2021 Trends to Watch and Why - Medallion Retail
Strategy, Signage, Retail Trends, In-Store Marketing, Consumer Behaviors

2021 Trends to Watch and Why

POSTED ON: 01/05/21

What have we learned in 2020?

I suppose the most critical thing we all learned from 2020 (aside from baking a mean soda bread from scratch or becoming experts at Zoom calls) is that nothing stays the same. Finding our way and our footing in this new norm has indeed been incredibly challenging, but it has also brought a new sense that life holds no guarantees and subsequently has pushed many to get to work—and aggressively seize opportunities to make things happen—fast.

Sure, many would want to throw their hands up and give in. But many, thankfully, did not. And they realized that while many doors (and I mean that in the literal sense) closed, they also realized fairly quickly that many more doors opened as a result—doors that lead to innovations in everything from medical science to consumer services. Perhaps seeing some light in what we have just been through, we’ve learned that out of diversity and challenge of our circumstances can come fortitude, resiliency and innovation. As Bruce Lee once said, “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities!” And then he went on to proving just that.

Nowhere has this been truer than in the case of retail and consumer engagement, where brands and innovators have forged ahead by seizing upon opportunities presented and stepping up while others may have stepped back.  This period in time was not for the apprehensive or the timid, but for those who found that door in the very big wall before them. Truly in this age and with all the challenges before us, the innovators will not just survive, but they will thrive.

With that rather bold statement made, we thought we’d back that up by sharing with you a selection of trends featured in a 2021 trends report from TrendHunters.com, broken down into categories that, from our tracking, seem to be very much on the rise overall.

Gaining traction in 2020, these trends show promise in their ability to spur further innovation towards improving the human experience as well as protecting the planet we live on.

Environmental Consciousness / Eco Accountability / Zero Waste

The eco-conscious consumer is at the helm here, seeking out brands and services that are environmentally friendly and process-smart.

Trend 1. Biodegradable Microbeads

Did you know that a typical exfoliating shower gel can contain roughly as much microplastic in the cosmetic formulation as is used to make the plastic packaging it comes in? While this relates specifically to cosmetics, the idea of not just ingredients being biodegradable, but everything from clothing to face masks (aka the new plastic straw) and packaging will be looked at differently.

Trend 2. Milkman Model

An odd tag, I agree; but on the theme of reusable and recycling, the Milkman Model has surfaced as a response to committing to a zero-waste lifestyle. As consumers are spending a lot more time at home these days, they are becoming more and more aware of and sensitive to single-use plastics and are seeking out brands offering reusable packaging.

Order, use and return for refill (with discount), a method originally pioneered and promoted by The Body Shoppe back in the early ‘80s, has seen a resurgence. With brands like L’Occitane incentivizing consumers to bring in their old plastic containers for recycling, and selling refill at store level, it’s a win-win. Win for the consumer (in discounts). Win for L’Occitane in increased store foot traffic. And, most importantly, a win for the environment. See more of these programs surfacing with CPG, cosmetics and apparel in 2021 and beyond.

Trend 3. Mycelium Made – Score (Packaging You Could Almost Eat)

Packaging derived from mushrooms? More and more brands are looking at their packaging and choosing eco-friendly materials. And yes, mushrooms are just one of those sources. Mycelium-based packaging materials are biodegradable and have significantly lower carbon emissions than their plastic counterpart. In micro and macro ways consumers are examining their own impact and taking action to reduce waste that ends up in our oceans, landfill and air.

Trend 4. Cardboard Cosmetic

On trend with internal packaging materials that are environmentally friendly, cosmetic companies are finding new ways to package using paper materials. Things like cardboard-based lotion tubes and lipstick applicators are finding their way onto store shelves, and attractively so. According to Trendhunters, brands that help facilitate a zero-waste lifestyle are perceived by consumers to be ahead of the game.

Health & Wellness / Therapeutics

It isn’t just about Covid. It’s about finding ways to be and feel protected and fortified in a world we still very much want to experience.

Trend 5.  Skin Hunger – Designs that Address the Absence of Physical Touch

From weighted blankets that are meant to reduce anxiety to hug-simulating vests, humans are missing the physical interaction that use to be so commonplace. It’s not just about the physical interaction but the physiological impact of restraining what is normally a very reactionary thing—human touch. This trend towards the creation of inanimate things that reduce stress, lower anxiety (without pharmaceuticals) and provide calming sensory experiences are on the rise. Where home is now your safety zone, these products are finding their place and their purpose.

Trend 6. Antibacterial Travel

Many who have been cooped up for months on end will want to once again travel. And with a heightened sense of hygiene, they’ll want to do that safely. From clothing to electronics, the push to create micro bacterial accessories, tools or PPE for use on the go will undoubtedly see continued growth.  And this will cover just about everything you can think of. From luggage to apparel, hotels to transportation, travelers will look to innovation-driven products to allow them to wander and explore safely.

Trend 7. ASMR Soothing – Services Specific to Covid Aim to Soothe Anxieties

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) has been popular on social media for a while now, and popular within branded advertising campaigns. Remember the Corona beer commercial a ways back that simply had two bottles in the sand, on a beach as the tide gently flowed in and out, seagulls in the background? Ahhh, well…there you have it, a brief but sensory experience meant to calm you. Scroll through your Instagram feed on any given day and undoubtedly you’ll land on a Golden Retriever puppy video, which of course you’ll have to watch. Why? Because it distracts you, lowers your heart rate and provides you with a quick escape from the stress of your day. In a funny but rather unique spin, Moe’s Queso dipping video features eight hours of dipping footage for your entertainment. If brands can get consumers to slow down and equate their experience with the happiness of watching puppies frolic or chips being dipped in queso, then the memory is a pleasant one—and worth repeating. Next video please!

Trend 8. Contactless Shopping Brands Enabling Consumers to Safely Try Out Products Amid Covid-19

From virtual whiskey events and contactless sampling kiosks to AI-powered digital fittings and contactless dining kits, brands in different industries are adapting the shopping experience to meet the health and safety concerns of consumers. New contactless methods of product sampling are being engineered because despite social distancing, consumers still want to touch, smell and feel the product.

There will be some ingenious designs coming out of this trend—if not for the experience of it all, then the sheer necessity of providing consumers direct contact with the brand. This will be mainstream practice by the end of 2021.

Millennial & Generational Trends – New Beginnings & New Indulgences

The rethinking of congested urban spaces has served as a catalyst to new beginnings and new communities outside of city life. And social activities are also taking an unexpected spin towards sobriety.

Trend 9. Millennial Move – Green Acres Is the Place for Me!

Whether the impact of Covid on urban dwellers continues on through 2021, the fact remains that city life has now been viewed in a different light, and many have sought greener, less congested pastures in the ‘burbs. It’s not known whether this uprooting will continue to the same extent it did in the last quarter of 2020, but even if it slows down just slightly, the impact to the communities receiving all of these transplants will be noticeable. Things like shopping malls might see a resurrection as these relocated city dwellers still desire ease of shopping without the hassle (or cost) of driving. The home improvement industry will see an uptick in DIY projects as families seek to renovate that house they purchased at a bargain price. Oh, and about that car—singles might resist, but families will need their SUV. So, expect that the automotive industry will see sales tick up in these newly settled communities, ‘cause UBER just won’t cut it.

Trend 10. Low Alcohol Bar

Gen Z comes back into focus in this emerging trend. Maybe for previous generations, the idea of celebrating was going out to get hammered (the ‘80s called and they want their cosmos back). Now, bars might be seen as locations to imbibe, but perhaps not overindulge. Centering in more on the coffee house vibe, these pubs may be more artisanal centers for reduced alcohol libations that offer more in unique ingredients and flavorings than in ABV. Add to this the growth of CBD products and the concept of “going out with the girls tonight” takes on an entirely new meaning. The increase in low to non-alcoholic beverages saw a spike in 2020 as lockdowns increased and the public at large actually grew tired of the over-indulging. Now they desire to just get out—and be sober enough to enjoy it!

While trends come and go, it takes a strategic and enterprising eye to see the value proposition offered by some, then translate it into actionable and impactful ideas that will shape and grow your business. For over 60 years Medallion has been doing all this and more for brands and retailers. We can do the same for you.

Contact Chris Gordon at 646. 677.5618 for more ideas and inspirations to make 2021 your best year ever!

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