Retail trends 2021: Digital transformation in retail is accelerating

Personalisation that leverages advanced digital tools is not just what customers want, it also makes profitable sense.

Predictions that all retail will exist online only in the future are unfounded.

As much as a lot of retail activity has transitioned into the e-commerce channel, there will always be a demand for bricks-and-mortar stores - as well as online options that augment the reach of the physical store footprint.

The biggest changes in retail in 2021 is the single-minded drive to integrate the two into a seamless hybrid retail experience that is powered at the back end by automation and artificial intelligence, the clever use of customer data to create better shopping experiences and advanced logistics solutions that save money and deliver better customer convenience.


Retail platform solutions like Relex are reshaping the role that AI plays in the industry.

'The importance of software solutions for analytics and big data management in retail is difficult to overestimate. Predictive analytics solutions enable procurers, merchandisers, and stock managers to more accurately assess product purchases by assessing shelf potential “at the right time”. By collecting information across all sales channels and turning big data into intelligent data, the retailer better understands the purchase priorities of each individual customer across the entire range of the store.'

Zippin is trying to make autonomous, cashier-less stores the new standard using cameras and AI. Amazon introduced the concept of checkout-free grocery stores when it opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle in February. Now San Francisco start-up Zippin is trying to bring that experience to everyone.


Ten years ago it was the pop-up store, now it's the Nanostore - a tiny footprint, modular, plug-and-play, 24/7 AutoCheckout store of the future.


A few years ago, we did a lot of work with BAT in the UK exploring how tobacco brands (subjected to very strict regulation as to how they are allowed to engage with customers) could personalise the brand experience for consumers at point of purchase. We created a series of idea prototypes back then, that even by today's standards, would be groundbreaking. Often having to innovate within strict boundaries can produce some of the best results.

Now the topic of personalisation at scale for retail is the buzzword on everybody's lips again - leveraging customer data and automation to create unique experiences for individual shoppers.

Personalisation that leverages advanced digital tools is not just what customers want, it also makes profitable sense.

'Successful personalisation programs yield more engaged customers and drive up the top line. In general, a positive customer experience is hugely meaningful to a retailer’s success: it yields 20 percent higher customer-satisfaction rates, a 10 to 15 percent boost in sales-conversion rates, and an increase in employee engagement of 20 to 30 percent.' - via

Great example of style personalisation is Nike By You.

What now?

Technology is changing and improving retail like never before. The fight for the consumer's share of their wallet is fierce and our suggestion to any retailer wanting to start exploring some of these new avenues of growth is to start off with a very clear idea of what it is that you want to ultimately achieve in the future and work towards that vision.

Don't just invest money into technology without first carefully considering what your long-term strategic intent is and carefully planning your step-by-step deployment of resources as you advance along with the technology.

Clarify your strategic intent

Over the years, Jonathan Cherry has consulted to numerous organisations helping them clearly define their strategic intent and strategy map for accelerated business growth and resilience in uncertain times.

If you need a facilitator to take you through this process for your organisation, please get in touch here to chat with Jon.


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