How Can We Help?
Shopper Trends|December 21, 2020

20 New Shopper Trends Retailers Should Know for 2021

As we look forward to a 2021 full of hope, we decided to look back on what shoppers have taught us this year, which is what retailers and brands will need to deliver next. Here are 20 of the most significant findings from WSL’s 2020 archives.


In the WSL Dictionary of Retail and Shopper Terms, this – determination – is our word of the year. The creative ways retailers and brand leaders pulled it together and set aside old protocols in order to deliver shopper necessities represents a new dawn in retail.

What’s perhaps most inspiring is that rather than lead the shopper, or follow the shopper, retail ventured through the trials of the pandemic in tandem with its customers. We looked back upon the full year of WSL’s How America Shops® surveys and other research to see how it played out.

Shoppers’ are redefining WELL. Again.

  1. WELLness thrives. 73% of shoppers are committed to supporting their health and wellness even as they try to avoid the virus.

  2. Anxiety, aka, stress, will undermine health. It’s been a year of anxiety, but the youngest, Gen Z, reports anxiety at double the rate of Boomers. Nearly half of Gen Z (47%) reported anxiety as a major obstacle to their good health in August; 32% of Gen Z and Millennials felt depression – twice the rate of Boomers. The anxiety of 2020 has affected sleep, diet, fitness, and happiness.

  3. Faster, easier healthcare is expected. As with shopping, the pandemic has taught shoppers ways to make healthcare faster and easier. The use of telehealth with doctors more than doubled during the pandemic, and 60% of shoppers want to continue using telehealth in the right situations because it is easier than a trip to a doctor.

  4. Urgent care clinics will outpace retail clinics. Part of easier healthcare is using the clinic on the corner – but retailers beware: 48% of shoppers choose urgent care – that’s 10 ppts more than retail clinics, largely for the experience, trust and convenience.

Social and healthy values survived the pandemic and will continue to influence shoppers’ choices.

  1. Sustainability will grow. 60% of those living WELL choose brands and companies that offer sustainable choices and practice fair trade and employee guidelines.

  2. Financial responsibility will support WELLness. 57% feel that being financially responsible is good for their health.

Personal financial security has not suffered as much as the unemployment rate would suggest.

However, shoppers are more cautious about spending. It’s important to note that the Covid-19 pandemic has created caution among fewer shoppers than did the Great Recession of 2009, when plans to cut back spending were 10 to 20 ppts higher.

  1. Shoppers know how to manage. Half of shoppers are proud of how well they are managing in the crisis.

  2. Financial security is safe. 65% of shoppers felt optimistic or secure about their finances as of November 2020, and the percentage of those feeling pessimistic rose by only 5 ppts from November 2019 – 35% vs. 30%.

  3. Shopping carefully will keep shoppers financially safe. The mood is to be financially cautious. 44% of shoppers plan to cut back on non-essential purchases and 50% will pause before buying to ask if a purchase is a smart use of money.



The shopping basket is likely to be permanently changed.

  1. Shoppers are open to experimenting with new brands. By November 2020, necessity and curiosity led 40% to 66% of shoppers to try new brands during the pandemic, and 27% discovered new websites to shop.

  2. Almost all shoppers like their new brands. Nearly 91% of all shoppers, on average, are happy with the new brands they tried and are likely to continue using them.

  3. Shopping local continues to remain important. Nearly half said they would continue to buy from local brands that support the community.

The shopping channel is changing, back and forth.

  1. Many more shoppers are ordering grocery and health products online. Half of shoppers order groceries and health products online for delivery or pickup. And 2/5 of those did it for the first time during the pandemic.

  2. And many are first-time online shoppers. Of them, half did so for the first time.

  3. Retailers are making online ordering very efficient. 61% of shoppers said ordering online is easier than going to the store.

  4. Whether in-store or online, shoppers want all their channels. The average number of channels shopped in three months rebounded to 11.1 in November 2020 from 10.9 in November 2019.

There’s no turning back the clock: More people have learned to make shopping faster.

  1. Time management will continue to compete with price. 53% plan to shop in ways that save them time, even if they do not get the lowest price. Nearly 60% (56%) will continue to shop stores that are convenient and easy.

Lastly, the key to retailer (and brand) differentiation is to show you really care.

  1. Shoppers want retailers and brands to show they care. Throughout 2020, retailers found ways to keep shoppers and employees safe. Now they need more than safety; they need caring. Showing shoppers, they care about them, their health, and their families is going to be an ongoing opportunity for brands and retailers to differentiate. 

  2. Yet shoppers don’t feel that well cared for by retailers. In March, 40% to 50% of shoppers felt cared for by their supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchants. In August, the average caring score among 14 retailers was 7.15 out of 10.

  3. Some retail categories show they care more than others. Specialty beauty retailers like Bath & Body Works and Ulta, warehouse clubs, and Walgreens scored largely above average across all caring categories in August.

In the end, this is what all our findings boil down to: We crave for someone to care for us coming out of this pandemic, as we focus on how much we have to be grateful for. Retailers and brands broke rules and created new solutions to support shoppers through the pandemic, and the spirit of making shoppers happy is what will continue to drive retail sales in 2021.

We look forward to experiencing what the retail industry can do in 2021.


Sign Up for Our Trend Alert

Get our latest thinking on retail strategy & shopper insights.

QuoteImage QuoteImageMobile

Thank you.

Your message has been received and we will be contacting you shortly to follow-up. If you would like to speak to someone immediately feel free to give us a call 212.924.7780.

How can we help you?

©2022 WSL Marketing Inc. All Rights Reserved