2021: What the future holds

May 20, 2021 Sorcha OBoyle

The fortune-telling industry had a bumper year in 2020.

As the world sailed through unchartered waters and businesses and governments grappled with unprecedented circumstances, mediums and psychics saw their fortunes rise as some sought clarity and reassurance from virtual tarot cards and crystal balls.

Not the most conventional method and not exactly robust.

Although nobody can predict exactly what will happen 2021, we have picked out some trends that are likely to continue and found plenty of opportunities for brands to grow (and we didn’t use tea leaves to figure them out).

Consumer confidence to improve

The roll-out of multiple vaccines and promises from government that the vaccination programme will get all necessary resources will contribute to improved customer confidence. And while nobody expects the pre-pandemic normality to return, consumers and brands can start to look forward to an end to continuing lockdowns and all that they entail.

Great economic and societal shocks are traditionally followed by boom years – think of the extravagance of the 1920s – when consumers embrace spending and excitement after long periods of caution and uncertainty.

As marketers, we must plan for this shift in consumer confidence and behaviour.

Now is the time to make sure you can react quickly and anticipate the needs of your customers (new and existing) when behaviours start to shift again. Many brands are currently struggling with stock levels as supply chains adjust to new shipping costs and requirements after Brexit. Focus on getting these systems back up and running as soon as possible and invest in understanding your customers’ behaviour. When consumer confidence returns, you’ll need to be ready to help your customers discover the products you know they’ll love.

What’s more, you’ll need to be confident that you know exactly what is driving performance and how to optimise your campaigns, at speed.

Ecommerce growth set to continue

In news that will surprise nobody, ecommerce was the big winner of 2020 and is showing no signs of stopping. In McKinsey’s latest report, 65% of consumers who had started shopping online during the pandemic reported that they intended to continue to do so once restrictions lift. British shoppers have embraced online channels more than their European counterparts, even amongst older demographics.

As the capabilities of ecommerce increase, so too does consumer expectation. Whether they be retail-dominant customers who’ve sought you out online or new converts picked up via digital channels, brands must make the buying experience as frictionless as possible. Take every opportunity you have to surprise and delight your customers and ensure that your messaging is up to date and addressing consumers’ concerns: delivery times, offers, and ease of returns should be your among your top priorities.

Direct to consumer is the way forward

As ever, it is the brands who adapt and invest in understanding customer behaviour who will succeed. Digital adaptability is key and doing things they way you’ve always done them will not bring innovation or growth post-pandemic.

While many brands have adapted quickly to the challenges (and opportunities) of engaging directly with their customers, others lack the skills in-house. The next 6 months are crucial for brands who want to get the right data capture, measurements, and systems in place before consumers begin to ease back into the new post-pandemic world – the brands who succeed will grow while those who don’t will struggle.

Retailers with large physical footprints shouldn’t be daunted by the pivot to digital; in-store customers tend to be highly loyal but getting data capture right in-store is critical so you can communicate the right messages to that valuable group. Use lockdown to focus on e-receipts and educate your customers about their benefits (ease of returns and size recommendations primary among them). Data capture should be a key KPI for store staff.

The conclusion

Weathering the storm of 2020 is an achievement in and of itself. While nobody can guarantee plain sailing for the next 12 months, the arrival of vaccines gives hope that life can settle down into a new rhythm over the coming months.

After all, a vaccine is more trustworthy than a crystal ball.

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