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The World of Commerce in 2021

As we waltz into a new year after an unusual 2020 by all measures, I wanted to first wish you a 2021 filled with happiness, health, and success. This has been a challenging year for many people and for multiple reasons: the pandemic, social unrest, economic uncertainty, as well as the social distancing from loved ones that the age of COVID imposed on us. But we made it! Looking ahead, I hope that the new year brings all good things to each one of us.

Along with hospitality and travel, retail was greatly impacted by the turbulence of 2020. While the turbulence was real for everyone, there were winners - notably online merchants, big box retail and grocery - and losers - most significantly department store and specialty retail. By some accounts, the transition in retail, specifically related to trends such as the move to multi-channel commerce and cashierless shopping, were accelerated by as much as five years.

As we take a peek into 2021, here are my predictions for the next year.

Firstly, there will be challengers to Amazon in the coming year, and they won’t be online-only merchants. The winners will be retailers that are able to execute the best in the omni-channel world - enabling seamless customer experiences across online and offline platforms. Since it takes longer to build and scale brick-and-mortar presence than online stores, by this time next year, there will be one or two existing players stacking up as rising superstars of retail.

I am really not going out on a limb to predict that both Amazon and UPS will deliver their first packages by drone in the coming year. Amazon Prime Air and UPS Flight Forward have long been in the works and received their FAA clearances recently.

Finally, there will be continued business disruptions in the industry with bankruptcies and mergers being the tools of choice to recalibrate companies.

We are entering a seminal period of change for commerce. Customer behavior, which was already changing, has made massive transitions, and retailers who don’t follow suit will perish. Among other things, 2020 proved that we as a society are resilient and resourceful and I am sure retailers all over the world will prove the same in 2021.

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