The consumer trends shaping 2021 

February 2, 2021

Discover the consumer trends shaping 2021 

The future may be fluid, but one thing is for certain: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cast a long shadow over 2021, and it will continue to shape consumers’ behaviours and expectations for some time to come. 

So, what are some of these pandemic-driven needs and anxieties? This year, expect consumers to look for certainty and resilience, presence-free commerce and connectivity, value in the aisles, escapist reverie, and a more holistic approach to wellbeing that considers social connections to be as important as hygiene, safety and nutrition. Below, we highlight a few key trends that will define the consumer experience in the year ahead. 


Planning Prowess

Consumers’ innate need to schedule and organise have had to recalibrate to COVID realities. Vacations and everyday leisure can now be disrupted with zero notice, and social distancing requires pre-booking where spontaneity once ruled. 

As a result, agile planning and organisation have become key skills to master – and brands are invited to act as planning partners, giving consumers a sense of control and confidence. Consumers will appreciate offerings ranging from fee-free cancellation options to appointment-based retail: in June 2020, 29% of GB consumers and 21% of US consumers said they wanted retailers to offer pre-booked store appointments to guarantee no crowding. In addition, brands can incentivise customers to create hopeful post-pandemic wishlists that can be realised in a happier future. How can your brand support the planners in 2021?

What this means for…Customer Experience

Position “by appointment” leisure and retail experiences as a premium and exclusive benefit. While hygiene concerns and social-distancing requirements have driven the “by appointment” trend during the pandemic, consider how it can be positioned as a premium experience, as well as a route to improved service – both mid- and post-pandemic.

Social Wellness 

Consumers increasingly recognise the valuable role that social interactions play in overall health – and the pandemic has brought the topic to the fore. Indeed, while COVID-19 has reminded consumers of the value of their relationships, it has also made them more wary of these connections – especially as they become more attuned to the potential health threats others may pose. 

Humans are inherently social beings: in May 2020, 39% of global consumers agreed that “I am sociable and enjoy being around people”. 2021 will see consumers looking to reunite and repair social ties as pandemic separation recedes. Brands have the opportunity to lead on messaging and action that not only keep social connections alive, but that also highlight empathy and togetherness. 


What this means for… Marketing Communications 

Share advice on how consumers can boost their social wellbeing. Guide them on how to recognise and approach positive or negative relationships. Help identify red flags in professional, platonic, romantic and familial relationships, and offer advice on when conversations about boundaries ought to take place. Conversely, suggest ways that consumers can surprise and celebrate their loved ones. 

Discover other new trends for 2021 by downloading our Trending 2021 report preview <<here>>.



Presence-free Living

By May 2020, 49% of global consumers were interested in an online-only bank, and 68% were interested in or already using remote healthcare services. As the pandemic rages on, the shift to remote living will continue – so expect virtual experiences and e-commerce to grow in scope and sophistication. Over the past few months, consumers have realised that it is ok to dial in remotely, to watch and work from afar, and to experience at a distance – and this comfort with Presence-free Living will be an enduring side effect of the crisis.

What this means for… Customer Experience 

Eliminate presence pain points and consider presence-free options. Target processes and interactions that still require customers’ physical presence. Could convenient and efficient alternatives extricate the customer from such pain points? Brands that expect consumers to, for instance, stay at home to accept deliveries; verify their identity in person to open accounts; or visit a store to check a product’s exact size, colour or stock availability will face serious pressure to evolve.

Healthy Habitats 

Brands will be under new obligations to create COVID-secure spaces and reduce contamination risks, especially pre-vaccine. In June 2020, 73% of GB consumers and 76% of US consumers said they wanted retailers to clean stores regularly to slow the spread of COVID-19. For consumers, then, hygiene will become as important a factor as cost and convenience when it comes to decision-making. However, while low-/no-touch design will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic, hygiene will be just one of many ambient wellbeing demands in a post-COVID world.

What this means for… Marketing Communications 

Communicate the health benefits of your offering. To differentiate your brand, tout the wellbeing benefits of your product or store environment. Metrics and data that quantify the positive health impact of your offering will appeal to the consumer desire for transparency and veracity. For instance, instead of merely describing your hygiene practices via email campaigns, can you more effectively demonstrate your COVID-secure credentials through markers such as scorecards? 

Learn more about other energised trends for 2021 by downloading our Trending 2021 report preview <<here>>.


Let’s talk about what these trends mean for your business. Get in touch with us at to find out how we can help your business see beyond tomorrow – today.


Written by Dominic Harrison

Director of Global Trends at Foresight Factory. Wish for the future? A world where new generations of smart tech adopt a less interruptive and visible presence in our lives. No more phones at dinner!

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