It’s easier to look back at this point than to look ahead with certainty about the direction of retail industry trends. This space has just finished one of the most turbulent and challenging years in history. Brick-and-mortar sales in many segments fell as e-commerce saw unprecedented year-over-year growth – culminating with Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day ever at $10.8 billion in sales.
But looking ahead is vital to setting a revenue-building plan for your independent software vendor (ISV) or development business.
Here, four industry thought leaders share their predictions for retail industry trends in 2021 and tech solutions that can help meet changing demands.
Retailers meet customers where they are
Subrah Iyar, CEO and Co-Founder of Moxtra, sees retailers shifting from a “push” model to a “pull” model. “Businesses need to adopt digital solutions to keep customers satisfied and continue growing their businesses. They’ll shift experiences to doing businesses doing business where customers can pull services on-demand rather than pushing their services onto a customer. To enable the on-demand ‘pull’ engagement model for customer experience means that digital workspaces will be consolidated to act as virtual extensions of business,” he says.
In addition to enabling the types of engagements consumers want, this retail industry trend has additional advantages. “The pull model for digital business-to-customer interactions makes customer engagement more humanized,” Iyar says. “In place of ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ emails, businesses can deploy interactive digital platforms for remote customer engagement. All of these interactions will be conducted within private digital channels where customers can reach brand representatives and collaborate to resolve issues better and improve the customer’s experience with the brand.”
He adds that brands will also benefit by having a managed overview of customer interactions to help build long-lasting relationships.
More effective communications
Christine Spang, CTO of Nylas, says, “Over the past five years, there has been an explosion of communication platforms, from Twitter to Slack. We have seen certain channels like SMS messaging shrink while, surprisingly to some, email is growing as a primary form of communication.”
“In the next year, we will see companies in the communications API industry expand their footprint to accommodate this abundance of platforms to meet consumers where they are. In doing so, they will provide communication methods in one unified place to seamlessly reach consumers across all channels.”
Point of sale (POS) systems get a make-over
Another persistent retail industry trend is continual change. Scott Agatep, Executive Vice President, Solutions and Services, ScanSource, goes one step further: ” In 2021, POS technology change will accelerate. Yes, we’re past 2020, but the impact it has had on SMBs is here to stay. Developers are working feverishly to make all business functions, from payments to inventory management and payroll, easy and accessible to everyone.”
He says developers who specialize in solutions for retailers have committed to providing software that can match the pace of rapidly shifting business environments and consumer demands. “The business models and channels that support these SMBs will find success in embracing the speed of this evolution and finding new and pioneering ways to assist it,” he says.
Millennials’ buying power and influence increases
Tim Harris, CEO of FuturePay, says developers in the e-commerce space should expect another year of helping their clients address evolving consumer demands. He points out that the pandemic has driven greater adoption of online purchasing, but 2021 will also be marked by the continued rise of the millennial generation.
“Millennials are rejecting traditional payment solutions like credit cards in favor of options that are integrated into their favorite merchants’ e-commerce sites, such as digital revolving credit,” says Harris. “Market research shows that 67 percent of millennials don’t even have a credit card because they regard them as financially burdensome.”
Harris suggests integrating more flexible online payment solutions into e-commerce sites to meet millennials’ demands for more flexible payment options – and increase revenues for merchants – will be an important retail industry trend that developers need to consider when planning for 2021.