Without a doubt, 2020 was a year of unprecedented retail reckoning. While many businesses were forced to temporarily or permanently close shop, there were some who found opportunities within the challenges of the year’s circumstances. The most successful retailers and brands of 2020 were those who invested well ahead to build resilience, focusing on securing the infrastructure and culture to pivot at a moment’s notice and respond to changes affecting consumers and the market.
This year’s Future of Retail Report is designed not only to help brands and retailers respond to the events of 2020, but also to build their business for 2021 and beyond. In this report, you’ll be asked to honestly assess where you are as a company today and identify where your next key investments should be (for more details, check out our Retail Resilience Rubric at the back of this report). If you commit to organizational introspection and infrastructure redevelopment now, your company will be better equipped to weather—and thrive within—the unknown and unexpected.
This report also contains the results of a live survey with 1,000 US online-shoppers with a 50/50 gender split. The survey was conducted in November 2020 in partnership with Suzy, the real-time, online consumer-polling platform.
The first half of 2020 saw a record round of retail bankruptcies, liquidations, and store closings. 29 national retailers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy within the first 3 quarters of the year.
“The Pandemic Has Pushed Retail Bankruptcies to a Record.” Barron’s, 2020
U.S. e-commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year. E-commerce sales will reach 14.4% of all U.S. retail spending this year and 19.2% by 2024.
“US Ecommerce Growth Jumps To More Than 30%, Accelerating Online Shopping Shift By Nearly 2 Years.” eMarketer, 2020
“The coronavirus pandemic has altered not only retailers’ financial outlook for the year but also their long-term directions.”
“6 Ways The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Forever Altered The Retail Landscape.” CNBC, 2020
Published December 2020
Retailers are applying machine learning and data aggregation tools to anticipate consumers’ needs based on situational or emotional contexts and provide service or product recommendations. This includes using data generated by mobile apps to create a unified view of members’ behaviors and preferences, as well as leveraging RFID and other technologies to detect items that shoppers are interacting with in order to target shoppers in the moment and drive incremental sales. It also encompasses taking targeted advertising offline with recognition technologies that allow brands to pinpoint and deliver the most relevant ads to specific consumers near physical point-of-purchase.Expert Consults
Positioning in-store associates as product experts capable of providing one-to-one consults for customersInformed Associates
Despite collecting a variety of insights on individual shoppers from their online browsing behaviors, purchase history, loyalty membership and location, most companies fail to develop this information into an actionable customer view. New platforms are bringing these details to the forefront of retail interactions, enabling associates to recognize their customers and deliver personalized service. This encompasses the adoption of machine-learning and AI-enabled systems to interpret data and power tailored 1:1 interactions, equipping staff with tech-enabled resources to connect with consumers and provide next-level service. It also includes investing in communication platforms that help employees share real-time information to ensure highly informed customer support.
Through its partnership with cloud-based software provider Salesforce, luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue is offering a more personalized experience to its e-commerce shoppers. After re-platforming saks.com with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, the retailer now has greater access to a range of customer data points, including returns they’ve made or items that have been added to their carts or wishlists. This level of intel is providing Saks a more complete view of its shoppers’ behaviors, both in-store and online, which in turn is facilitating more tailored recommendations and messages they share with each of their shoppers.Microsoft Powershelf ecosystem links shelves, stockrooms, checkout and distribution
To create a complete ecosystem that connects shelves to stockrooms, checkout and distribution in real-time, retail technology solutions provider Powershelf partnered with Microsoft, in turn creating a platform that provides second-by-second sales, stock, and logistics that can all be seen, analyzed, and controlled from anywhere in the organization. Each in-store Powershelf product continually communicates critical data through the Microsoft Azure cloud. Microsoft Power Platform then helps Powershelf compile the data, analyze it, and communicate it back to consumer products companies—in real time. By providing decision makers with real-time visibility of when and where stock is low, enterprises are able to efficiently anticipate restocking needs at scale, communicate with stockrooms and distributors in a timely manner, and ensure customer happiness.New Balance shares user data across channels for seamless customer experience
To improve its overall customer experience, footwear manufacturer New Balance partnered with retail tech provider Aptos to deploy a new cloud data management system across its North American and European retail stores and offices. With Aptos’s SaaS product, New Balance is able to track each customer’s shopping journey and share this information across different internal teams, from marketing to inventory planning to channel management. By offering multiple teams a unified view of this intel, New Balances increases efficiencies while building a more seamless customer experience across its retail channels.