Current volatility makes it hard to make specific predictions but there are key themes to look out for in retail transformation. Retail in 2021 promises to also be full of uncertainty. However, these same themes or trends have been growing steadily in 2020 and now must be tailored for your local retail market and specific customer base. Discover the 10 retail transformation themes to get ready for 2021.

Listen to this episode to discover:

  • The 10 themes to look out for
  • How to approach your omnichannel strategy.
  • The new big retailers that you must keep an eye on.
  • What you can take from retail in 2020.

Contact Oliver Banks

Share your themes for retail in 2021. Or tell Oliver what you learnt from retail in 2020.

Of if you’d like help defining and delivering your retail transformation in 2021, then reach out immediately and let’s talk.

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Reminder of the key retail transformation themes in 2021

Each week, I highlight the top retail transformation headlines from around the world in the weekly Retail Transformation Briefing. Sign up above or find out more about the Retail Transformation Briefing.

In the podcast episode, there were 10 themes discussed for 2021:

Diverse entry points for 2021

2020 has been very polarising. Whilst some retailers have been successful, others have struggled. This is a factor of what category any given retailer focuses on as well as how they have transformed, before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This means that different retailers will need to approach the year with very different strategies. Understanding your own status quo has never been more important.

Remaining vigilant about coronavirus

The pandemic will continue into the new year. But as the vaccine starts to roll out, consumer confidence will grow. But customers will develop into 2 core segments. Those that are immune and those that aren’t. Retailers must face the fine line of appealing to both of these groups so they continue to offer a safe shopping environment.

Understanding omnichannel for you and your customers

Whilst it’s been around for a while, 2020 showed us the importance of omnichannel. But it often isn’t understood. So activity 1 is to find out what omnichannel means for your wider business and your customers.

Then you must build your omnichannel vision, looking at both your product lifecycle or supply chain as well as your customer lifecycle too. Finally, you must deliver your omnichannel vision or it all be in vain. And “seamless” will continue to be an empty buzzword that is freely thrown around.

Social commerce – the big immerging opportunity and threat

In the last 6 months, we’ve seen the launch of Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops. Meanwhile, other platforms like TikTok continue to explore the opportunities of social commerce. It’s critical to understand your social media commerce strategy.

Also, look out for brands selling direct to consumers via Facebook and Instagram. These big platforms (and Facebook as a whole group) now present perhaps the biggest threat to your business since Amazon started in your category.

Looking after your people

Your people have been essential to survive the past few months. Work has been stressful. But, personal lives have also been stressful too. Our collective resilience has taken a battering! So, during 2021, a key theme will be about rebuilding and renewing resilience.

Business collaborations and partnerships to grow capacity and capability

As retail becomes more complex, retailers increasingly need to partner with other companies to increase capacity and capability. However, to be successful, these relationships must be understood by all involved, closely aligned between companies, teams and indivudials. Finally, they must be based on trust to be successful.

Organisational restructure to match the latest business

2020 has seen you adjust your organisation at pace, through moves, furlough schemes and redundancies. But now, you’ll need to align the organisation structure with the purpose and proposition of the business. A successuful reorganisation will also help you and your teams to overcome silos which are a key factor that impedes omnichannel.

Using data more effectively

Like omnichannel, we’ve spoken about data a lot. But, it’s likely that many people in your organisation are not comfortable with data and analytics. By increasing the capabilities in your wider business, you’ll be able to draw more insight and drive more action.

Automation to save time, speed up operations and eliminate errors

As we look to cement the changes from 2020, automation will be a big theme. This is made up of both digital automation and physical automation.

Digital automation is primarily through using bots to process, manage, move and develop. RPA or Robotic Process Automation is a big opportunity to streamline your business, saving labour, increasing speed and minimising errors.

But physical automation is about using tangible, real robots to take the heavy lifting out of operations. Examples include using warehouse automation to improve pick processes or delivery robots to take orders to customers.

Whatever you do in automation… don’t automate rubbish. Make sure that your operation is working effectively and serving your business purpose.

Keeping agile mentality when it comes to change

Finally, 2020 has shown everyone that transformation is possible quickly. The challenge now is not to revert back to your old (slow) ways of managing change projects and programmes.

And finally, remember, sustainabilty remains on the agenda too

Environmental sustainability stays top of mind (and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future).

This will represent itself in plastic reduction where possible and electric vehicles, as we’ve seen from Amazon and Tesco this year.

Retail lessons from 2020 to take into 2021

2020 has (re)taught us a number of lessons. These aren’t breakthrough lessons. In fact, they’re probably things we knew already. But we weren’t collectively living them.

  • Firstly, 2020 retaught us to be responsive and adjust to stay relevant.
  • It retaught us that we can’t have all of our eggs in 1 basket and that we must work across multiple channels simultaneously and instantaneously.
  • Also, it retaught us that “done is better than perfect.”
  • Finally, it retaught us that we’re better together.

All great lessons as we head into 2021. As long as we put them into action.

So, what were your lessons from 2020?

Oh, and remember to sign up for the Retail Transformation Briefing to stay on top of the key trends and themes for retail going forward.

More Retail Transformation Show podcast episodes to listen to

If you’d like to understand more about why customers choose to shop with you (or not!) then listen to episode 68: How To Win Customers (part 1) and episode 69: (part 2).

068: How To Win Customers (part 1) with Richard Hammond and Rocky Howard- The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

069: How To Win Customers (part 2) with Richard Hammond and Rocky Howard - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

Or if you’d like to find out more about warehouse automation, then be sure to check out episode 92: Automating Your Warehouse.

092: Automating Your Warehouse with Mark Messina and Simon Houghton - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

In episode 111: Defining Your Perfect KPIs, you can learn more about developing your metrics and data (with an overall theme of taking action.

111: Defining Your Perfect KPIs - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

And finally, you must develop your resilience and support your team to develop theirs too. So listen to episode 57: Building Your Emotional Resilience (part 1) and episode 58: (part 2).

057: Building Your Emotional Resilience (part 1) with Steph Tranter - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

058: Building Your Emotional Resilience (part 2) with Steph Tranter - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

And remember to subscribe in your favourite podcast app too!


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