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The reinvention of retail: 5 of the top trends from 2021

By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

December 28, 2021 | 5 min read

As part of our Best of 2021 series, The Drum’s journalists have been looking back at some of the biggest stories of the year. Here, we revisit our Reinvention of Retail Deep Dive.

Retail has been reshaped by the pandemic with further lockdowns completely altering consumers' relationship with the high street. In 2021, the retail industry has seen a rapid rise in DTC, innovations in touch-free payments and the evolution of multi-brand marketplaces.

Retailers adopt loyalty schemes to secure first party data

Highlights from The Drum’s Reinvention of Retail Deep Dive

Here we look at some of the highlights from our Reinvention of Retail Deep Dive.

1. The reign of DTC beauty brands

The DTC-focused model gained popularity during the pandemic with the likes of online-only brands Glossier and Trinny London booming over the last year. When digital-first brands reach peak zeitgeist, there is a temptation to go into retail says Tinny London founder Trinny Woodall. She says these brands need to rethink the retail space and avoid opening a traditional beauty store.

At the heart of Trinny London’s strategy is the Match2Me algorithm which allows customers to tailor makeup to their skin, hair and eyes. The tech was inspired by the ”thousands of women who have walked out of a department store in certain lighting, with an orange foundation”. Match2Me, says Woodall, ”takes out anyone in the journey who could give false information”.

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2. Is the future cashierless?

Earlier in the year, Amazon opened its first cashierless store, Amazon Go. It was followed by Tesco and Morrisons kicking off trails for the same technology. The pandemic changed attitudes towards cash payments which accelerated innovation in payments and the development of low-touch transactions.

Havas Market’s head of e-commerce Jessica Chapplow told The Drum that the walk-out model offers retailers greater behavioral data and has the potential to ”level the playing field between online versus offline analytics and insights”. Other retail commentators were wearier of cashierless mass adoption.

3. Multi-brand marketplaces on the rise

The pandemic has whipped out a fair few department stores, but has also given fresh relevance to multi-brand marketplaces including Etsy, Just Eat and Asda.

Andrew Dunbar, the EMEA general manager at Appnovation, writes that unexpected partnerships can deliver on that ”surprise and delight factor”, such as Crocs’ limited-edition Kentucky Fried Chicken clogs.

Dunbar advises finding partnerships that mix online and physical. Despite the ”huge uptick in digital demands, brick and mortar stores still have their place – especially when it comes to standout CX,” he says.

4. Fashion brands get savvy to conscious consumerism

Fast-fashion brands from Shein to Boohoo to Asos have capitalized on the rise of conscious consumerism, injecting huge sums of ad spend towards convincing audiences that they are ethical.

Chris Norman, founder of the Good Agency, foresees a trend towards increased transparency on clothing labels. “When you buy jeans, it will tell you what type of denim it is. What kind of wool. Brands like Gortex are going to become consumer brands,“ he says. “And if it doesn’t happen quick enough, the government will come in and effect change.”

5. Retailers jump on the loyalty bandwagon

An influx of regulatory activity on protecting consumer data and the rise of DTC competitors has led retailers to rethink their loyalty schemes. Retail insiders told The Drum that brands need to think bigger about what their loyalty scheme can offer to stop consumers from signing up to multiple similar schemes.

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