2021 Consumer Goods Predictions: Today's Thought Leaders Weigh In

The consumer goods industry has a lot to be proud of for what it accomplished in 2020. Unimaginable disruption pervaded every aspect of business, from sourcing to sale, and more than one operations playbook had to be rewritten on a daily basis.

And while no one will be sad to turn the page to 2021, it’s widely accepted that there is still a long road ahead of us. To get a sense of what the industry can expect in the new year, we collected insight from a host of CG experts.


Consumer Data

“With location tracking comes a greater responsibility to protect people’s privacy. Yet too often, consumer apps that use location data to deliver products and services overstep their bounds, tracking consumers longer than necessary. Frequently, this data is sold to marketplaces that sell it to the highest bidder, whether governments, hedge funds, or marketers. Consumers are unaware of where their data ends up and how it gets used.

"In 2021, consumer apps will significantly throttle tracking of user location and its use. iOS and Android will hold apps accountable for tracking location, and regulators will hold others accountable for the use of location data. Background location tracking with user consent is relevant for the supply side of the business, but not for tracking consumers themselves.”—Kashyap Deorah, founder and CEO, HyperTrack

“Brands have more data than ever — on their customers, products, sales and purchases and from a multitude of channels including online, in-store, in-app, via email, third party, etc. We know that having the data isn't synonymous with deriving value from the data as it oftentimes exists in silos, in different structures or schemas and accessible to different teams within an organization.

“Brands will need to look for solutions that unlock vast quantities of data from multiple sources to enable decisions over what and when to show to a customer; and then execute that decision at web-scale. In other words, brands will begin to use exactly the right data at exactly the right time to amplify and extend their abilities to create immediate value for their customers.” — Tracey Ryan O'Connor, VP North America and global head of sales, Qubit 



Emerging Technologies

“In 2021, I expect hyper-personalization to be an even greater priority for CGs as artificial intelligence becomes more accessible and affordable. We’ll likely start to see AI used for personalization in various ways to enhance the customer experience. For example, CG companies will leverage AI to enhance voice and visual search, dynamically target audiences with rich content, and interact with consumers through voice assistants, messaging apps, and chatbots.” — Scott Clarke, VP, consumer products industry lead, Publicis Sapient

“I think there will be a bigger push to have AI incorporated in all operating decisions and less reliance on AI for strategic decision making. AI managed operations is a trend that is likely to surge in 2021. The key shift would be in the role of AI from being an enabler to a decision maker in running the operations for a large conglomerate. The pandemic has given a major push to digitization of operational activities. This is likely to create more data, structured and unstructured in the near term which will be useful to build in the context and human intelligence further into operational decision making.” — Gaurav Sachar, client partner, CPG, Fractal Analytics




“Not only are shoppers experiencing new ways of shopping, we also found in our recent study that they are discovering new brands altogether. Whether it was due to mass product shortages or just from browsing more online while stuck at home, over a third (39%) of global respondents purchased from different brands than usual, and brands they hadn’t heard of before during lockdown. This will lead to a new trend in discoverability, as consumers will be more willing than ever to try and discover new brands, with 83% of those shoppers surveyed vowing to continue to buy from a newly discovered brand going forward.

“To make the most of this trend, brands need to ensure that their content is readily available on the platforms where their consumers are shopping and that their product pages have the visual content and reviews that consumers want to consult before making their purchases.” — Keith Nealon, CEO, Bazaarvoice

“While meal kits have already seen a huge uptick in 2020, they’ll become even more mainstream in 2021 as grocers augment the products that they have available with more grocery staples. Meal kit providers will also expand further into grocery retail, offering more grocery staples alongside their meal kit offerings to gain more market share. As CPGs continue expanding direct-to-consumer programs (PepsiCo and Frito-Lay, for example), meal kits are another opportunity to get their brands in front of consumers, whether sponsoring kits by grocers or meal kit providers, or by offering their own.” — Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus



Marketing and Brand Identity

“Consumer packaged goods companies have traditionally reached their customers through retail stores and e-commerce sites. More of the storied, most recognizable CPG brands will take a page from the Warby Parkers and Allbirds of the world and remove the middleman and go direct-to-consumer to thrive in these unpredictable times. DTC companies differentiate their brand experience with education, personalized experiences, and one-on-one support. There’s no time like the present to reap the rewards of D2C marketing.” — Tom Treanor, CMO, Treasure Data

“Following the protests and pandemic of this year, sustainability, social responsibility — including diversity — and ethical behavior have become permanent and critical features of brand identity. This will become even more prominent in 2021, as younger consumers will increasingly require brands to commit to values they believe are worthy as a purchase consideration. Brands with purpose will also find it easier to recruit and retain employees.” — Greg Sterling, VP of insights, Uberall

“CPG brands will leverage shoppable ads across channels to personify products. Amid inventory challenges and supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, many consumers tried new brands and products outside their typical buys. This is a big opportunity for CPG brands, who are challenged with brand loyalty without unique physical or digital storefronts.

“To help regain loyalty and sustain new customers, leveraging shoppable ad content on social platforms, in print media (with QR codes) and more, helps brands stay directly connected to consumers despite changes along the purchase journey. These highly interactive ads offer touchpoints with consumers to provide in-store availability, add-to-cart options or even instant-buys.” — Meggie Giancola, head of CPG sales and strategy, Valassis

For a look at some 2021 retail predictions, head over to our sister brand, RIS News.