Future of Retail 2021

10 Trends that Will Shape the Year Ahead

Executive Summary

The coronavirus pandemic has caused retailers to retool their operational, merchandising, and marketing strategies to align with consumers’ changing shopping habits. When things return to normal, the realignment of retail will have lasting effects.

How much will US consumers spend on retail and ecommerce in 2021?

Following a dip in 2020, we forecast that total retail sales growth will begin to recover in 2021, rising 2.3% to $5.630 trillion. On the heels of outsized 32.4% growth in 2020, ecommerce sales growth will moderate to 6.1%. Brick-and-mortar retail sales will rebound from a 3.2% decline in 2020 to a 1.6% gain in 2021.

Which retailers are best positioned for 2021?

Amazon’s leadership will continue, while big-box retailers like Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, and Best Buy will extend their omnichannel momentum. Digital-first retailers like Instacart, Peloton, and Etsy will build on their pandemic-driven gains, while forward-looking brands like Nike and Lululemon will continue to successfully transition to digital and direct-to-consumer (D2C) models.

Which innovations will reshape physical retail?

Brick-and-mortar retail will incorporate digitally enabled technologies to make stores more experiential and frictionless. Click and collect, cashierless checkout, contactless payment, and digital signage will streamline in-store transactions. Increased emphasis on atmosphere and community-driven experiences will make retail more inviting.

Which advancements will influence how consumers shop online?

Social commerce will play a bigger role in brand and product discovery for discretionary goods. Growing familiarity with grocery ecommerce will push this habit forward. “Buy now, pay later” adoption will make purchases more affordable in a strained consumer economy.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report looks at our 2021 US retail and ecommerce sales forecast, highlighting 10 key trends representing the most significant shifts in retail and consumer behavior next year.

KEY STAT: Total US retail sales are expected to grow 2.3% to $5.630 trillion in 2021.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Key Themes Influencing the 2021 Retail Landscape
  3. eMarketer’s 2021 Retail and Ecommerce Forecast
  4. No. 1: D2C Brands Riding the Ecommerce Wave Will Encounter Stiffer Competition from Established Brands
  5. No. 2: Media and Commerce Will Converge as Checkout Attaches to Shoppable Content
  6. No. 3: Click-and-Collect Momentum Will Drive Market Share Gains for Big-Box Retailers
  1. No. 4: Grocery Ecommerce Gains Will Evolve from Trial to Habit Formation
  2. No. 5: Retail Media Trio Will Disrupt the Duopoly’s Digital Ad Market Dominance
  3. No. 6: Premium Subscriptions Will Drive Cross-Channel Loyalty for Leading Retail Brands
  4. No. 7: Digital Fitness Will Emerge as a Megatrend, as Aspirational Brands Segue into Consumer Health Market
  5. No. 8: Next-Gen Marketplaces Will Leverage the Economics of Scarcity to Forge New Flywheels
  6. No. 9: Frictionless ‘Stores of the Future’ Will Land and Expand
  1. No. 10: ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Options Will Hit an Inflection Point amid Strained Discretionary Budgets
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. Insider Intelligence Interviews
  4. Read Next
  5. Sources
  6. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Arsen Avakian
Cooler Screens
Co-Founder and CEO
Interviewed November 13, 2020
Jon Chang
Global Head of Shopper Growth Marketing
Interviewed December 2, 2020
Moksha Fitzgibbons
Interviewed October 16, 2020
Dan Frommer
The New Consumer
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Interviewed November 19, 2020
Guru Hariharan
Interviewed November 13, 2020
Juozas Kaziukėnas
Marketplace Pulse
Founder and CEO
Interviewed November 17, 2020
Elliot Mustoe
Growth Marketing Manager
Interviewed November 23, 2020
Katie Puris
Managing Director, Global Head of Business Marketing
Interviewed October 15, 2020
Randall Rothenberg
Interactive Advertising Bureau
Executive Chair
Interviewed November 17, 2020
Nich Weinheimer
General Manager, Ecommerce
Interviewed November 6, 2020
Deborah Weinswig
Coresight Research
Founder and CEO
Interviewed December 15, 2020

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Andrew Lipsman


Bianca Carasus
Jasmine Enberg
Senior Analyst
Rimma Kats
Executive Editor
Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Cindy Liu
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Amy Rotondo
Research Manager, US
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst

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