Retail Trends and Predictions For 2020

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Retail is facing more changes than ever before. As new technologies enable automation and unparalleled innovation, retail is transforming.

So, this all begs the question – what does the future of retail have in store for us as we head into the third decade of the 21st century? What kinds of trends will define the way we sell and buy goods in 2020 and beyond?


Retail will become about customer experience, as whispers of “Retailpocalypse” are finally put to bed


While consumer experts were predicting the death of retail as little as five years ago, innovation has changed the forecast. Retail is no longer about simply providing a basic shopping function for consumers – people want to have an experience when they enter a shop.

That doesn’t mean that the sales clerk role will become extinct. Pieter Lammens, the Director of Paris’s European Retail Experts Platform, explains,

“In 2020, the retailpocalypse will be behind us: stores will still exist, but their prime function will be customer experience. Tedious tasks, like logistics, will become more and more automated, but we have to keep in mind that the five human senses can only be stimulated in store! So far no bot or personalization tool has been able to even come close to a good sales assistant.”[1]

A good example of this is the now-iconic Apple store, with its simple white branding and dazzling array of gadgets. Customers enter one of these locations for a multi-sensory experience, in which everything they see, smell, touch, and hear has been carefully curated. While products are obviously for sale, the focus is more on the actual feeling of being in the space.

These experiential shops are also common as pop-up ventures. Recently, German confectioner Ritter Sport hosted a fun pop-up shop in Covent Garden, enticing passers-by to come in by offering them free chocolates. Once inside, they were greeted by a combination of retail store, live action advertisement, and brand awareness centre.


Consumers will be more concerned about responsible consumption than ever before


Responsible consumption is one of the most prevalent trends in retail, and you can expect it to reach fever pitch in the next few years. Customers in all industries want to be assured that their consumer choices are not contributing to the destruction of the planet, and they are voting with their money. Concerns over labour practices, environmental impact, and trade practices will continue to mount, with companies around the world addressing these issues with new lines, statements, and policies, all dedicated to responsible production.

This has been a common trend in the restaurant and food industries for quite some time, and now clothing companies are feeling the heat. This has prompted H&M, Zara and others to launch ‘lower impact’ clothing lines. Others, such as The Gap, have special lines (like the Project Red Initiative) that benefit charities around the world.

In a piece of American research released in 2017[2], consumers polled were 87 percent more likely to purchase a product from a company that advocates for social and environmental issues. The same research showed that 76 percent of consumers would refuse to buy something from a company that had ethics different to their own.

Carl Boutet, a Retail Executive in Residence at Highline Beta, puts it simply.

Why are (some) retailers now focusing on sustainability? Because they have to. Full stop. Why do they have to? Because in the short term our environment desperately needs it. In the midterm social & environmentally conscious retailers will benefit economically by being able to justify increased margins to support their triple bottom line. Long term, our global economy will also depend on it.”[3]


The keys to success will remain the same: agility and efficiency


Before you start thinking that you have to reinvent the wheel in your business and adopt a whole new marketing and production strategy, just remember that the basic tenets of retail success remain the same.

Whether you’re a balloon wholesaler or a designer eyeglasses merchant, remaining flexible, agile, and open to change are the keys to staying successful. Address the changes to the industry as early as possible, be proactive, and start strategising about what makes you different, and how you provide value.


Social shopping - social media will become even more intertwined with retail


Just when you think that we have reached peak social media – get ready. According to experts, we haven’t seen even the tip of the iceberg. Since the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, companies big and small have used these social networks to sell their products and build a community. Expect to see this become even more integral to the shopping experience as we enter the ‘20s, with the rise of ‘social shopping.’

YouTube and Instagram are already big players in the ‘social shopping’ phenomenon, as influencers share their ‘haul’ videos and photos with thousands (and even millions) of followers. Similarly, apps like Pinterest allow people to create shopping lists and wish lists that they can share with friends and strangers. People build entire online communities based on their shared shopping habits and consumer desires.

In addition to those who have become famous simply for shopping and sharing, YouTube and Instagram influencers (anyone with more than 100K followers) are leveraging their own ‘fame’ to sell lifestyle products, cosmetics, books, and more.

Consider Zoella, a British YouTuber who launched a retail empire on the back of her social media success. She is now worth millions of pounds, and sells her products on three social media channels, a lifestyle website, and even in Primark[4].

Instagram recently launched their ‘shoppable post’ feature that allows users to link products in their posts. When their followers click on the linked products in the post, they are taken directly to an online shop. The Instagrammer then earns a commission (when linking to external shops) or makes a sale (when linking to their own web shop). The user doesn’t even have to leave Instagram to make their purchase.

Have you considered using shoppable posts on Instagram?


We’ll see more partnerships between major brands


Retail partnerships are poised to become more and more important, as brands realise that they have to harness the power of their names and reputations. Partnerships between international brands will continue to be of importance.

Across the pond, Starbucks and Spotify recently partnered together to offer clients added value.[5] The 2 companies integrated their apps, linking the Spotify app with the Starbucks My Rewards programme. As customers waiting in a Starbucks shop for their order, they can use either one of these apps to find out more about the music playing.

What was the benefit for each company? This collaboration encouraged customers to download the Starbucks app and sign up for their customer loyalty program. Spotify was able to encourage users to subscribe to their music streaming app in order to earn additional Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and fits nicely within each of the company’s branding strategies.


More online and shopfront stores will offer flexible payment schemes


Cash will always be a constant in our lives, but its use is dwindling in retail shops as well. It’s more and more common to see shops and restaurants that no longer accept cash at all, and only accept card or digital payments. Five years ago, this was only common in Scandinavia, but it’s now very normal to see this in hip East London eateries and small ‘mum and pop’ shops alike.

Online payment methods are also changing. In the past year, the UK has seen the rise of Klarna, a flexible payment programme available for online shopping. Asos, CultBeauty, and even Ticketmaster now allow people to put off their payments for 30 days, or to spread payments across 3 months. While this hearkens back to the days of layaway, it is a new innovation in online shopping.

While the consumer pays the same amount in the long run, they are tempted into purchases they may not otherwise make by a ‘zero down’ option.


Online and brick and mortar retail will develop more ‘subscription’ buying plans


Subscription services have grown 100 percent[6] over the past 5 years, with products as deodorants, flavoured waters, organic meat, electric toothbrush heads and socks arriving to consumer’s doors on a regular basis. By having an ‘opt out’ system rather than reminder to place an order, subscriptions are not only convenient for clients, they’re excellent for a business’s bottom line.


Prepare to change, and you’ll always be prepared


As we head into the 2020s, we are sure to encounter even more retail trends. One thing that they all have in common? Retailers in all sectors need to be flexible, forward-thinking and satisfy customer demands for experiences and sustainability.








Reference list

Komornicki, S. (2017). Cone Communications | Cone | Cone PR | Cone Inc | PR Agency | Boston | NYC. [online]. Available at:

Lewis, A. (2018). Here’s how much Zoella is really worth. [online] Cosmopolitan. Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].

McKinsey & Company. (2018). Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers. [online] Available at:

None. (2017). What is the Future of Retail? These Are Our Predictions for 2020. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019]. (2019). Starbucks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019]. (2019). Retail Trends and Predictions for 2019 | 12 forecasts for the future | Vend. [online] Available at:

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