Ryan Mendoza, Scrum Ventures

It goes without saying that 2020 was an unexpected year full of many changes and obstacles to overcome.

The tidal wave of covid-19 and its repercussions disrupted the way we work, shop and eat. Traditional office spaces were left vacant for several months as businesses worldwide settled into remote work. In-person shopping seems to be a thing of the past. There has even been innovation in food production to combat a weakened global supply chain.
We move into a new year with an entirely new normal, where we’ll see a number of new developments directly impacting our lives. Here’s how I think the future will look.

Retail brands go D2C

With the continued rise of online shopping and e-commerce, many large retailers will realize they can increase margins by developing their own direct-to-consumer operations. In 2021, we’ll see some large brands launch their own shopping sites and e-commerce platforms. This will enable them to improve customer relations and personalization.

Shopping malls become fulfillment centers

As we continue to deal with the pandemic and steer clear of in-person experiences, mall owners and retailers with large footprints will need to rethink their strategies. We’ll see more operators take physical spaces and use them as fulfillment centers for e-commerce operations. Malls will soon become more centered around product experience and interaction than shopping.

AI/AR gains more speed

The migration from in-store to online shopping brought on by covid-19 means retailers are required to improve the customer experience, retain clientele and lower acquisition costs.
AI and AR will become prolific and mainstream in 2021, so expect to see more digitized efforts from the smaller boutique shops and the larger brick-and-mortars. They will use this technology across customer and sales support, personalized experiences and marketing. Retailers who don’t jump on this bandwagon will be left behind.

Plant and alternative-based food goes mainstream

The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to rethink and reshape the future of food. To solve this challenge, there will be a new wave of innovation in plant and alternative-based food products.

As more consumers choose plant and alternative-based food over animal products, people will begin to make historic dietary shifts and set the foundation for a new food future.

Accelerated automation in the digital workplace

Automation has been a buzzword for years, but in 2021 we will see new technologies and companies that will aim to improve the efficiency of how we work by automating mundane tasks and operationalizing the acquisition and use of data.

The ‘work from anywhere’ mindset brings in new tech and services. As we get more accustomed to remote work in 2021, we’ll see a migration to working from anywhere, not just the home office.

The location of employees and where work is done will become less important. Tech and tools will therefore need to travel too as employees do their jobs in short-term co-working rentals and take long work vacations. This will drive demand for Airbnb and produce a greater need for enterprise capabilities within the rentals.

This in turn will drive Airbnb as a platform through which other businesses can offer new products within rentals.

In 2021, we will face a profound new wave of innovation as the world continues to adapt to our new normal. The possibilities are endless, and emerging start-ups will soon enter the limelight with products and services that will advance our lives.

The coming year will undoubtedly be another dynamic one of change, so be ready for more disruption to come.

Ryan Mendoza is a San Francisco-based partner at Scrum Ventures, a seed-stage and Series A venture firm investing in the US and Japan