Gartner Trends 2021: What They Mean for Retailers

Gartner Trends 2021 for Retail

Each year, Gartner publishes a list of the top strategic technology trends for businesses to pay attention to for the upcoming year. As a world-leading research and advisory company, Gartner understands the retail business and how customers interact with it, so understanding their trends each year can have a significant impact on your business. Compared to last year’s Gartner trends, which focused on D-commerce, personalization, and privacy, among other things, the Gartner trends 2021’s retailers need to care about are driven by AI engineering, distributed cloud, and cybersecurity mesh.

Let’s take a look at this year’s Gartner trends and — most importantly — how you can use those trends to make tangible improvements to your retail business this year. 

Importance of Gartner’s Trends

Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021 (With Captions)

Gartner specializes in researching technology, consumers, and how the two interact to create an overall experience. This video goes over not only why you should pay attention to Gartner trends 2021 but also explains what each trend means to you.

Tip: for the latest emerging trends, check out Gartner’s Trends for 2022, MarTech Trends for 2022, and the latest Retail Trends for 2023.

Practical Applications of Gartner Trends 2021 for Retail

Trend 1: Internet of Behaviors

What is the Internet of Behaviors (IoB)? 

The Internet of Behaviors combines technology, data analytics, and behavioral science to understand how humans use technology and how that influences future behaviors. It goes beyond giving you an understanding of how customers have behaved in the past and makes predictions about how customers will behave going forward. 

Using collected data from smartphones, social media, laptops, smart homes, you can create a comprehensive understanding of your customers and your team members, helping you determine future policies and procedures. 

Benefits of Internet of Behaviors for a Retailer

There are many ways retailers can use IoB technology to improve efficiency, limit liabilities, and improve customer satisfaction. 

For example, you could use data collected from cars to determine how drivers behave, from speed to aggression. This data could, in turn, help you make different policies about how long your drivers are allowed to be on the road at a time, or it could help you reroute how delivery drivers travel from point A to point B during certain times of the day. Or you could track when you receive the greatest number of phone calls and use that data to help you determine the hours you need employees to be at their desks versus which hours of the day it’s okay for them to take walking meetings or work from home. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Internet of Behaviors

  • Cooler Screens: This company transforms retail coolers, using them as the base for IoT screens that provide customers with advertising while real-time tracking inventories, pricing updates, and more. 
  • 10th Magnitude: This brand provides cloud-based customer communication IoT products using Microsoft Azure.
  • Enevo: Using Internet-of-Things container sensors, Enevo provides retailers with waste and recycling services that reduce the social, environmental, and financial impacts of retail waste. 

Trend 2: Total Experience

What Is Total Experience? 

Gartner Trends 2021: Total Experience
Source: Gartner

Instead of separating customer experience, employee experience, and user experience, total experience is about improving overall experiences by focusing on how all of these things intersect and interact. 

Benefits of Total Experience for a Retailer

Total experience became immediately important for many retailers this year due to Covid-19. For example, instead of having special attendants at each point in a retail store, you might use the concept to send text alerts to people with appointments, letting them know your Covid policies and how to route safely. Other retailers allowed customers to make a purchase online, receive real-time updates about their product’s delivery options, and then return the products with a company-printed label if the item didn’t fit or wasn’t what they expected it to be. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Total Experience

  • RingCentral: Provides businesses with cloud-based business communications that include message, video, phone, and collaboration solutions that allow cross-functional teams to work better together.
  • ContactPigeon: Provides omnichannel integration of customer behaviors, activities, and engagement delivery.

Trend 3: Privacy-Enhancing Computation

What is Privacy-Enhancing Computation? 

This trend is all about using technology to protect private data and keep your customers secure. 

Benefits of Privacy-Enhancing Computation for a Retailer

As we move further and further into the age of technology, customers become more aware and concerned about how their data is being collected, stored, and used. Data breaches not only cost you money but can ruin the trust between you and your customers. The more securely you collect and store data, the less likely you are to face those problems. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Privacy-Enhancing Computation

  • Sotero: Provides solution to secure business data by encrypting data at rest, in motion, and in-use with virtually no latency or impact on user experience.

Trend 4: Distributed Cloud

What is the Distributed Cloud? 

Gartner Trends 2021: Distributed Cloud
Source: Gartner

The distributed cloud allows cloud software to reach multiple physical locations while keeping the public cloud provider responsible for the data’s operation and governance. 

Benefits of Distributed Cloud for a Retailer

If you’re hoping to offer more flexible hours to your employees, allow employees to work from home more often, or hire freelancers and consultants to work with your data, the distributed cloud is a must-have investment. Individual cloud software is expensive and can cause data security issues, while distributed cloud software uncomplicates cloud computing and allows for distance working. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Distributed Cloud

  • IBM Cloud
  • AWS
  • Plus many more SaaS software options

Trend 5: Anywhere Operations

What is Anywhere Operations? 

Anywhere Operations is all about allowing employees, customers, and business partners to work in physically remote environments and have complete access to everything they need. 

Gartner Trends 2021: Operation Anywhere
Source; Gartner

Benefits of Anywhere Operations for a Retailer

After the global pandemic forced many operations to go remote, customers have begun to expect retailers to perform normal business operations remotely. Your team may also enjoy working remotely, and allowing those operations to stay remote can save you money on overhead while improving employee morale and job satisfaction. This is a tech-first model: the more you can accept payments online, for example, or ship products in an automated way, the more you can establish anywhere operations. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Anywhere Operations

  • Byrd: Provides virtual warehouse and fulfillment services for retailers selling internationally
  • Geodis: Provides virtual software for managing inventory with enhanced visibility on status and supply chain agility
  • Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, Atlassian and many other remote work collaboration and productivity tools

Trend 6: Cybersecurity Mesh

What Is Cybersecurity Mesh? 

Because many tech operations are not centralized to a location anymore, cybersecurity mesh allows your cybersecurity system to be tailored around people rather than locations. 

Benefits of Cybersecurity Mesh for a Retailer

When your sales team is in one location, and IT gurus are in another location, while those who can work do work remotely, cybersecurity mesh allows your data to continue to be secure by switching focus to the people in your organization than the locations and helps your business to overcome the cybersecurity challenges it might face

Promising Startups/Companies in Cybersecurity Mesh

  • Blumira: Provides guided, actionable insights into cybersecurity risks to enable you to effectively detect and respond to attacks
  • Deep Instinct: Safeguards the enterprise’s endpoints or mobile devices against any threat, whether or not they are connected to the network by applying artificial intelligence’s deep learning to cybersecurity.

Trend 7: Intelligent Composable Business

What Is the Intelligent Composable Business? 

An intelligent composable business can quickly change and rearrange its processes based on new information and insights. 

Benefits of Intelligent Composable Business for a Retailer

This trend is all about agility, which means that the more you can have automated and the fewer barriers between the need for a decision to be made and a decision is made, the better. On a small scale, empowering your employees to make decisions — like giving service representatives an amount of money they can use to correct customer service interactions that need mouth-to-mouth — is a step in this direction. 

Promising Startups/Companies in Intelligent Composable Business

  • Smartz-Solutions: Business intelligence tool that connects and transforms data in to visual insights
  • Insight Squared: Offers revenue intelligence which brings together key capabilities including activity capture, conversational intelligence, guided selling, interactive reporting, AI forecasting and dashboards

Trend 8: AI Engineering

What is AI Engineering? 

Gartner Trends 2021: AI Engineering
Source: Gartner

This trend is all about making AI part of the mainstream operations process rather than only having specialists understand or deal with AI technology. 

Benefits of AI Engineering for a Retailer

If you’re investing in AI for your retail store, you want to get the most out of that investment. By making the AI part of the team and part of regular discussions, rather than a specialized tool that only a select few can use, you can find innovative new ways to use that AI and get the most out of your investment. 

Promising Startups/Companies in AI Engineering

  • Intellias: Applies deep technological expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence development services to help clients deliver personalization and customer convenience. 
  • SenseTime: Provides AI based self learning platform for multiple application scenarios.

Trend 9: Hyperautomation

What is Hyperautomation? 

Gartner Trends 2021: Hyperautomation
Source: Gartner

Hyperautomation is the idea that if you can automate a process in the business world, you probably should. Advancing technologies allow businesses to automate more tasks than ever before. Automation can take time to set up, but once your automated processes are in place, you can forget about mundane tasks and free yourself from more important activities. 

Benefits of Hyperautomation for a Retailer

The future of retail technology is all about efficiency by automating or predicting the particular course of processes. Hyperautomation includes marketing automation for eCommerce, whereby marketing campaigns automatically go out based on customer activity or behaviors. It also includes process automation. A computer processes documents like invoices and purchase orders — allows your team to spend more time on the creative, customer-centric processes AI can’t automate.

Promising Startups/Companies in Hyperautomation

  • UI Path: Provides ability to build robots that automates business processes.
  • ContactPigeon: Provides customer engagement automation based on visitors’ real-time behaviors, past actions, and future predictions.
  • DocAcquire: Automation of manual data inputs and extraction of various data sources (e.g., invoice).

Other Gartner 2021 Resources Every Retailer Should Read

Gartner trends 2021 is just one of many information-rich publications Gartner puts out each year that can help you make key decisions to help your retail business thrive. Other must-read articles include:

Gartner Top Strategic Tech Trends for 20201
Source: Gartner

The Future of Retail is in Your Hands

We’ve analyzed Gartner trends 2021 and have given you as much information as we can about what these trends mean for retailers and how to make critical changes to how you do business. How you use that information is up to you.

Only you can know the ins and outs of your particular retail business, which means that only you can decide what to prioritize. Because no matter how many books or articles you read, the thing that sets a successful retailer apart from the crowd is how you implement that information to make the tangible changes that matter most to your customers.

Interested in learning how ContactPigeon has helped hundreds of eCommerce and retail businesses to scale up hyper-automation and personalization? Just book a chat with us to discuss.

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Sofia Spanou

View posts by Sofia Spanou
Sofia, the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and Data Protection Officer (DPO) at ContactPigeon, is a seasoned professional driving revenue growth for the company. With a background in leading the Customer Success Team, she excels at helping clients flourish in online commerce. Beyond her role, Sofia is a devoted wife and mother, finding fulfillment in balancing her successful career with cherished moments spent with her husband and two children. Follow her on LinkedIn.