and forgetting, which enables marketers to collect only the most relevant data.

3. Leverage Customer-Facing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Information on customer preferences should be collected via sources like social media or IoT sensors. Then AI marketing and machine learning should be leveraged to create personalized recommendations based on the real-time needs of customers. This allows them to make simpler, instant decisions, leading to a better customer experience.

An example of this would be Peapod, a grocery delivery service, which leverages a service called “Order Genius,” that creates personalized recommendations for online grocery shoppers. It creates a smart grocery list that can be fulfilled in moments by considering a customer’s past purchases and their purchase cycles. So, Order Genius will suggest that a shopper that previously ordered bread reorders it on a weekly basis, while recommending that the same customer only repurchases deodorant on a monthly basis. This personalized approach to grocery shopping makes the process simpler for customers, improving their experience.

4. Socially Integrated Visualized Search

Have you ever seen a passerby with an outfit that you liked, and wondered where they bought it? Retailers are providing an answer to this situation by optimizing their product offerings for visual search. Visual search allows users to simply take a picture of the outfit – or download a photo of a similar outfit – and search for articles of clothing within the picture. Then, a search engine like Google will provide a list of matching items, giving users an easy path to purchase.

To prepare for the emergence of visual search, retailers should ensure they have a presence on image-based platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. For example, fashion brands should constantly provide new photographs that model their newest clothing. Then, customers can use an application like Google Lens to identify exactly what piece of the outfit they’d like to shop for from that photo.

As image search becomes more sophisticated, retailers can also use it alongside marketing AI to create product innovations. With this technology, customers could link their Instagram or Pinterest to their customer profile, allowing the retailer to analyze the photos within. From there, they could curate a list of recommended items that suit a shopper’s existing outfits or general sense of style.

5. Shopping on Social Media

Many social media platforms have introduced e-commerce shopping experiences. For example, Instagram recently announced the Shop tab, which gives users an opportunity to search for and connect with brands, creators, and products. Alternatively, many brands are taking advantage of influencer-based marketing by partnering up with popular content creators for sponsored partnerships and affiliate marketing. As these digital platforms continue to bring the shopping experience directly to consumers, brands should consider how they can leverage them to gain actionable insight into their target audience for even further personalization. 

Final Thoughts

2020 has brought rapid, unprecedented change across the retail industry, potentially changing the way customers shop moving forward. Retail marketers must be prepared to adapt to these changes and the resulting trends in the coming year if they want to maintain a competitive edge in the 2021 marketplace. Although a soundproof strategy is central to properly executing these retail trends, it’s important to ensure your organization has good data intelligence, high data quality, and a centralized marketing measurement platform location to store and analyze data. With the right tools, expertise, and processes, retailers can ensure they’re staying competitive in a constantly shifting marketing landscape.

Marketers, There is No Post-COVID Era


Written by Marketing Evolution