Welcome to the new year! It feels a lot like the last one but there’s an underlying thread of hope that seems to be buoying us all. It’s more than just the promise of a vaccine and potential for travel that’s just around the corner.
In 2020 we learned what’s possible when we get creative and refuse to accept the world as it has always been. In my last Crystal Baller post (5 Sustainability Initiatives That Will Change Technical Fashion in 2021) I explored how that uncompromising spirit will show up in 2021 through a swath of sustainable and renewable materials that will have a particular impact on technical apparel—a world we spend a lot of time in here at Monday.
But there’s more. The other upside to this global pandemic is how it’s shaping ecommerce and the outdoor industry for the better. With that, here are six positive trends we’re seeing in the world of product and ecommerce that we think are going to define 2021:
1. Body positive campaigns—and product to support it
One of my absolute favourite things about 2020 was a very notable shift towards diversity in bodies. It took too long for technical brands in particular to adjust their sizing and production processes in order to show a variety of bodies in their campaigns and ecommerce photography. But a positive outcome of the pandemic is that now customers have no time for inauthenticity.
Lululemon’s core styles now range from sizes 0–20, and Nike released their first maternity line (and just in the nick of time—see #6). Girlfriend Collective has built this into their core. Finally we’re seeing real bodies—stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, body hair—and in 2021 our hope is this won’t be noteworthy anymore, it’ll be the norm.
Our longtime client, Asmar Equestrian has made sample size in 10 for almost 20 years. They were also the first brand to make equestrian wear in extended sizes. What if more brands based their sample size on the average woman instead of an unattainable ideal?
Notably, we’re still seeing very few instances of body diversity in male talent. Will 2021 be the year the ‘Dad Bod’ starts to show up in our ecommerce feeds? Some of us over here at Monday wouldn’t complain.
2. Blurred lines between outdoors and home
Staying safe and healthy was top of mind in 2020, which meant a lot of time in the only two domains we could comfortably roam: our homes and nature. And we have since been steadily breaking the division between the two: finding ways to bring the outdoors in (remember when we were all camping in our living rooms last spring?) and the indoors out.
In the world of fashion this has translated to embracing all things quilted—not just coats, but shoes, pants and shorts too. We are now literally bringing our duvets with us everywhere we go. Shoes and slippers are nearly indistinguishable. Same with PJs and coats.
Crocs, Chacos, Uggs—we embraced questionable fashion in pursuit of taking comfort with us out into the world.
As we got away from busy indoor gyms, we thought more about reflective gear for our nighttime cardio. Vancouver brand Sugoi is stepping up visibility with their innovative ZapTech, and we think in 2021 many more will follow with technology that takes athletic wear from day to night for max safety.
3. Mushrooms go mainstream
There was a lot of anxiety this year—whether directly related to the virus or simply to do with being cooped up with kids, parents or a partner who also has to be on calls 80% of the day. Thanks to laxed laws in most states and provinces and a huge drop in stigma, CBD became as common as melatonin. We saw it marketed towards parents wanting to be more present with their kids, for hyperactive kids or anxious pets, and for athletes as a sports recovery supplement.
In 2021, we’ll see the early stages of mushrooms peeping out of the fringes into daily life too. Yes, we all got into foraging forest ‘shrooms during the pandemic, but psychedelics are the natural next step for those looking to manage their mood. Microdosing sub-hallucinogenic psilocybin (a natural psychedelic found in hundreds of mushrooms) may help manage depression, anxiety and PTSD—it is also reported to promote “cognitive flexibility, creativity, and single-solution problem-solving.”
Though mushrooms may not be legal for another few years, you’ll be hearing a lot more about them this year—they will no longer just be the purview of your hippie cousin or party pals.
4. Artificial intelligence—more important than ever
In late March and early April of last year we saw brands that had historically relied on wholesale relationships finally do an about face and double down on their ecommerce platforms. Many launched their DTC platforms for the first time and spent the last nine months working out basic kinks in ecommerce. But 2021 is the year to optimize, and that means streamlining your online customer service. Artificial intelligence can carry a huge chunk of the burden.
If you’re doing retail right—particularly if you’re selling technical products—you have invested heavily in training and educating your sales staff and wholesale partners. It’s time to apply that same level of training to your AI. Thankfully we’re seeing new tools emerge that make it easy. Our friends at Meya, have designed a smart chatbot that you can whitelabel—essentially a conversational tool that can be branded to your own company voice and easily managed through a user-friendly back-end. If a service request needs to escalate, the hand-off to your human customer experience team feels almost seamless. If you’re serious about ecommerce, 2021 is probably the year you get serious about AI.
5. Accountability matters ever more
This will come as a surprise to no one: in 2021 consumers want to know what you believe and see those beliefs in action. There was a time, not so long ago, when I had to explain to clients that their customers actually give a shit about a brand’s values.
In 2021, we’ll see more brands becoming B Corps, more brands building sustainability into their products, and more brands attaching themselves to a cause. The key will be ensuring it’s not merely performative. This needs a clear set of Guiding Principles and a framework for accountability throughout your business (we can help with that).
Brands we think are doing an amazing job already? Girlfriend Collective, Cotopaxi , United by Blue, our clients at Arc’teryx and Better Basics, our friends at Ocin, and obviously Patagonia.
6. Pandemic babies
Okay, maybe this isn’t directly related to ecommerce, but this trend is undeniable chez Monday. We’ve all been spending a lot more time indoors and that kind of boredom breeds… well it just breeds.
With two new babies joining the Monday fold in November, and two more on the way, we’re thinking about great ways to safely keep active outdoors with little ones. In the absence of library story time, community centre play time and extended coffee shop stroller hangs—those of us who live in apartments need to find better ways to stay active, and socially sane, with our babes. Along with the normalization of breastfeeding on Zoom calls, watch for an influx of baby bootcamps in your local parks and a bunch of new stroller innovations to keep parents and babies warm and comfortable in the great outdoors.