Selligent Marketing Cloud: what’s in store for the retail sector in 2021?


Sam Counterman, director of marketing, Northern Europe & global digital lead at Selligent Marketing Cloud, discusses his predictions for retailers in 2021

Counterman: more important for brands to cater to cost conscious customers

We don’t need reminding that 2020 was a challenging year for the retail sector. But the shake up from the global pandemic means massive changes which will last well beyond the days of social distancing and hand sanitiser. From shifts in consumer behaviours to new expectations for customer service and physical shopping, last year was a year unlike any other for retailers. What’s on the horizon as we look ahead?

Even as the economy improves, spending will remain conservative

More than 75% of people lost some kind of employment during the pandemic and 60% of consumers said they focused on buying “essential” items like food and safety products according to a recent Selligent study.

Despite 2021 (and beyond) being a time of recovery, 29% of consumers say their purchasing behaviour has changed forever. Despite the economy and jobs market recovering, conservative approaches to spending will have a lasting effect, making it more important for brands to cater to cost conscious customers.

Brands can do this by offering sales and deals throughout the year, not just for the big, seasonal events like Black Friday. Don’t underestimate the role of flexible and empathetic customer service too – quality products with competitive pricing plus an understanding attitude means customers will stick with brands for the long haul.

Luxury brands will trade cachet for accessibility

This conservative approach to spending presents a major issue for luxury brands. Part of the appeal of the luxury goods market has always been exclusivity but COVID-19 forced most consumers to reassess how they view premium products.

When asked about factors that define their consumer loyalty, only 8% cared about brand name. The future of luxury will not be in exclusivity, but in accessibility. How will luxury brands become relatable and convince consumers on a large scale that they earned a place in their life? By becoming more approachable both in terms of marketing and price point.

Seamless omnichannel experiences will define the next era of consumerism

Consumers and brands alike turned to digital more than either expected in 2020, and those behaviours will have a lasting impact. Brands that can adapt and offer digital and real-life experiences that weave seamlessly together will drive economic recovery for the commerce industry.

75% of consumers now prefer to receive brand communications via email or mobile, and only a third prefer to start customer support interactions via phone or customer service representatives. This underpins the importance of both marketing and customer service being available across channels, including email, website chat, social, and SMS/text.

Contactless shopping will become the new standard

The pandemic has impacted almost every facet of our lives, but some of the changes brought in to help with social distancing will have long lasting benefits. Want to pick up your shopping without needing to interact with anyone? No problem!

A recent Selligent study found that 64% of consumers want mobile and contactless pick-up or check-in options in the wake of health and safety concerns. Accessible shopping will become the standard, with consumers around the world coming to expect a contactless experience as part of a seamless, efficient, and flexible omnichannel customer approach.

A growing focus on relevance and personalisation

Privacy is a critical factor for consumers. Our survey showed that for 64% privacy is more important during an online experience. Privacy-led digital culture is growing – consumers understand data protection policies like GDPR and CCPA. With third-party cookies being phased out by 2022, digital marketers will need to build trust with consumers by understanding their needs and preferences more closely.

2021 will see brands collaborate with consumers to create a more personalised online experience combined with greater control and respect for privacy. More importance will be placed on transparency about what data brands wish to capture, with a focus on offering a value exchange – data is currency these days and consumers know it.

Change is the only constant as we have been frequently reminded over the last year, but the brands that are set to thrive in 2021 will be those able to listen and respond to their customers and  embrace the ever evolving world of retail.