In 2020, we saw the COVID-19 pandemic pose incredible challenges for the retail community as business owners tried to stay afloat. Despite incredible challenges, many retail leaders proved their companies’ resiliency by pivoting their business models and adapting to new consumer needs. As a small business advisor and brick-and-mortar store co-owner, I anticipate that three trends will shape the retail landscape this year: data-driven marketing, retailers continuing to adapt to changes in consumer behaviors, and an increased focus on working with e-commerce advisors and partner companies.

1. Data-Driven Marketing Will Increase

Marketing has evolved over the years to become more personalized, and technology has helped fuel this evolution. Retailers can now communicate directly with consumers through their business’s website, social media channels, e-newsletters, email, SMS, and more. As marketing has digitally evolved, it has also enabled businesses to collect data and drive more targeted marketing approaches to attract, retain and retarget customers.

Independent retailers can begin their data-driven marketing journey by reviewing their site analytics and conducting a simple audit of their social channels to gauge their most popular products and/or services, as well as their highest-value customers. Reviewing customer data enables retailers to pursue more targeted marketing tactics, such as providing exclusive access to sales and giveaways to a brand’s most active followers, the ability to opt into text messaging for personalized recommendations, and more. Retailers can conduct user surveys to hear from their customers directly, or even invest in paid data from third-party companies. Using customer data to drive marketing decisions is a great way to build lasting relationships with customers and develop brand loyalty. 

2. Retailers Will Adapt to Shifts in Customer Behaviors

In addition to targeting customers based on preferences, retailers must also keep pace with overall shifts in consumer trends and behaviors. One trend we started to see even before the pandemic was consumers spending more time on their mobile devices, making an optimized mobile experience key. As transactional mobile traffic continues to rise, online sellers will seek to further enhance their mobile design, usability and site security. In parallel, we will also see a continued increase in customers making purchases via social platforms. Over the next year, more retail businesses should set up or enhance their social channels to allow customers to purchase directly from within the social platform or redirect them to the website storefront.

Retailers that create a convenient and seamless experience and adjust to meet customer needs — whether that’s through an optimized online shopping experience or through safe in-store shopping where possible — will be more successful. For example, retailers that have storefronts should consider touchless experiences and contactless services such as delivery, phone orders, curbside pickup, self-checkout, and scan-and-go options. Focusing on safety and health — two priorities that became top-of-mind during the pandemic — will be an important way to drive customers to a retail business as we move further into 2021. 

3. Increasing Popularity of Working With Partner Companies

Another trend we will see throughout this year is more businesses turning to trusted partner companies or advisors to help guide them in e-commerce and social media best practices. Retailers that are looking to develop an online presence that will drive customer engagement and business success but aren’t tech experts should consider working with a partner company. Running an online shop doesn’t require being tech savvy; retailers can work with a technology partner to help design and manage their website, manage their online listings, and source valuable insights from their e-commerce platform. Working with a trusted partner company can help small business owners focus on their business and growing their craft, leaving key aspects of business management to professional companies. 

Retail Success in 2021

Data-driven marketing tactics, adherence to new consumer needs, and working with a partner company to develop an effective online and e-commerce strategy will shape the retail landscape. Retail leaders should consider these trends as they develop their marketing and customer engagement strategies this year. Following these trends can help set a business up for success in 2021 and moving forward.