2021 Retail Trends Report: AI & ML Herald in Next Gen Shopping Experiences

The retail industry has been making strides towards frictionless, omni-channel retail experiences for the last few years. As it were, supply chains were leveraging low-cost labor locations to align with cost competitiveness, and this led to compromising on vital supply chain determinants like flexibility and agility. The market disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges that lay in the path of supply chain continuity and cost, emphasizing on the vulnerable and fragile nature of existing planning techniques.

The decline of brick and mortar stores seems to persist, but would be inaccurate to deduce this as a merely pandemic-induced event, given that e-commerce was significantly disrupting brick and mortar retail earlier too – more than 9,300 stores shut down in the United States in 2019 alone. Then again, this does not signify the death knell for physical stores. Rather, it highlights that every passing day, more customers are looking for a holistic experience that leverages the best factors of shopping in a store (product trials, consultations) and does away with the most common in-store inconveniences (product unavailability, long checkout queues).   

While investments towards enabling e-commerce adoption are likely to increase as Work From Home set-ups continue, when trends go back to normal, retailers must also prioritize efficient demand re-forecast for a smooth, seamless supply chain transition. Furthermore, instances of customers stock-piling and panic buying, have indicated that running out of essentials is a very realistic problem. Keeping this in mind, more retailers, manufacturers and consumers are expected to prioritize sustainability in 2021 and the years to follow.     

Through the course of this report, we look at how changes in the marketspace and consumer behavior have impacted different functions of the retailing industry in 2020, the consequent trends to be expected, and suggest AI & ML-powered solutions that can help you stay one step ahead of competitors, in 2021.    

Retail AI Trend-spotting for 2021  

- The pandemic truly highlighted the need to employ risk management systems to avoid severe supply chain disruption such as the one observed in early 2020, created as a result of the volatile, pandemic-disruption induced marketspace. What were the analytical practices that need a relooking to build resilient supply chain systems for the future?     

- Social media and networking platforms have been driving e-commerce for a while now and this trend is expected to continue through 2021. Forecasting demand and subsequent ROI that can be attained from establishing the integration between e-commerce and social media sites, along with mining the data collected from social e-commerce sales to analyze trends, demand, and brand & product perception, are going to by drivers of analytical investment in companies looking to tap into this market potential.     

- From BOPIS (Buy online pickup in store) services to enabling aisle navigation, and in-store product recommendations, the drive to facilitate omnichannel frictionless retailing experiences will continue this year. What is the key to efficiently leveraging the gold mine of data these technologies will unlock? How can these be utilized to determine fundamental aspects like store layouts and aisle designs? Furthermore, how can this data be rerouted to determine analytically-sound demand forecasts, enabling smooth supply chain operations and agile e-commerce services?    

- Across industries there is an increasing adoption of personalization in all business functions – ranging from marketing, to customer relations, to product design, promotions, etc. The extent to which loyalty programs and customized offers are driving sales cannot be ignored, and deep-learning AI & ML is a crucial ally to help efficiently align with this trend.     

From bolstering brand relations with consumers online to leveraging NLP for social media trend analysis, find out how AI continues to be the key component in facilitating long-lasting customer relations.     

Download the 2021 Retail Trends Report to find out about the trends that will shape the retail marketspace this year. 

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