Retailers are predicting a 4.7% increase in retail sales for 2021. This improvement is fueled by massive increases in mobile commerce, eCommerce sales the foundation of which is powered by the pandemic. Consumer behavior has clearly changed a lot, lower in store traffic coupled with an increasing preference for powerful digital experience consumers are pivoting in their demands of brands.

The eCommerce growth is primarily helping small retailers, giving them a powerful leg up over larger competitors, their customers are fresh and willing to adapt. Established brands have established customer experiences, pivoting this can be challenging for large retail brands. eCommerce is expected to grow by 9.7% on desktops alone, driving huge growth for retail over the next 12 months. Interestingly enough retailers of all levels are increasing their spend by 3-6% over this year, with this as the bottom line it is expected that digital experiences and powerful in store tech will be critical in 2021.

86.6% of all retail sales still have a store component so we can ascertain that stores will continue to be relevant throughout 2021 and beyond. Personalizing the customer experience has been the leading priority cited by retailers, other in-store technology has also surged to relevance with retailers upgrading CRM/Loyalty platforms, Contactless payments and Digital assistants.

So with all that noted, what are the top priorities for retail leaders going through 2021?

  1. Personalizing The Customer Experience

64% of retail leaders note that personalizing the customer experience is an essential priority. A key innovation arriving in 2021 is intelligent automation. Helping associates and systems work proactively to drive high value interactions that adhere to customer needs. According to Gartner the new trend within the next 3 years will be that 65% of enterprise organizations have deployed machine learning, or process automation to enhance customer experience.

Customer satisfaction will truly focus on customer satisfaction during 2021, a new stage of measurement will become essential. Customer feedback will start to make a key comeback in 2021, clientelling will become essential for retailers to succeed and open ended questions will replace, yes & no’s about preferences or experience. It is much more valuable to understand why a customer did not purchase, than to know they didn’t. Brands will be able to leverage this customer data to design more impactful experiences that are engaging, diverse and rich.

Key platform integrations and systems to provide personalized communications, reminders and marketing will be a primary facet for retailers to evaluate in 2021. Being able to send your customer an email reminding them that the product they missed is back in stock, gives your store a leg up over competitors, encouraging customers to stay loyal because they know a brand will take care of them.

  1. Supporting Contactless Payments

49% of retail leaders note that supporting contactless payments is a key priority. Mobile technology use continues to increase in all retail segments and garner a heavy share of future purchases. Contactless payments are the latest reflection of the virality of mobile technology as a facet of our lives and more specifically retail. Retailers are pushing to leverage mobile devices for point of sale, with 45% of top retailers noting their desire to upgrade within the next 2 years.

Contactless payments can be enabled by mobile devices or contactless card payments, giving the consumer flexibility to purchase safely and quickly. 82% of SMBs already embraced new forms of technology to support new customer payment behaviors. Digital payments that excelled the most were driven by necessity but have now become habitual. ¾ SMBs expect consumers to prefer contactless payments even after consumers are vaccinated. Retailers have to be ready to embrace the continuation of contactless payments and innovative payment tools. The customer experience has to be reformed in order to provide an engaging experience for consumers in-store while empowering convenience as a result of contactless payment tools.

  1. Upgrading CRM/Loyalty Programs

45% of retail leaders note that upgrading CRM/Loyalty programs is essential for 2021.

What does it take to keep customer loyalty in retail today? Treat each customer as an individual with a personality. Loyalty exceeds just products and services, it centers on an emotional connection between customers and the brand. The brand has to be leveraged to include the customer as part of the brand, brands that succeed in 2021 have to encourage their customers to be brand advocates, these types of personalized perceptions drive even greater reach and influence for brands.

To be effective retailers have to embed loyalty across their entire organization, from the associates that promote loyalty programs, to the marketing team that designs promotion for customers. Rewarding loyal customers with early access, free shipping and targeted discounts will encourage customers to stay engaged and keep coming back. Brands leave as much as $100 Billion on the table in unredeemed points annually. With consumers solidly online, retailers tend to struggle to keep consumers loyal. Consumers will change brands due to value, availability and convenience. Many consumers will keep changing brands and loyalty will be a hard push for retailers. The majority of customers still feel like they are treated like a number rather than an individual. Well thought out retail loyalty programs are critical ballast for brands in their effort to keep brands engaged.

This all adds up to make one thing clear, retailers have to stay focused on innovation, encouraging their backend to be designed in a way that keeps customers coming back and drives long term growth.

Teamwork Commerce is specifically designed to enable seamless retail across channels, allowing you to build a customer experience that is tailored for every single shopper and provides award winning customer service. Learn more: