5 Major Retail Trends

Consumers are getting behind major issues such as sustainability, health and wellness, inclusivity, and more. As we look ahead, the retailers who will win are the ones that recognize these trends and find ways to incorporate them into their business strategies and practices. Let’s explore 5 major retail trends and how you can capitalize on them.

Quality trumps quantity (and even affordability)

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The early and middle part of the decade saw a meteoric rise of consumerism. In retail, this was most evident in the growth of fast fashion. People had a nearly insatiable craving for new and trendy merchandise all the time, and retailers such as Forever21, H&M, and Zara delivered by rapidly churning out new designs and selling them cheap. 

The strategy worked — for a while. 

But towards the latter part of the decade, consumers began shunning the notion of fast fashion in favor of high-quality and sustainable goods. 

There are several things that drove this movement. For starters, people began to see the detrimental effects that extreme consumerism had on the environment. What’s more, minimalist initiatives (driven in part by people like Marie Kondo, Ryan Nicodemus, and Joshua Fields Millburn) have prodded consumers to be more mindful of the things they buy and bring into their homes. 

Today, in the battle between quantity and quality, the latter seems to be coming out on top. According to research from Brandwatch, when choosing a fashion brand, the attribute that consumers cared most about was “Quality.” “Affordability” came in second, while “Convenience” came in third.

Global survey fashion graph
Image credit: brandwatch.com

Similar results were found when consumers were asked about what they look for in grocery stores. Just like with fashion, “Quality” was the top attribute that respondents cared about when shopping, followed by “Affordability” and “Convenience.”

Retail trends for 2020 gracery survey results
Image credit: brandwatch.com

The tendency of consumers to value quality over quantity will continue to get stronger. As movements around minimalism and sustainability (more on this in a bit) continue to gain steam, we can expect shoppers to be more purposeful about the things they buy.

How should retailers respond to quality over quantity?

To capitalize on this retail trend, start by raising the standards for the products that you carry. Stock your store with more meaningful items — ideally those that help make the world a better place and bring joy to your customers.

You should also think about how you can shift to experiential retail. Consumers are moving away from buying “stuff” and are more inclined to spend on experiences. Find a way to level up the experiential component of your store to engage modern consumers. 

One retailer that’s been doing this well is Lululemon, which holds in-store classes to bring its customers and the local community together. 

Retail Trends for 2020 Lululemon Fig Garden Example
Image credit: lululemon.com

Vroman’s Bookstore, Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore, levels up the in-store experience by regularly having authors host talks and book signings. Vroman’s also holds various in-store events — which range from trivia nights to seasonal gatherings like holiday craft classes — to keep things interesting. 

Inclusivity continues to make waves

Diversity and inclusivity will continue to be important parts of social conversations in the year ahead. As such, brands need to recognize and embrace these values in order to remain relevant. 

There are several ways to accomplish this. Some brands are implementing more inclusive marketing campaigns by showcasing real people of all sizes, genders, and colors in their campaigns. 

Check out the following email from Stitch Fix, which purposely includes women of various sizes and ethnicities. 

Retail Trends for 2020 - Stitch Fix inclusive marketing example
Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Another brand that’s doing this well is Waxing the City, a franchise that offers waxing services to both men and women. Waxing the City prides itself on being inclusive and making every customer feel comfortable. 

According to founder Summer Vasilas, one of the ways the company does this is by avoiding gendered colors. Waxing the City uses the color orange for its logo and even its wax. “This helps men feel comfortable when coming into a wax for the first time,” shares Vasilas.

Retail Trends 2020 Waxing the City inclusive marketing example
Image credit: waxingthecity.com

And just like Stitch Fix, Waxing the City makes it a point to be inclusive in its marketing by using all body types in its collateral. “While there are the lucky few who look like Gigi Hadid and Joan Smalls, most Americans don’t. Your branding should reflect your audience. Waxing the City highlights men and women of different body shapes, all ages, and all skin colors.”

It’s not just about marketing and branding, though. There are several commendable examples of companies making a commitment to diversity and inclusivity by implementing certain hiring and employee engagement practices. 

Accenture, for example, has programs geared specifically towards arming women, LGBT and ethnically diverse team members with the skills they need to succeed. Meanwhile, Disney has the Global Workplace and Women’s Initiative (GWWI), an initiative “focused on Disney’s global workplace practices and the importance of the role of women in Disney’s marketplace efforts.”

We anticipate these initiatives to grow in the coming year, particularly as lawmakers pass legislation supporting efforts in diversity. In 2019, California passed a law requiring most companies to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of the year. 

Similar efforts are bound to make waves in upcoming years, so watch this space. 

The sustainability movement won’t slow down anytime soon

We don’t need to tell you just how big the sustainability movement is. Study after study has shown that consumers care about the environment, and they’re willing to spend more on brands and products that support sustainability. 

This movement is driven by several things. For one, environmental campaigns and social media have done a tremendous job in raising awareness about the issue. 

“The reason why this trend is emerging is that people with spending power are becoming more aware of the climate changes — more and more extreme weather is reminding us all of it. Besides, social networks help in exposing the unsustainable practices and the way they harm the environment,” says Nick Galov, co-founder of Review42.com

He adds, “People don’t want to feel guilty about consuming. They want to know that they can contribute to a cause by purchasing and consuming sustainably.”

The good news is, there are numerous things you could do to promote sustainability. As Galov puts it, “Retailers can join the cause by adopting green policies, such as no plastic containers, getting the products from sustainable sources or focusing on a more sustainable way of transporting them, etc. They can also donate a small portion of the profit to global or local green organizations, which the conscious consumers will appreciate.”

Smaller influencers will play a bigger role

If there’s one thing brands have learned about influencer marketing, it’s that larger follower counts don’t necessarily lead to larger ROIs. According to a study by Expertcity, 82% of respondents are more likely to make a purchase after getting a recommendation from a micro- or nano-influencer. 

We’re seeing companies gravitate more towards smaller-scale influencers (i.e., those with 1,000 to 50,000 followers) because they can give brands more bang for their buck.

“Smaller influencers or micro-influencers are more affordable, more authentic and genuine, do less sponsored posts, and have more engaged audiences. I see things going this direction as well as the rise in UGC or user-generated content” comments John Frigo the digital marketing lead at MySupplementStore.com.

That being said, Frigo also notes that as micro-influencer marketing becomes even more popular, there is a possibility for these influencers to have less… well, influence.

Unless you do it on time, in full, at every site, you are not executing at all

“[Consumers] see so many sponsored posts that people no longer are naive enough to believe an influencer actually uses or believes in a product,” he points out. 

There’s also the issue of fraud. As Gio Palatucci at Sparkloft Media says, “Influencer fraud was the buzzword of 2019… From engagement bots and purchased followers to fake sponsored content and questionable ethics (think Fyre Festival), there have been several bad actors who have given a black eye to the entire industry.”

For these reasons, brands should be smart when engaging with influencers and ensure that they’re working with an authentic individual who has a genuine connection with the brand. 

One way to do this is to work with your existing customers. Nick Stagge, CMO at Wooly recommends that brands start by identifying their most influential customers. 

“Brands are starting to recognize that the people with actual buying influence are existing customers who have first-hand experience with the brand and product. These people have self-identified as potential advocates, and the best brands are using their existing customer base as ground zero for finding true influencers,” says Stagge.

According to him, leveraging your customer base begins with filtering “through your database to identify repeat shoppers, customers who are leaving reviews, and advocates talking about you on social media.”

One example of a brand that did well is GoPro.

“When GoPro entered the market, they leaned on their early adopters to help create content, talk about the product, and drive brand reputation,” recalls Stagge. 

“As the brand grew, it became harder to identify their most vocal customers through the masses of new customers. They initiated a “photo of the day” platform to help their most influential customers self identify. To this day, GoPro still receives hundreds of entries every day, but this is a much smaller pool of customers to surface to the brand.”


Health, wellness, and self-care initiatives will flourish

“Self-care trends are on the rise and will likely continue through 2020. Healthy eating habits and probiotic supplements are two common self-care consumer trends,” predicts Lisa Richards a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet.

“With the growth of access to health information, people are becoming better advocates for their own health. They are realizing the negative health consequences of diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar. The general public is taking notice of the side effects of this diet pattern along with the consequences of poor gut health,” she adds.

Industry data supports this. Health and wellness is a 4.3 trillion dollar industry and has a projected annual growth rate of 6.5% to 8.0%!

Retailers would be wise to double-down on their health and wellness offerings. Find a way to make your health-centric products or services more appealing in the coming year. Just remember that the market is getting crowded, so you need to stand out. Failing to find a good hook will mean losing your customers to more clever brands  

It’s also important to note that health and wellness aren’t limited to fitness and nutrition. Jono Bacon, CEO of Jono Bacon Consulting, adds that “there is going to be an increased focus on building healthier digital habits.”

“While Apple and Google have implemented digital wellness products in their phones, there will be a more consumer-driven focus in the next few years about a healthier relationship with screens and social media. This will be akin to the influence of recycling, healthy eating, fitness, and carbon footprint: consumers will drive the change and companies will tap into the trend to support it. This will also result in companies innovating driving some interest product lines.”

Where to go from here

Figuring out where to take your business in the future requires examining current and emerging trends in the market. Let the insights in this post serve as a starting point in creating a roadmap for the next 12 months. 

Pay attention to the top consumer trends in the market and determine how these trends relate to your specific business. From there, craft creative and engaging initiatives to draw shoppers in. 

Good luck and have a prosperous year ahead!

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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