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Communication trends and retail predictions coming into 2021

2020 changed the world like no other year before. Many businesses and brands had to undergo a rapid transformation to keep up. As we move into a much more steady 2021, there are still many changes retailers and online sellers need to adapt to and understand to set themselves up for future success. 

We brought together the experts from and Afterpay to discuss what communication trends and predictions will stand out in 2021. Watch our webinar below or read on for our key takeaways.


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Consumer trends 2021

2020 was the year of ecommerce.

Tim James, Partnerships Manager,

Even before the pandemic, the retail industry and large online players like was seeing a surge in ecommerce as a result of the bushfires. Consumers were online shopping for household gods, furniture, electronics and appliances in droves. According to Mr James, 70% of a buying decision from a consumer is now done online.

In parallel, there was also enormous interest from retailers to use’s marketplace to sell because of the lockdown. started to employ curbside pickup options to help get products to customers more quickly. This eventually helped drive foot traffic back into stores when re-openings began. 

What drove success for many merchants using their marketplace were valued integration partners. By connecting customer data between an ecommerce seller and the marketplace, retailers could do far better from a sales and product standpoint. Automating your retail journey from listing to selling, Mr James believes, is essential to online success.

Make sure your communication strategies match up with new product research journeys.

Tim James, Strategic Partnerships,

Consumer purchasing journeys are shifting, according to Mr O’Shea. For millennials or those who grew up with the internet, they value brands who have stepped up to meet new expectations during challenging times. By setting this new minimum expectation, consumers will now expect this from the customer experience of every brand thy encounter.

Gen X and baby boomers, on the other hand, were forced to overcome their resistance to online purchases out of necessity. These consumers have now acclimated to the convenience and ease of buying online, and want more of it. This is a huge reason, according to Mr O’Shea, why ecommerce continues to grow in leaps and bounds.

Know your audience

Listen to your customers before you talk to them.

 Keegan O’Shea, Director of Behaviour Science, Afterpay 

Understanding your audience, and what resonates with them is key when it comes to communication preferences. According to Ms Salmon and MessageMedia’s research, 76% of people prefer texting to other forms of communication.

 Consumers also exhibit different behaviours when purchasing from different categories. Mr O’Shea has noticed consumers focusing more on the functional aspects of their purchase, instead of the aspirational. If you’re buying headphones or a new fridge, customers are going to want lasting quality, brand names they trust and will look to other online reviews for reassurance.

Know where your customers are.

Tim James, Partnerships Manager,

Find out where your customers are and meet them there. If you’re a brand appealing to 21-year-olds, then go to Tik Tok. But Mr O’Shea warns, always start with the customer and work backward. If you always start with the marketing channels first, you’ll find yourself down a rabbit hole.

Personalised marketing

Send really personalised targeted messages in real-time communications.

Tara Salmon, CMO, MessageMedia

When MessageMedia worked with leading online wine retailer Vinomofo, personalised content was crucial to their success. By integrating SMS into their HubSpot workflows, customers could easily receive real-time deals, birthday offers or re-engagement campaigns that came with a personal touch.

For Ms Salmon, giving customers the convenience of personalised experiences is essential in a post-COVID world. In fact, for Vinomofo, it enabled them to uplift sales conversions by 21%

Hyper-personalisation is usually the answer.

Keegan O’Shea, Director of Behaviour Science, Afterpay

It’s more important than ever to be relevant when sending communications. For Mr O’Shea, you can make a huge fuss about who you are, and what you stand for, but does your customer want to receive it? Make your communication strategy and marketing efforts resonant by using the data at hand. 

For Afterpay, it’s never guesswork. Keegan warns against basing those recommendations on stereotypes around a customer’s age, gender, location. Instead, reach customers by using their previous behaviour and history to create future purchase recommendations. 

Take an iterative testing approach

The key is always to test and iterate.

Tara Salmon, CMO, MessageMedia

When dealing with constantly changing times, adapt by experimenting and iterating where you can. Once you’ve established where your audience and who they are, try different things out through your marketing campaigns and see what works for them. 

Ensure you set your tech stack up so that it is seamlessly optimised to understand buyer behaviour. It is crucial to understand what’s most effective with regards to timings and channel choice. From there, you can continue to evolve your integrated marketing strategy based on your results.

Multi channel marketing

Last year forced many business to pivot and accelerate their digital transformation from small local businesses like Lollology to large retailers like Coles and K-mart. When choosing a channel to start communicating with customers, go mobile

For Ms Salmon, people are buying and communicating through their phone. Mr James agrees as a lot of’s ordering traffic has been driven through mobile. Customers are highly engaged on their mobile devices so choose your channels wisely. 

This is why mobile communication channels such as texting have worked so well over the past year and into 2021. SMS is also convenient and has ease of access. You do not need to download additional apps to your phone to receive text communications, nor do you even need to have a smartphone.

Another emerging channel trend is the use of existing communication channels in new and creative ways whether that’s social, email or even SMS. For example, texting’s versatility can help solve other ecommerce challenges like recovering abandoned carts. Our research indicates that an average of 16.4 carts for every 100 text messages sent is recovered when you send text reminders 60 minutes after abandonment. 


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Consumer expectations of brands in 2021

1. Be honest and transparent

Customers have become very forgiving, according to Mr James, especially when it came to delays. However, this was dependent on whether the retailer was honest, transparent and kept the customer informed. works with sellers to make sure they have up-to-the-minute tracking information so that the consumer is always informed of sudden delays or changes. This helps ease their anxiety, especially when waiting for a product to be delivered. 

2. Online reviews are a goldmine

As ecommerce continues to grow, more and more consumers are relying on the value of online reviews in helping them decide on a purchase. Find the best way to get those reviews from customers, such as sending an SMS requesting a review directly after a product has been received. 

3. Make the shopping experience seamless

SMS can make your shopping experience seamless. With MessageMedia, we have seen customers use two-way messaging and abandoned cart SMS to bring the online and offline together

Whether you’re using’s marketplace or an ecommerce platform; make the shopping experience seamless and easy to use. Customers should be able to shop on the train or from their couch. Also, think about how this applies to your communications.

Final thoughts, further reading

Understanding where the new consumer and emerging retail trends will be crucial to the long-term profitability and success of your business. Make sure to also check out: