Trends 2021 - Retail

Trends 2021 - Retail

At the end of 2020, together with our Culture + Trends team, we looked at how the exceptionally bizarre 2020 would affect consumers in 2021. Based on our model of 7 universal human drivers to maximize happiness, we conducted qualitative and quantitative research with leading-edge and everyday consumers in 16 markets worldwide. In this series of articles, I will deep-dive into a selection of sectors to showcase which trends are strongly manifesting and how to leverage these for your brand. This week, the Retail industry.

It is general knowledge by now that the past lockdown year entailed an acceleration of online and livestream commerce. Retailers polished their virtual stores and found new ways to connect with customers. Christian Dior’s virtual beauty store is an ultra-HD copy of the store on the Champs-Elysées; the Dior products’ moods and aesthetics are mimicked online, and the many video feeds are trying to convey a digital portrait of the perfumes. American pet store Petco connected their customers with veterinarians via Instagram livestreams for the perfect nutrition or training advice. But COVID-19 also brought along some less obvious trends for retailers.


Unparalleled activism

The pandemic that plunged the entire world into a form of viral dictatorship made systematic inequality, oppression and unfairness in society more visible than ever. Being locked up with only a good internet connection and (social) media as a ‘reality check‘ makes people think, pause and sometimes freak out. Add to that a very vocal Generation Z – 8 out of 10 of whom want to join organizations that fight for matters close to their hearts, according to a study by Vice. At least 6 in 10 youngsters see COVID-19 as an opportunity to change things thoroughly. Tomorrow’s consumer is looking for brands and retailers that dare question the discrimination ingrained in society, that are not afraid to address taboos and at the same time aim to have a positive impact themselves.

Adidas opened a gender-neutral store in SOHO, London. Their collections are no longer displayed per gender, but rather per function, sports and look. In their ‘What’s Your Name’ campaign, Starbucks stood up for inclusivity and diversity in their spot where James (ex-Jemma), a transgender in transition, is addressed by the barista with his new name.

In India, on the International Day for People with Disabilities, McDonald’s introduced the ‘EatQual’ packaging, allowing to unwrap and eat a burger with one hand.

At the beginning of the year, plant-based meal subscription Vibrant Vegan awarded £50,000 to a real meat lover, that, in exchange, would not eat meat for three months and had to create a buzz about this on social media to convince others to follow suit. The same company had previously already installed vending machines in hospitals in the UK to provide (vegan) food for the COVID-19-wards frontline staff.


Nurturing nature

As people were searching for a sense of freedom and health, more and more of them visited parks and forests as the ultimate escape from the virus and its lockdowns. No coincidence then that Chloé Zhao’s film Nomadland won the major Oscars this year. According to Condé Nast, the film is an ode to America’s vast plains and wild coastlines. Retailers such as John Lewis, Asda and Halfords all reported increased sales of camping equipment. Selfridges chose ‘Good Nature’ as their 2021 creative theme – they understand that their customers want to connect with and enjoy nature more, and are designing in-store experiences around the healing power of nature. The brand also released a brand-new podcast series with the same theme, with mini-documentaries, tutorials and meditation. Woolworth’s Macro launched 350 products in Australia which contain only natural and healthy ingredients. Finally, IKEA’s ‘Fortune Favours the Frugal‘ campaign shows the positive impact of simple, everyday solutions in the home, such as growing herbs and reusing water.

Wish to learn more about these and other consumer trends? Get your free download of our 2021 global trend report!

2022 Consumer Trends Report

2022 Consumer Trends report

As experts in people-centric future thinking, we identified 10 consumer trends for 2022, and we validated these with 15,000 consumers in 17 markets around the globe. This report shows the emerging trends that are shaping the 2022 consumer.

More info

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