Getting out our crystal ball is always a challenge, but 2020 was truly a year few of us could have seen coming. Now with vaccine distribution on the horizon, people are eager for recovery in more ways than one. In November, Elevate PR celebrated the first birthday of Trend of the Week with a webinar on 21 key trends for 2021. If you missed it, a full recording is still available online here.
In the meantime, because this has been such a momentous year for all things future-focused, here are four more trends to watch out for in 2021.
Total Retail Transformation
The pandemic has forced retailers to be incredibly adaptive. It has also made consumers open to shopping in new ways. According to a survey by Virgin Media, ‘Two in five people say they began shopping online for the first time at the start of the pandemic.’ Businesses have begun opening so-called ‘dark stores’ and converting retail locations to dedicated fulfilment centres for increasing their delivery reach. Automation experts are also predicting 2021 could be the year that delivery robots finally become a bigger part of our lives. In the UK, Co-Op has plans to roll-out 300 Starship units by the end of 2021.
Put under pressure, physical retail spaces are being used in new ways. Pop-ups are, well, popping up everywhere. Vogue Business reports that Appear Here, an online marketplace for short-term retail rentals, had a 125% increase in available space this summer. For the month of December, National Council for the Blind, launched a sustainability focused charity shop, Re:Newed, on Grafton Street in Dublin. It is full of donations from Irish celebrities, designers and members of the public. There have also been plenty of virtual pop-ups, such as the Christmas Market Roe & Co hosted via Instagram. Social commerce is also set to play a larger role in the customer experience in 2021. China is currently leading the way, but the global social commerce market value is projected to reach US $604.5 Billion by 2027. WhatsApp is the latest platform to join the charge with its new shopping cart feature. Direct-to-consumer models are also flourishing and predicted to grow even further. This year, even Heinz and PepsiCo gave DTC a try.
Overall, we can expect omnichannel to be the new normal for retailers. The lines between digital and in-store experiences will continue to blur as consumers crave an experience that is both seamless and intimate.
Irish sustainability influencers, Geraldine Carton and Taz Kelleher, changed their brand name this year from ‘Sustainable Fashion Dublin’ to The Useless Project. Their message is simple: use less. The name change also represents a public shift in attitude. Generating less waste is now widely understood as a fundamental pillar, if not the fundamental pillar, in protecting the planet. Lockdown has amplified this. People have had more time to reflect on their own consumerism as they cleared out, deep-cleaned, and organised their homes. Many people have also leaned into homesteading-style that reduce food waste use like fermentation or hobbies like sewing, embroidery, and tie-dye which encourage upcycling. There has been a growing interest in zero-waste grocery stores like The Source Bulk Foods in Dublin and a resurgence of ‘milkman models’ of delivery such as Loop and Era Zero Waste in Germany. In conjunction with the takeover of biodegradable product packaging and shipping materials, we will also be thinking circular. However, being waste conscious isn’t limited to its origins in food or fashion anymore. Throughout the 2020s we will apply this lens to more aspects of our lives including furniture, homewares, building materials and technology.
2020 was a year of unprecedented collaboration. From crowdsourced lists of Black-owned businesses, to community food delivery for those cocooning, people have been inspired to work together. Brands have been feeling generous too — bringing a feel-good factor and added value to customers through group effort. Not only have we seen novel collaboration from brands in different categories such as Lush & Deliveroo or Levi’s and Lego, but also from brands we have learned to accept as staunch competitors. Earlier this year, we saw Burger King take out an ad asking people to Order from McDonald’s, while Apple and Google have partnered on contact tracing technology. Riding this wave of community spirit, we anticipate a continued rise in larger brands working with smaller, niche brands in 2021. This is especially pertinent in the age of social media. Not only does it convey a sense of kindness to a public desperate for good news, it is known to boost engagement and cross-pollinate audiences for both brands. Be on the lookout for a lot more of those tell-tale ‘x’s.
After a whole year to daydream about it, travel will be on the top of a lot of people’s minds going into 2021. According to global research by Booking.com, 95% spent time looking for travel inspiration during lockdown. After plenty of time to consider our destination wish lists, people will travel armed with knowledge and high expectations. Going forward, we can expect people to make travel plans with highly specific motivations. Many will want to rebook trips they were forced to cancel, or make up for what they consider ‘lost time.’ They will also be more strategic than ever when it comes to optimizing value and their sense of safety. Over the last few years, we have become more considerate of our personal impact on the environment as well. This is only predicted to get stronger as ‘slow travel’ continues to become a desirable alternative to flying. After a summer of ‘staycations’, many people will also aim to make travel choices that benefit the recovery of local communities.