The emergence of numerous business and technology trends in recent times promise to make 2021 an exciting year for the retail sector. With digital tech continuing to evolve at a rapid rate, the way that consumers purchase goods and services has been completely transformed.

This point will be demonstrated to perfection during the upcoming holiday season, with analysts predicting that around $190 billion will be spent on eCommerce sites. That represents a year-on-year increase of 33 percent, highlighting the impact that tech is having on consumer habits in the 21st century.

Young adult woman lying down on sofa in living room at home, trading online with tablet computer connected to stock markets. Over the shoulder view

The next 12 months are expected to see even more developments in retail, so read on as we take a closer at some of the trends to watch in 2021.

Online Gambling

Advancements in technology have powered significant changes in the gambling industry since the turn of the century, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Online gambling is now all the rage, with global annual revenues in the sector forecast to grow to around $93bn by 2023.

Whether you are looking to play some of the best bingo games or place bets on sporting events, websites are where you will find the best action.

While the growth of online gambling appears to be good news for the industry, it does present numerous challenges from a retail perspective.

The shift towards digital has impacted staffing levels, with trading teams, customer service personnel and operatives in land-based venues all affected.

However, brick and mortar establishments still have their place in the industry, particularly those that can adopt elements of the online experience into their offering.

The upcoming year will test the creativity of gambling operators as they strive to adapt to the continuing shift in consumer habits.


Virtual & augmented reality, extended reality, robotics and the Internet of Things will all have an impact on retail during 2021.

Connecting these elements of tech will allow retailers to bring the convenience of online shopping to offline environments and the personal nature of the latter into the world of eCommerce.

Virtual reality tech will increasingly be used by online outlets to showcase their goods and services, while augmented reality will make its mark in the offline space.

This should spark an increase in the number of cross-channel outlets, following in the footsteps of the likes of Walmart and Amazon who increasingly have a foot in both camps.

The shift to cross-channel will largely be driven by the online sector, as companies recognise how a physical presence can improve their brand exposure.

The clothing industry is the most likely to head down this route, as many consumers still prefer the interactive nature of shopping for these types of products.

This convergence means that online and offline and online retail will benefit equally from shifting consumer habits and tech advancements.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been shaping the retail sector for some time now, and this is likely to accelerate throughout 2021.

AI was initially used in retail elements such as stock management and logistics, but it has increasingly been adopted for customer-facing experiences.

Virtual assistants and chatbots have become more prevalent, and this will continue as the tech becomes much more sophisticated.

Robots are also expected to transition from behind the scenes to more prominent roles in retail, helping to support numerous shop floor functions.

For instance, robots can be used to help people find items, thus improving their overall experience of visiting a particular store.

While all of this may sound daunting for anyone resistant to change, studies have shown that consumers are generally happy to embrace the new landscape.

AI undoubtedly helps to improve the retail environment, both online and offline, and it will continue to have a major influence moving forward.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has also been part of the retail scene for a while now, but 2021 is likely to see the practice become much more commonplace.

Consumers are more likely to believe a real person over other types of advertising, which is where influencers come into their own.

Audiences place their trust in brands that use authentic voices to showcase their goods and services, making this is a marketing tactic that they can ill-afford to neglect.

Visuals are an essential part of marketing, and the opportunity to get messages across in this type of environment has repeatedly proven to pay dividends.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram give retailers access to a vast audience, particularly if they forge link-ups with the right influencers.

Brands such as Body Shop have expertly leveraged this type of marketing to their advantage, establishing networks of influencers who operate on social channels.

More organisations are sure to follow suit in 2021 as they strive to cash in on the growing effectiveness of influencers in the modern retail landscape.

Ethical Retailing

Retailers who embrace an ethical and socially conscious ethos will enjoy greater success than those who choose to ignore such practices.

Research has shown that more than two-thirds of consumers prefer to buy from brands whose values closely align with their own.

This is particularly prevalent amongst the Gen Z demographic, who are eager to engage with retailers who support mental health, social justice and inclusivity initiatives.

The shift towards value-based consumerism will place more pressure on brands who fail to demonstrate they are serious about operating in this way.

Consumers have become increasingly vocal in calling out retailers who don’t take a firm stand on ethical issues, with social platforms allowing them to express their views easily.

This is unlikely to slow down during 2021, as consumers become increasingly aware of the way that retailers conduct their business.

While taking an ethical stance does sometimes come with risks attached, it can be a hugely effective way to build customer loyalty.