High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

Highwire’s Retail Trends and Predictions for 2020

At Highwire, we work with startups and tech companies that power the retail industry from end-to-end, and the media who cover all things in this space. This puts us in a unique position, with our fingers on the pulse of everything happening in the industry. 

While we don’t have a crystal ball to see the future for certain, we can predict what the coming year will bring based on the research and trends we’re seeing. So, what can you expect for digital commerce in 2020? 

Here are our top four predictions:

  1. The Return Revolution Picks Up Steam.

When holiday shopping is all said and done, the return season follows, bringing more anxiety than joy to the industry. Approximately 11% of goods are returned, and when it comes to e-commerce, that number can easily reach 30%. An Optoro study found that $390 billion worth of merchandise is returned in the US each year, resulting in 5 billion pounds of waste sent to landfills.

However, the retail industry is finally fighting back against the cost and burden of the return process with new approaches that save time, frustration, and the environment. From Amazon’s Returnless Refunds to independent retailers’ Happy Returns, alternatives help retailers save on the cost of shipping and processing returns, while consumers benefit from convenience and choice. We’ll see these approaches increase in 2020, including more options for retailers to resale or donate returned inventory, eliminating waste and improving their financial recovery.

  1. Recommerce is Hot and Getting Hotter.

Three in five Americans (61%) say they’re comfortable receiving a second-hand item as a gift. Research from online store ThredUp and retail analytics firm Global Data show the U.S. secondhand apparel market was worth $24 billion in 2018 and is likely to reach $41 billion by 2022. Savvy shoppers who want the benefits of the latest fashions while desiring more sustainability and affordability are fueling the trend.

With the resale market on the rise, brands need to do more than just get products out quickly. Increasingly important is the quality and design that can last for years to come. Look for more brands to expand into rentals and find other creative ways to embrace the resale market.

  1. Sustainability is In, and Here to Stay.

 Retail is greener than ever these days and this look is here to stay. Coffee shops filling only reusable cups, direct to consumer brands preaching transparency and ethics in how they source and sell goods, plastic bag bans, and a reduction in cardboard: these are all indicators of retail’s sustainable future. Consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainability values when researching and buying products.

As the World Economic Forum affirms businesses’ purpose to include broader societal concerns, retailers are making changes to mitigate carbon emissions and reduce environmental impact, as well as meet eco-conscious consumers’ demands. According to Business of Fashion’s 2018 State of Fashion research, 66% of millennials worldwide are willing to spend more on brands that are sustainable. The voices of climate advocates are growing louder, and in the years ahead, we’ll see even more changes towards creating a sustainable supply chain for retail. 

  1. Stores are Back in Fashion.

We’ve seen a tsunami of brick-and-mortar retail closures across America, but from the ashes of an old retail model, a new wave of stores will rise. Look for more small brick-and-mortar stores to open in 2020 as mobile pickup centers rise to meet the expectations of the on-demand shopper. Mobile-only pickup stores will be a haven for the brand loyalist while traditional brick-and-mortar stores will get experimental and serve as a destination to drive new customers. 

Of course, the customer experience will become more important than ever, with shopping experiences that can’t be had online. Experiential retail will emphasize experiences that are shareable on social media, offering more than just products. Look for stores to emphasize their unique offerings through experiences that immerse consumers in their brand culture.

As we fill our carts this holiday season and think ahead to commerce in 2020, we’d love to know your predictions for the coming year. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Attending NRF’s Big Show in January? We’d love to meet you! Drop a line to commerce@highwirepr.com and we can find a time to connect.

By: Tricia Nugent-Dawal and Stephanie Burke