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2021 Preview: Strategies for Retailers to Capture Consumer Attention

Heading into 2021, retailers will continue to face dynamic change in consumer behaviors and the evolving retail landscape. They must act quickly to cater to these changes that defined 2020, driven by the logistics of safely serving shoppers during the pandemic, alongside the volatile economy. 

To meet consumer demands for convenience, value and meaningful connections in the year ahead, here are some considerations to drive strategy and inspire engagement.

  • Physical stores will always remain an important part of retail. People enjoy and need the experience of shopping in physical stores. However, the future belongs to the retailers that understand the demand for omnichannel and effectively integrate the convenience, speed and power of e-commerce with the sensory appeal and excitement of physical stores.

The pandemic has proven – in large part due to restrictions – that even retailers with a strong physical presence require digital touchpoints.

From a marketing perspective, one way to bridge in-store and online is through video content. Online video is an effective way for retailers to recreate brick-and-mortar experiences and entertain shoppers – ultimately driving purchasing decisions.  

  • The preference toward contactless shopping will accelerate. Contactless everything will surge. Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) usage gained widespread adoption this year due to restrictions of foot traffic and social distancing practices. This approach also expanded to curbside pickup, minimizing physical interactions without compromising convenience. As customers gravitate toward BOPIS and curbside pickup, retailers must concentrate on delivering a seamless, positive experience.

This year, we also saw the resurgence of QR codes across retail, restaurant and other social settings as a means for seamlessly sharing information. As QR technology is now built into most smartphones and usage is more commonplace, retailers should continue to leverage QR codes for features such as mobile payment, scan and go apps, and cashier-less checkout. Given the higher propensity to scan QR codes, this strategy can also be used to create experiences for marketing communications and product discovery and exploration.

  • Communicating savings and value will be critical for influencing purchasing decisions. Consumers are leaning further into savings as a result of the pandemic’s economic impact, and this behavior will continue in the new year.

According to Valassis’ Consumer Intel Report, 70% of consumers say they have increased their savings behaviors in 2020 and 76% are confident their new practices will continue over the next year.

Our research also shows that when comparing prices between offerings, consumers use both print (76%) and online (71%) channels. This year especially has motivated shoppers to try new things.

Another Valassis survey found that 76% of consumers enjoy discovering new products based on deals they receive from brands. To keep up with the competition, retailers should ensure all omnichannel communications offer valuable deals and convenience to shoppers.

If 2020 taught retailers anything, it’s that they must be prepared for change, which sounds somewhat counter intuitive. However, those that pivoted and did so quickly, kept pace with changing consumer behaviors.

While the trends shared here will play key roles in the landscape next year, it’s also essential for retailers to maintain a real-time pulse on their audiences to then connect in meaningful ways and stand out to consumers. By leveraging data-driven insights, retailers can effectively target consumers in relevant, personalized and timely ways.

Behaviors driven out of necessity in 2020 will continue into the new year. And as consumers face change, so must retailers.

Dave Cesaro is executive director of client strategy for retail at Valassis.

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