2020: A Change in Perspective

December 17, 2020

Lee Carpenter, CEO, and Lynn Gonsior, COO, reflect on the year.

If there is one word to summarize 2020, it’s PERSPECTIVE!

Companies were just starting to implement their strategic plans when most organizations were completely upended. COVID-19 changed all of our lives. Some changes were forced, and some just made you realize you don’t have to do things the same way all the time – there is a better way of doing things, which is exciting.

As long-time entrepreneurs, here’s our take on looking optimistically at 2021 and what changes will shape the year ahead.

Consumers have had a lot of time for reflection – and they will make different choices.

People’s lives have changed dramatically. Consumers continue to try new brands and channels, with safety, convenience, and better value being the primary drivers of the new behavior. According to McKinsey, three out of four Americans have tried a new shopping behavior, and most intend to continue the new shopping behavior. Brands need to be where consumers are but have to ensure they continue to create human-centric experiences.

While e-commerce sales were 14.3% of total retail sales in the third quarter of 2020, we’re surprised that it hasn’t gone up more. That shows how well brick and mortar retailers are pivoting. Walmart, Target & Best Buy are thriving and being lauded for their long-term investments in digital and customer service. Retailers willing to invest in themselves are going to be well equipped when the virus reaches herd immunity.

All of the tension built up over 2020 has people yearning to explore, do things in person, and have different experiences in 2021.

Accelerated change continues.

2020 was a year of unexpected challenges, all at this accelerated pace. From CPG to retail to autos to education and many other industries, digital adoption happened in a period of days and weeks, whereas it would otherwise have taken years. Look at the vaccine. Think about how that has happened faster than ever before and what we can do when we collaborate with focus.

2021 won’t slow down – in fact – we could just be at the tipping point. Previously, AI and machine learning technology made businesses pause because it forces significant behavioral and structural changes, like new business models, operating procedures, worker skill sets, and mindsets. These have been some of the biggest hurdles to reaching scale – until now. According to a recent survey of executives, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years. What’s more, respondents expect most of these changes to be long lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that ensure they will stick.

Human-centric technology integration will increase the personalization to make meaningful experiences that drive conversion and secure customer loyalty – making things even better. 

Resiliency + innovation go hand in hand.

Among the many things that COVID-19 has taught us this year, perhaps that the most important is that you must be prepared to respond to the unexpected.

As a result, a ton of innovation has emerged. You’ve heard “necessity is the mother of invention” before, right? That’s more than a cliché. There are countless examples of retail businesses bravely facing the unknown with these new consumer trends, fueling growth.

And brands have re-emerged differently and maybe even stronger. While we saw some brands like Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus struggle through incredibly difficult times, they have begun new lives outside of bankruptcy.

To change is to grow. To see how we will have changed when the history books are written will give us even more perspective. It’s amazing how the world has responded when going through a whole year of this, and there’s a lot of interesting results that made us look at things differently.

Change is always available to us. But sometimes, it takes a crisis to shift our willingness to experiment and try new things.

Best of the Holidays…