While we've entered a new world of commerce, there’s no question that retailers are ready for any challenge that comes their way in the year ahead.
When the COVID-19 global pandemic temporarily closed shop doors, retailers became experts in adapting. They quickly implemented digital tools and new ways of selling, all without the luxury of prep time. The following trends may have emerged out of necessity, but they’ll continue to shape the retail industry in 2021 and well into the future.
Subscriptions for Recurring Revenue
2021 will be the year of subscriptions, as they offer consumers a simple way to buy their favorite products and discover new ones. Through curated boxes or monthly membership fees, subscriptions are a convenient and personalized way for retailers to build loyalty and lock down recurring revenue — and an easy way for shoppers to replenish stores without leaving the house.
Lightspeed customer and retailer Out There Outfitters uses Lightspeed Subscriptions to encourage its customers to shop with them instead of going directly to suppliers. Membership fees allow the outdoor store to offer exclusive discounts, special offers and sneak peeks of new products.
Subscription boxes also make it easier for consumers to navigate the overwhelming array of options in today’s marketplace, which often leads to indecisiveness and abandoned carts. With this new business model, retailers can choose products for their customers based on preferences and past purchases for a more personalized shopping experience.
Flexible Payment Options
The COVID-19 pandemic not only changed the way consumers shop, but it also changed how they want to pay.
To avoid losing sales, retailers had to be able to process payments anywhere, anytime, with zero contact. Contactless payment technology has been evolving for years, but the pandemic accelerated its adoption, a trend that will only continue in 2021. Data shows that nearly one-third of U.S. consumers used contactless payments for the first time during the pandemic, and in March 2020, contactless payments grew by 25 percent. Digital wallets have also risen in popularity. With smart technology, consumers can pay quickly and safely with an app on their smartphone.
Point-of-sale (POS) financing, or buy now pay later (BNPL), will also emerge as a top tech trend in 2021. Giving customers the option to make a purchase without paying for the product in full at the time of purchase has financially assisted many households and filled a need in the market for flexible transactions.
Consumers won’t be the only ones taking advantage of on-demand payment plans, either. More retailers will bypass the bank and go directly to certain POS providers for capital, such as using Lightspeed Capital. In most cases, a percentage of daily sales is automatically repaid against advanced amounts, keeping repayment flexible to suit the needs of the business. This allows retailers to invest more in their business immediately, like buying inventory, investing in marketing, or managing cash flows.
Expect to see even more flexible payment methods emerge in 2021, changing the way consumers and retailers transact.
Enhanced Loyalty Across Channels
Omnichannel retail is a unified brand experience across multiple channels, where each seamlessly connects with the other. Consumer demand to discover, engage, research, buy and get post-purchase support whenever they want, using whatever channels they want, will continue to grow in 2021.
Loyalty programs have always been important to retailers, but with the huge increase in omnichannel shopping, it will be more important for tools to be integrated across every channel. Retailers will need to engage and reward customers through their e-commerce store the same way they do in-store.
Connecting the online and in-store experience will future-proof businesses and allow shoppers to easily move between the two, enhancing loyalty and keeping customers coming back.
Rewriting the Rules of Retail
The way retailers do business and consumers shop has changed. From subscriptions and flexible payments to seamless loyalty across channels, digital tools and advanced technology will be central to selling in 2021 as these behaviors continue to evolve.
Retailers have taken risks, pivoted quickly and reinvented their industry. Their resilience has been inspiring, while their quick thinking and unmatched passion have rewritten the rules of retail for good.
As we start the new year, I can’t wait to see what the retailers that continue to offer rich consumer experiences while reinventing their businesses for an increasingly digital future are able to achieve in this new world of commerce.
Lory Ajamian is the vice president of marketing at Lightspeed, a leading point-of-sale provider for high-performing retail, hospitality and golf businesses around the world. Lory has over a decade of experience in sales operations, data and lead generation.
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Lory Ajamian is the VP of Marketing at Lightspeed, the leading point of sale provider for independent retailers, online merchants, and restaurateurs. Graduating from McGill University with a degree in Mathematics and Statistics, Lory has a decade of experience in sales operations, data, and lead generation.