What are the Retail Technology Trends to Watch in 2021

As we all know 2020 brings a lot of change in the businesses and in marketing trends because of the COVID. The coronavirus outbreak caused most retailers to shut down temporarily, hold customers away, and push retailers to negotiate with landlords and suppliers to fix unplanned inventory and liquidity issues. On top of that, the forces that have driven hundreds of retailers into bankruptcy over the last few years have remained present. We’ve already seen the shutdown and the re-opening of charts and patterns so there’s no need to rehash. And, though many said that they “couldn’t wait to say good-bye to 2020,” there are those that had a good, and even a great, year.

Foresee, we’re going to name this Vision 2021. Technology will be at the heart of all aspects of the industry for those who succeed and prosper. Not that technology has not been a priority in the past, but with tensions fueled in 2020, technology investment will be a must for any retailer that has not already accelerated investment during the pandemic – from the supply chain, e-commerce and store operations, to merchandising, marketing and consumer engagement.

Fundamental Modernization and Security:

As retail organizations move workloads from on-site to the cloud, data security, software, and other elements handled by retailers will continue to be a priority and focus. The rapid expansion of emerging technologies that allow new capabilities and provide on-demand services adds to the security threats that threaten retailers’ businesses. Rapid business expansion may mean that retail companies are struggling to determine who is responsible for an individual process when it is under pressure.

As attack surfaces continue to expand through systems, devices, individuals, partners and infrastructure, it is clear that embracing technology as a key driver of growth will intensify opportunities for complex cyber attacks. As the industry has seen over the last two-three years, retail and security leaders are increasingly concentrating on interlocking security strategy and cyber defence capabilities to improve business resilience and brand confidence that are important in today’s retail setting. Retailers must have a comprehensive threat defence that takes into account clients, staff, vendors, partners, applications and systems. Think outside the perimeter of a firewall to protect cloud, mobile, and IoT operations and data wherever it resides. Bear in mind that while cloud providers protect the cloud, it is up to the retailer to secure data and applications in the cloud.

Stores for the Digital Small Business:

Take a fast drive and check out your local history, monolithic mall or even the latest outdoor walking entertainment communities (live, work, play) and see the many empty storefronts. In the near term, this is an opportunity for digitally native, direct-to-consumer retailers like Warby Parker, Bombas, Glossierand Bonobo to take advantage of lower rents and shop with their conventional digital shoppers. As a result of the pandemic, real estate analysts estimated that more than 1,000 stores will be opened by digitally native brands in twelve months. Find retailers to take advantage of lower rents in 2021 to shop with their traditional digital shoppers.

Screening Customers Journey:

Getting a full image of the customer, or building a ‘golden record’ shopper, allows retailers to sell relevant goods and services more efficiently, tailor communications and incentives, and deliver personalized deals and loyalty benefits. Although this has been a hot topic for a number of years, the challenge of bringing it to life is to track shoppers through the entire customer journey—when they navigate—e-commerce sites, shopping your site, walking your store, chatting with your virtual agent, etc.

The various types of consumer/shopper data available to retailers for consumption, harmonization and usage have changed and grown. It is no longer just syndicated data centres providing consumer insights, but now major e-commerce and social media serve up shoppers’ data that retailers can use to plan promotions and ad spending, drive new customer growth, and plan to convert across channels.

I am also shocked that, after shopping at a variety of retailers on a regular basis, being part of their loyalty programs, shopping online and in-store for many years, and applying for their credit card, many retailers do not individually, deliberately, and explicitly market to me. I obtain the regular “twice-year sales” and “always sales coupon codes” and I am never remembered, compensated or recognized in the shop. Also, consider the food and pharmacy segment, where many of the big players have loyalty cards with the data of the shopper, which provides an immense opportunity to personalize the customer experience and enhance the relationship.

Customers Data or Information:

Data and analysis are still hot and more important than ever, not only in the supply chain and demand forecasting space but also in the use of consumer insights to predict actions. A good friend of mine is heading retail analytics for one of the world’s leading luxury retailers with locations in most major metropolitan cities around the world. As she shared with me last week, “Our executives are eager to know the number, store results, and shopper’s trends in locations that are open. I need to gather data from different back-end operating systems because our data from North America is separate from multiple other global back-end operating systems.

Then I need to use BI software to do light analytics and drop data to Excel and Access to run analytics, etc.” This is a retailer that is doing well financially but has not yet invested in modernizing back-office analytics. My friend’s scenario may sound familiar, as not every retailer has invested in, or has chosen to prioritize, analytics systems and integrated data capabilities. But analytics is becoming part of the retail organization’s fabric, and this skill set will be part of every team – not its own disparate IT team. For resellers with a scale, a centralized data analytics team could be useful in fueling conventional BI, AI/ML, automation, and advanced analytical methods.

Digital Marketing:

Facebook and Instagram accelerated the deployment of Shop’s social media network capabilities in 2020 as online shopping changed dramatically. Shops are custom storefronts for Instagram and Facebook businesses and allow social media users to easily purchase items that they see in social ads. Retailers and brands can create virtual product shelves, sell, and connect ads on both platforms to their e-commerce site. With supermarkets, Facebook caters more explicitly to brands, and brands move marketing spending away from conventional channels such as TV, radio, and billboard to reach their shoppers where they spend a substantial amount of time every day. This is close to brands selling their goods on other e-commerce sites and markets. Facebook and Instagram are building a closed-loop ecosystem for retail brands (or agencies), allowing shoppers to gain insights, tailored promotional campaign features, and targeted product placement in end-user feeds. Facebook and Instagram users can customize what content they see, and retailers can aim their content to shoppers who have already converted.

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