Without a doubt, the global health crisis has upended and disrupted all industries. Retail companies, in particular, have suffered massive losses — from stores permanently closing their doors to mass employee layoffs. True enough, reports show that global retail sales in 2020 went down by 5.7% — forcing surviving retail companies to rethink their strategies to prepare for the coming year.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much present, most of the retail trends we’ll see will likely focus on maximizing digital platforms to keep business afloat. Let’s discuss the top online retail industry trends that you should watch out for this 2021.
1. Social Commerce is on the Rise
In recent years, we’ve been seeing more shoppers choose ecommerce over brick-and-mortar stores. This demand for online stores has also been amplified by the global health crisis — driving retail companies to accelerate their online presence and survive. In the digital marketplace, various tools and technologies are available for retailers to increase their yield.
One such tool is social commerce, a feature offered by social media platforms to integrate their stores on their pages. Since social media platforms have a lot of web traffic and potential customers, retailers need to take advantage of this and provide customers with more shopping options. As social commerce becomes more prevalent, it is projected that almost $604 billion in sales will be driven by social commerce by 2027.
2. A High Demand for Marketers With Digital Skills
Before the pandemic hit, it was easier for retail companies to survive without heavily investing in a digital marketing strategy. But with more brands populating the digital sphere due to the pandemic, bare minimum effort is no longer enough. Now, companies realize that they need skilled and knowledgeable experts who are well-versed in treading online marketplaces.
Digital marketing is now one of the fastest-growing jobs in the marketing industry. There has been a drive to open up marketing to a broader student base through online opportunities to meet this demand. Top universities across the country are now offering online degrees that are just as valid as traditional degrees, which has become increasingly important during the pandemic.
Those with an online marketing degree are coached to develop campaigns that will reach audiences across a variety of platforms. Marketers develop campaigns that will reach audiences across various platforms, including SEO, analytics, content management, basic UX, and multimedia — all of which are essential in helping retailers find success online. Unsurprisingly, marketing ranks among LinkedIn’s top 10 in-demand skills, and this trend will only persist as retail continues to digitize.
A Different Approach to Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is not a new thing. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more marketers pump money into the influencer industry as influencers continue to engage their audience and dominate social media platforms. In fact, Insider Intelligence estimates that the influencer marketing industry is expected to be worth at least $15 billion by 2022.
However, this year influencer marketing is about to turn on its head. Because of the pandemic, today’s audiences clamor for authentic, genuine, and empathic voices on social media platforms. Instead of having overly-produced videos, heavily-edited photos, and carefully-constructed captions, more influencers will churn out raw and objective content to entice their viewers. Based on trends, video content will become the medium of choice for many influencers and retail companies.
Since brick-and-mortar stores have temporarily closed due to the pandemic, “try-on” vlogs and candid Instagram Story reviews allow consumers to experience brands differently. As influencers pivot their content towards authenticity and become more mindful of these trying times, they can help retail companies tap into their audience and help them thrive amid the pandemic.
3. Shopping Experiences Powered by Augmented Reality (AR)
As we’ve mentioned, brick-and-mortar stores are still effectively closed. For this reason, today’s customers don’t have a way to assess products from their favorite retail stores physically. Thankfully, retail companies can use AR technology to showcase their products in the digital marketplace better. AR bridges the gap between the digital and the physical by creating digital storefronts.
For example, Kohl’s has recently partnered up with Snapchat to create Kohl’s AR Virtual Closet. By using their smartphone, customers can step into an AR dressing room and try on items. Also, they can even complete a purchase without leaving the app. Besides Kohl’s, other retail brands that have used AR to their advantage are Ikea, Target, and Home Depot. As this technology continues to be fleshed out this year, we’ll see smaller retail companies create their own AR experiences for their consumers.
4. More Interactive Features for Chatbots
Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), retail chatbots are getting smarter and better equipped to provide customer support. While this technology isn’t exactly new for retail companies, the utilization of AI-powered chatbots will be more prevalent as companies ramp up their ecommerce technologies.
Unlike live customer support, chatbots are available 24/7 and have shorter wait times — helping you keep your customers satisfied during these trying times. Aside from these, AI has also made it possible for chatbots to go beyond customer support and create personalized experiences and recommendations for your customers. With chatbots improving, we should see an increasing number of retail brands use this technology to favor live agents.
5. A Surge of Ethical and Values-Based Retail Companies
Studies show that consumers prefer brands that share their values and principles. Many retailers have since realized the importance of being fully transparent with their ethics and values. In response, more companies are ensuring that their products, services, and messaging are tightly associated with their company principles and goals.
Whether it’s shifting to sustainable operations or taking a stand on social issues, businesses need to go beyond profit and communicate their deeper purpose. This way, they have a better chance of resonating with communities. Just ensure that you actually walk your talk, as consumers nowadays won’t hesitate to call out companies with dishonest practices.
Elevate Your Ecommerce Ecosystem With Nogin
If you want to dominate ecommerce and capitalize on the latest retail trends, contact us to learn more about our suite of premier intelligent enterprise ecommerce solutions. Our exclusive ecommerce platform allows you never to have to replatform again. Best of all, you’ll be able to stay on top of your entire online storefront from one easy-to-use dashboard. Nogin is the best ecommerce software in the industry and has allowed our partners to reach their next retail frontier.
Hurley was able to beat their year one forecast by 240%, while our other partner, Honeywell, grew their revenue by 350% in just under two years! Chat with a member of our intelligent commerce team to learn how you can leverage Nogin to catapult your business to the next level. If you want to learn more about the latest retail and ecommerce trends, make sure to check out some of our other ecommerce guides below:
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