Five Pandemic Trends that Will Shape Innovation in the Retail Industry for 2021

Five Pandemic Trends that Will Shape Innovation in the Retail Industry for 2021

Innovation in the retail space will undoubtedly be more transformative and industry-changing than we have ever seen before. Retailers are evolving at unprecedented rates to keep up with customer demands, integrating new technologies and ideas into their business models. There are five future trends in the retail industry that will shape innovation for the next decade.

Innovation trends play a key role for organizations: they help direct and disseminate research that is shaping their industry, they gather good ideas and help to incubate and prototype those new ideas with cooperation from other business units, they train others in innovation best practices, and they communicate successes, failures, best practices, and more to the rest of the company.

But when it comes to innovation in the retail space, innovation departments have some very specific trends and challenges to face as they head into 2021 – many of which have been shaped by the pandemic in 2020.

5 Future Trends in Retail Industry

1. Mobile Shopping

A survey that was conducted by Oracle on ‘Global Omnichannel Commerce Trends’ has projected that by the end of 2021, Mobile commerce will reach the US $290 billion and about half of all global e-commerce sales will occur from smartphones.

Experts aren’t predicting a return to “normal” as COVID releases its grip on the economy. Many of the behaviors that shoppers adopted during the pandemic are expected to persist – mobile shopping chief among them: with e-commerce demonstrating a 31.8% quarter over quarter increase since the introduction of COVID restrictions.

This means that retailers will need to shift to a mobile-first strategy (if they haven’t already), which will require a great deal more than just opening up a shop online. It means ensuring that the entire mobile shopping experience reflects the brand: in its ease, in its form and color, and in adding value to the customer.


For example, retailer IKEA uses augmented reality so that shoppers can place the furniture that they’re considering purchasing into their home environment. It makes it both fun and easy to shop at IKEA without ever having to visit their store. 

2. Technology Adoption

Adoption of the latest technology has become recent trends in retailing. Technology is playing a vital role in today’s business world, be it any sector. In markets, to boost sales and customer engagement technology has become one of the topmost priority.

Advancement in technology has helped in changing the retail market from bricks and mortar to online shopping, from conventional payment methods to digital payments. All these factors have generated a buzz for technology adoption among retailers.

Technology will act as a differentiator and will change retail industry processes and channels globally. Big players have already made use of it or planning their roadmap or big tech giants like Google, Amazon, Alibaba have already impacted markets with their retail innovation projects.

As per the 2019 Retail Disruption Report, 74 % of retailers in the UK are adopting mobile technology on daily basis to manage sales along with using Google and Social Media Analytics to collect insights about customers and competitors. What’s more?

3. The Experience Economy

This retail trend was occurring before COVID-19 hit any retail location, but it’s more important than ever. For brands that want to continue to host in-store experiences for their customers, they must find ways to make those in-person visits even more valuable and compelling.

Lush, for example, offers tea to its guests, but also lots of hands-on testing experiences complete with sinks and handwashing stations to try their product or the ability to buy their products free of packaging, but still learn about the products by scanning them.

That gives me so much more than I would get shopping for something online, something that I might want to Instagram, which is rarely a feeling I have when I’m out shopping.

4. Search is changing

31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice search at least once a week. Those that own a smart speaker use it more frequently than that.

This means that unless your brand is optimized for a voice search, consumers will find your products lesser. Make sure your marketing teams know how to cope with this new trend.

Visual Search

Visual search will also make a huge impact in the retail space since it allows shoppers to snap a photo of something that they’d like to buy, identify it and look it up across multiple sites and retailers.

You’re going to have to expect even more comparison shopping and finding ways to differentiate your offering and maintain a competitive price will be paramount here.  

5. AI and Robots

AI solution companies everywhere are working hard to find new ways to bring AI into their services. This could mean new digital ways to track and order inventory based on store traffic, but it could also mean introducing robots (when appropriate) in place of on-site staff.


The LoweBot at Lowe’s, for example, will tell customers where they can find an item and escort them to the appropriate location, if necessary. Or in the case of this Japanese robot-maker, some retailers plan on staffing certain locations with robots as avatars that are powered by humans in another location. This limits social interaction and also can lead to a novel in-store experience. 


These are just a few of the retail trends that innovators will need to take into consideration as their innovation departments plan for the year ahead. Certainly, future trends in the retail space will still require innovators to focus on personalization, ethical brands, social shopping, last-mile delivery, and more, but this isn’t a time to anticipate for a return to normalcy, but instead for innovation leadership to test and try new approaches that will transform the business, usher in a new era of customer delight, and pioneer new pathways for the retail space. 

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