February 25, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Many young entrepreneurs and freelancers see opportunities in the highly disrupted 2021 economy, particularly in relation to bringing new products to digital markets that are only starting to stabilize in response to the pandemic.
Deloitte‘s “2021 Retail Industry Outlook,” which surveyed fifty retail executives to analyze trends within the industry, demonstrates some of the unique ways young entrepreneurs and freelancers can benefit from retail trends. Digging in, we are able to see some ways that freelancers and others can pivot in 2021 to take advantage of retail industry shifts and turn existing skill sets into new avenues of professional growth.
Talent needed for digital formats
One of the major themes in the 2021 Deloitte report is an emphasis on reimaging how digital space is used by retail companies, and the importance of proactively orienting toward digital marketplaces as a long term strategy, not a short term stop-gap. In order to accomplish this, Deloitte recommends hiring digitally savvy, versatile talent that will reimagine websites, apps, and digital spaces to increase sales and improve UI.
Young entrepreneurs are also tapped into one of the biggest concerns for consumers today: trust, privacy, and transparency. According to Pew Research, 81% of the public believes that the potential risks of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits. Designing sales fronts and apps that put data privacy and consumer protection to the forefront of UI development will give new entrepreneurs an edge in an ever more cautious digital space.
One of the major lessons learned from the retail environment of 2020 was that supply chains were delicate and consumer behavior was harder to predict. Young entrepreneurs will succeed at solidifying supply chains and distribution networks through innovative partnerships forged outside of traditional frameworks that struggled to adapt in 2020. These will require digitally savvy talent able to reimagine how data is collected and connections are made in online sales spaces.
Livestream and virtual showroom content
The Deloitte report points to a growing trend in China of live streaming product demos, and many young entrepreneurs with live streaming experience from the gaming world could capitalize as this trend comes to the United States. As Inc‘s Lindsay Blakely notes, the growth of livestream shopping in the US is particularly strong for male consumers and dads, which means content live streamers already confident in writing copy and performing live for male audiences could thrive in retail demoing of consumer electronics, luxury goods, or other products which benefit from the live stream format.
The Deloitte Report also pointed to the extreme importance of new, contactless ways of connecting consumers with products, including 3D Virtual Showrooms and consumer-oriented image databases of retail products. Freelancers in the photography space, many of whom struggled with 2020’s decline in public events, could pivot their efforts and portfolios toward virtual showroom photography that is oriented toward consumer behaviors. This would be a way for freelancers to partner with small businesses to create captivating online content that drives brand loyalty.
Complexity and personalization
One of the biggest results of the online retail shift of 2020 is the drive toward personalization and digital differentiation. This means that companies should be considering how to add personalization options and unique details to all items offered, and to design products and UI to be oriented toward digital customers. The folks over at Deloitte argue that “everything could emanate from the customer, precisely because AI makes such personalization possible by achieving economies of complexity (handling personalization at the lowest possible cost) rather than economies of scale (handling production at the lowest possible cost).”
In essence, “bespoke” is hip in the digital retail space. Young entrepreneurs and freelancers can take advantage of this trend by imitating companies that create innovative UI and allow for the kinds of customizations that matter to Millenials and Generation Z shoppers. Companies in the delivery home cooking, beauty, and skin care industries have been highly successful in these efforts: young entrepreneurs looking to move into any retail segment should look to how customization, combined with innovative digital sales platforms, can increase profitability.
Long term opportunities
Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook is optimistic about opportunities in 2021 for the retail industry to rebound and operate more efficiently. While many small businesses failed in 2020, and many young entrepreneurs put their dreams on hold, 2021 offers post-vaccine hope of rebounding sales, particularly within the digital space. By focusing on new virtual spaces, customer UI, privacy, live streaming, and bespoke customization, young entrepreneurs can take the best lessons from 2020 and integrate them to promote rapid expansion in 2021.
Perhaps more importantly, those looking at 2021 as an opportunity to pivot from previous experiences to a space in the retail industry can utilize the need to present products in new ways to demanding digital customers as a way to sell existing skills. Photographers, live streamers, brand managers, product developers – many freelancers and young entrepreneurs can benefit from the move away from brick and mortar to a more adaptive and dynamic digital retail space. By focusing on customer experience and new conceptions of digital space, young entrepreneurs can still reach medium and long-term business goals through rapid 2021 growth.
Related: Surviving the Retail Apocalypse