According to Future Commerce’s latest report “Vision 2021,” maximalism, influencer marketing and the convergence of online and offline worlds are among the top trends that will shape the future of commerce.

Starting with consumer trends, Future Commerce found that 51 percent of people miss going shopping as a way to socialize. With retail stripped of the opportunity to build relationships with customers on a daily basis, brands will have to leverage relational and engaging social commerce to enhance the isolating online shopping experience.

Twenty-five percent of respondents say they regularly tune into video shopping channels like QVC or HSN. As the report notes, DTC-QVC can only survive if it’s more Pinterest than it is Shopify.

“Social shopping isn’t necessarily social-media shopping. We’ve dubbed this ‘Communal Commerce’. It will happen in Roblox and Minecraft, rather than on Instagram and QVC. Brands are testing the waters here with digital goods, especially luxury digital. Think: Gucci digital fashion in Fortnite. Balenciaga released their FW21 collection in a web video game called Afterworld,” Phillip Jackson, co-founder of Future Commerce, tells AList.

While streaming video shopping is already happening among Gen Z, Jackson notes that the social nature of video games presents new opportunities for “Communal Commerce” to occur. He says that payments tech like Venmo that allows shared purchasing power will help drive this trend.

The events of 2021 have crystallized that brands cannot remain neutral, inspiring brands to engage around topics of racism and sustainability, especially at the executive level. Consumers now look to support brands that also support their causes and commit to real and lasting change. While consumers aren’t convinced that brands will always act in their best interest, 57 percent of respondents consider Facebook, Amazon and Google essential services, while 47 percent believe the internet should be totally free and unregulated.

“The constant barrage of young digital activists create pressure campaigns and force PR teams to respond, and we’re now seeing projects like the 15 Percent Pledge which are holding them accountable in perpetuity. The corporate response to the de-platforming of the Trump Campaign was proactive to meeting this emerging consumer expectation. Furthermore, corporate accountability is being tracked by a growing number of consumer labels like Climate Neutral and Good On You. This allows customers to vote with their wallets for brands that represent them more fully in their values,” says Jackson.

The turbulence of the year has spurred consumer desire for more, not less, with 52 percent saying that being with their “stuff” makes them happy. Sixty percent note that surrounding themselves with things they love makes them feel safe and in control, and 22 percent say they’re collectors. When asked to name a purchase in the past year that was extravagant or absurd, answers included: a gold toilet, a rare skin in Fortnite, a completely new smile makeover and an insane amount of Fabletics clothes.

The notion that content creators and virtual influencers are our generation’s performance artists has also emerged, highlighting the importance of influencer marketing. Forty percent say they’ve bought something promoted by someone they follow on social, but don’t know personally. On the other hand, just 37 percent are following top-ranking influencers. 

Sustainability and the rise of the circular economy will also impact the future of commerce, as many consumers increasingly care what happens to their product after it dies. Future Commerce found that 81 percent of people have actively secured a second life for their items. Brands like Patagonia, Levi’s, Ikea, and Girlfriend Collective have already implemented programs to help consumers resell, recycle or upcycle their products.

As the digital world influences traditional spaces, 62 percent feel that online and offline have converged, and that they project their whole/authentic selves at all times. In addition, one in three consumers consider themselves gamers, and one in five say they would prefer to interact with people on Fortnite rather than in-person at a coffee shop.

“The concept of place is of diminishing importance in the post-COVID world. Offices are remote, ghost kitchens offer up virtual restaurant brands. Being in a place at a time is no longer a constraint,” Jackson notes in the report.

A heightened focus on self means that digital beauty, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will evolve to meet the new demands of digital interaction. Fifty percent say they’re more aware of their appearance as a result of increased FaceTime/Zoom, and 26 percent say they upgraded their tech for increased on-screen time.

With investments becoming accessible to a broad populace, consumers can now own small pieces of anything. Fifty-three percent report investing in non-traditional securities in 2020, including wine, luxury goods and fine jewelry.