TechDogs-"2021 Retail Technology Trends"

Retail Technology

2021 Retail Technology Trends

By TechDogs

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Overview

Retail Technology is what facilitates today's hottest digital trends and in-store shopping experiences. In fact, the top trends of today would've seemed like science fiction just a few years ago—from AI-driven tools like store robotization and digital marketplaces that are virtual megamalls, to mobile apps that enable consumers to shop from wherever they happen to be. Selling stuff may have gotten a lot more complicated but buying stuff has never been easier. Come along for a tour of the top five Retail Technology trends for 2021. We promise it'll be a wild ride.
TechDogs-The Future Of Retail Is Here-"2021 Retail Technology Trends"
While the past 12 months have been rife with economic upheaval, social change and the menace of a global pandemic, one thing has remained stubbornly consistent — people still need to buy stuff. They're just doing it, well, a little differently now. Gone are the days when you could walk around a crowded shopping street with bags from Prada, Gucci and Banana Republic in hand and a green scarf around your neck like Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic.

TechDogs-Confessions Of A Shopaholic-3D Poster from An American Romantic Comedy Movie "Confessions Of A Shopaholic" - All She Ever Wanted Was A Little Credit
These days, our malls (and boutiques and marketplaces) are going virtual. Retailers were already on the cusp of massive paradigm shifts in how they interacted with and served consumers before the global apocalypse, er, pandemic. Now that some of the dust has settled, we can finally examine the Retail Technology trends that have persisted into 2021 according to top companies that have done impressive amounts of research on this very topic. Unfortunately, what all of this means for Paul Blart is that he's out of a job (unless he goes back to school to become a cybersecurity expert).

Buying stuff has never been easier. Selling stuff? That's a bit more complicated. Come, take a leap with us into the bottomless futurescape that is Retail Technology Trends to see what all the cool kids are doing.  
 

Trend 1: Artificial Intelligence Is A Complete Game-Changer


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days, from manufacturing to healthcare; why would Retail be left behind? AI-based Retail Technology is making companies more efficient, customer-centric and automated. It's our number one Retail Technology trend because it's, quite simply, a game-changer. SPD Group, a research and software engineering company, notes that nearly 30% of retailers are deploying AI in physical and e-commerce stores, an increase of 700% since 2016. AI is used for a variety of purposes, from "store robotization," which eliminates the need for human cashiers to customer service chatbots to inventory management, price adjustments and in-store assistance.

Geoff Hueter, CTO at Certona, an AI-based personalization solutions provider, says, “AI has been powering retail for years and retailers have only been scratching the surface of what’s possible. A combination of the right solutions and an intelligent approach to adoption and data management will help all retailers reap the benefits of AI.”

TechDogs' Opinion: While store robotization does sound kind of amazing, it will likely take a while for most companies that aren't Amazon, Target or Walmart to adopt. Rather, a range of AI-based solutions that improve customer experience, help retailers manage inventory and sellers move products better will be embraced and adopted by retailers of all sizes. Retailers are focusing their AI investments on technologies that facilitate AI-powered predictive and prescriptive analytics to understand their customers better, stay competitive and provide more personalized offers, messaging and interactions.


Trend 2: B2B And B2C Buyers Are Flocking To Digital Marketplaces


TechDogs-Trend 2: B2B And B2C Buyers-Hand Drawn Picture-Online Shopping- The  "Digital Marketplaces" -  Megamall Of The "21st Century"
Ah, the digital marketplace. It's the megamall of the 21st century. It almost makes me nostalgic for those Paul-Blart-patrolled shiny-floored corridors and brightly colored shopping bags (almost but not quite). More than 50% of e-commerce sales were made via online marketplaces in 2019 (the equivalent of $1.9 trillion in sales). Thanks to digital marketplaces like Amazon, PayPay Mall and eBay, retailers have a robust new touchpoint to reach shoppers.

Why is this a Retail Technology trend? Because retail marketplaces are all about tech, baby! Marketplaces like Amazon come with baked-in features, including personalization, product recommendations, mobile readiness and user-friendly checkout. Digital marketplaces are convenient for consumers because they offer various international and domestic brands in one place - kind of like a 24/7 megamall!

TechDogs' Opinion: Digital marketplaces will remain relevant to consumers for (if we have to make a guess) a long, long time. They will have associated mobile apps (we'll get too mobile in a minute) that make shopping from mobile devices easier. Finally, online marketplaces will provide lots of payment options to consumers, including credit cards (of course) but also digital wallets, bank transfers, debit cards and even cryptocurrencies. We mean, if you can order Papa John's pizza using Bitcoin, how long before you can buy that Gucci handbag too!
 

Trend 3: Mobile Shopping Is The Thang


Mobile retail sales are projected to reach $3.5 trillion this year, comprising nearly 73% of all e-commerce sales. So, mobile isn't so much a trend as it is an inevitability. Mobile-friendly platforms and apps make it easy for consumers to switch from a retailer's digital store to their physical store. Mobile shopping includes voice search apps and devices that allow users to ask Alexa (or Siri or Google Assistant) to order items or reorder items like groceries, beauty products, home essentials, clothing and pet supplies.

In fact, this trend has spawned a new term - Mobile commerce or m-commerce. According to IT service management firm OuterBox Solutions, roughly 80% of smartphone users have made an online purchase through their mobile devices in the last six months. Mobile commerce is showing unprecedented growth and businesses will need to ensure their digital touchpoints are mobile-friendly.

TechDogs' Opinion: The desire for convenience, combined with an increasing preference for contactless purchasing, plus the ease (and ubiquity) of mobile devices/shopping assistants, have made mobile shopping a top trend in 2021. None of these things are going away, so we think it's safe to say that most retailers will need to develop a new mobile strategy—or focus on improving an existing one—particularly before the 2021 holiday shopping season is upon us.
 

Trend 4: Personalization, Not Volume, Will Drive More Retail Sales From Email


TechDogs-Trend 4: Retail Sales From "Email"-3D Image Of Email Campaign Concept-Personalization + Email = An Amazing Revenue-Boosting Opportunity.
Can we talk about email for a minute? It's one of the most popular—and successful—digital marketing channels for retailers. A 2020 study by Total Retail found that 3 out of 4 people in the US made a purchase from an email they received (um, guilty!) Interestingly, it's not the email volume that moves the (sales) needle but whether the email is personalized. Bluecore, a retail marketing platform, analyzed billions of emails in 2020 and found that holiday shoppers were 2.2X more likely to convert on personalized emails versus promotional emails. Email is also a great way to establish a relationship with customers. It's one of those channels that can drive digital shoppers to physical stores by offering coupons, local promotions and incentives such as loyalty points.

TechDogs’ Opinion: Personalization + email = an amazing revenue-boosting opportunity. Consumers associate personalization with a good customer experience. Retailers who incorporate personalized messaging, recommendations and offers into their email correspondence will realize better open rates, sales and revenue. Email can also help retailers create seamless hybrid digital/physical experiences and enable them to stay connected to their customers. Email is an older Retail Technology that's been updated and refreshed thanks to personalization-based technology that makes it more relevant than ever.
 

Trend 5: The Love For Scan-And-Go Shopping And Payment Apps


TechDogs-Trend 5: "Scan-And-Go Shopping" And "Payment Apps"-3D Image OF Hands Using Smartphone Scanning QR Code On A package In The Store Or Shop
In an interesting twist, technology has begun to enable shoppers to have more digital experiences while shopping in physical stores.  Scan-and-go apps let customers scan items in-store as they shop and pay from their phone without ever looking a sales associate in the eye. It's the win-win of dystopian commerce experiences. Scan-and-go apps bridge the physical and digital worlds by letting shoppers add items to both virtual and physical shopping carts, pay online and go. Truly magical.

TechDogs' Opinion: The scan-and-go trend will likely endure thanks, in part, because of the demand for contactless shopping experiences that emerged because of the pandemic. Again, it's all about options. The scan-and-go phenomenon is part of the more significant overall trend of providing different purchase options to consumers, such as "Buy Online Pick-Up In Store" (BOPIS) and curbside pick-up. We may eventually see an end to the old-fashioned checkout process completely!


Conclusion


The Retail Technology trends for 2021 are all about improving the shopping experience for customers. The number one trend—AI-based Retail Technology— aims to eliminate the need for cashiers and provide exceptional customer service. It's about enabling retailers to talk to customers via chatbots, automate inventory management and distribution and predict shopper preferences and behavior.

Other top Retail Technology trends, including digital marketplaces, mobile shopping, email personalization and scan-and-go apps, equal a better overall experience for the customer. Somewhere, Paul Blart is dreaming of the time when people spent an afternoon at the mall and he had some real job security. Alas, those days are gone. Those days are gone…

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