What’s in Store for 2021? Industry Leaders Share Their Predictions

2021 Industry Predictions

After a huge 2019, 2020 was a shock to the system. No one expected this to be one of the toughest years in recent memory, but here we are. But what does 2021 hold? How are companies in retail, distribution, manufacturing, AV, and more planning to survive and thrive?

As a leader in putting ERP and other business management solutions into place for our clients, we have the skills and knowledge to help you on your journey. Today, we’d like to round up some predictions from across the internet and discuss how you can prepare for the next year.

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Retail: Survival, Adaptation or Growth?

Possibly the industry most significantly impacted by lockdowns in 2020 was the retail and ecommerce space. For better (ecommerce) or worse (traditional brick and mortar), states who locked down put businesses in a complicated position. With the holiday season considered one of the last saving points for some and a major opportunity for others, planning your 2021 may present a new wave of challenges.

Forrester predicts the following in 2021:

A Deeper Focus on Logistics and Distribution Efficiency: In 2021, we’ll see retailers and brands investing heavily in everything from micro-fulfillment centers and dark stores (and kitchens) to subscription models, drop-shipping, and amped-up loyalty programs to lock in customers and better predict demand.

A Reinvented Mall: Faced with traditional tenant bankruptcies, extra capacity, and long-term social distancing requirements, the savviest mall operators will see a renaissance in 2021. Relationships will change and malls have the space to provide the space for logistical evolution mentioned above.

An Upstream Threat: If you didn’t face enough challenges already, watch out above. Manufacturers are looking to go local and are working toward their own ecommerce initiative (discussed below), so it may be on you to build a unique value proposition.

There are many ways to stand up to the challenges. For example, an expanded approach to curbside pickup can make micro-fulfillment and dark store movements a reality. A connected purchase order and sales order management solution can facilitate drop-shipping.

New approaches will help you save time and money, improve customer relationships, and control your destiny—but it pays to have the right technology and partner to get you there. Learn more about Acumatica eCommerce edition.

Distribution: A Variety of Potential Outcomes

After a record economic expansion summing 10 years and 8 months, the United States officially entered recession in February 2020. March and April saw wholesale trade sales decreased by 21.4% and the industry is expected to close out the year 11.1% smaller, according to MDM.

But what’s in store for 2021? MDM cites three likely outcomes—a baseline expectation of 2.6% revenue growth, an optimistic scenario of 7.1% growth and a pessimistic scenario seeing revenues drop 8.5%. Planning for each of these outcomes is critical. Here are just some of the predictions in the space.

The Undeniable and Unstoppable Amazon: Just a few years after launching Amazon Business, the company is now the third-largest distributor. This doesn’t seem like it’s stopping anytime soon, and distribution firms either need to get on board with marketplaces or evolve.

More Ecommerce Pressure, Now from Suppliers: Ecommerce will continue to be a larger part of the industry in 2021. Driven both by buyer expectations and a push from your suppliers, it’s probably time to move past the brochureware website and into an ecommerce approach.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divestment: It was hard to complete a merger in 2020. Due diligence isn’t really easy when you can’t get inside the facility. But this is starting to heat up and 2021 could see a lot of divestment and open companies up to M&A activity.

A Push for Technology: A look at the MDM Future Leader Award winners shows that technology investment will continue. From new content delivery methods to CRM, ERP, and more, leaders are showing a desire to make sure technological applications are understood internally while fulfilling real-life customer needs externally.

Your Chance to Evolve: Technology Positions You for Transformation

Companies in the space have an opportunity to rebuild, according to National Association of Wholesale Distributors Chairman Douglas W. York. As noted in his November 2020 Chairman’s Column, York notes that 2020 is a chance to rebuild, setting the clock back to zero.

From an ecommerce initiative to improving supplier and customer relationships, the right partner and the right technology makes it easier. At Cloud 9 ERP Solutions, we know distribution and have the skills to make technology work for you. Learn more about Acumatica distribution edition.

A/V and Commercial Integration

An industry that experienced a few hiccups in the past year, many wonder what’s next for the commercial integration industry. Survival in the wake of lockdowns may require new approaches to sales initiatives that may include software, hybridization, and more. 2021 is an important year for the integration industry. Recovery from COVID-19 is on the horizon, and integrators are poised to be at the center of the evolving workplace. Here are just some things to keep an eye on as we head towards 2021:

New Technology Opportunities: Integrators are used to selling and installing hardware, but with the increasing prevalence of IT software within AV systems many firms are evolving to include software offerings to clients that make sense with their AV builds. 2021 will present more opportunities to add value with their own software sales initiatives.

Increased Verticalization: Especially in the wake of an AV/IT convergence, it may pay to look into a verticalization initiative. Competition will require new expertise and it may benefit to focus on specific niches in 2021.

Hybridization: One of the best survival tactics in 2020 was to support the Work from Home movement. 2008 and 2009 had the opposite effect, with residential integrators moving into the office. Could commercial integrators take on new residential projects until lockdowns end?

Continued Talent Challenges: As the employee base in the integration space continues to age, AV is looking at a impending talent cliff. 2021 will continue this trend, and for those looking to make AV cool again, learn more from our earlier blog.

For Audio and Visual companies, who need a unique balance of distribution and inventory management, contract and professional services management and field service management, it’s not only rare to find a product that can tackle each need with ease, it’s even rarer to find a partner that has experience working with companies like yours. Learn more about our audio visual solution.


Even in the wake of COVID, a healthy portion of manufacturers noted significant or modest growth. But end users are expecting new approaches, and some manufacturers are stepping up to the plate. 2021 will present a continued push toward innovation, sustainability, and technology.

According to Amar Hanspal on Forbes, manufacturers should be looking to the following trends in the coming year.

Localization Initiatives: In 2021, the industrial manufacturing sector will take a page from the consumer-driven "farm to table" trend. Localization looks to drive a faster time to market, lower working capital, and better resiliency.

Further Transformation: Advanced technology—sensors, machine learning, computer vision, robotics, cloud computing, edge computing, and 5G network infrastructure—will drive more digital transformation.

Ecommerce in the Window: With demand for products surging, manufacturers will be more pressured to churn out high-quality products quicker, more efficiently, and at a lower cost than ever before. This will either lead to manufacturers pushing ecommerce on distributors or taking on an internal ecommerce initiative. Learn more about a manufacturing ecommerce initiative here.

Addressing Manufacturing Technology Skills Gap: With production moving closer to the consumer and advanced technology becoming a mainstay on factory floors, manufacturers will need to bring on people who know how to handle the technological change.

A Bigger Push toward Sustainability: Manufacturing has long been one of the most significant contributors to environmental pollution. But with a new administration likely to put new pressures on American manufacturers, companies will need to step up sustainability initiatives.

For today’s manufacturer looking to connect, control, and improve their organization, it takes the right business management solution. However, even if you can find that, you also need the right partner to get you there. Learn more about Acumatica Manufacturing Edition.

Future-Proof Software from A True Cloud Partner

Staying ahead of the changes in your industry is hard, but the right partner can set you up with a future-proof and flexible solution like Acumatica, built to help you adapt and execute. Fast decisions and accurate data will be the difference between failure, survival, or success, and the right product can put you in a position to make the most out of your business.

Whether you’re outgrowing your current software, finding that your legacy systems aren’t ready to handle your needs, or you’re looking for something more suited to your processes and needs, the right advice, assistance, and support can make or break your ERP journey.

At Cloud 9 ERP Solutions, a Gold Certified Acumatica Partner, we have worked with companies like yours to configure, implement, and deliver Acumatica Cloud ERP, a product ready and able to handle your challenges.

With a unique consultation process, we get to know you and your business, finding what works best for your organization, tailoring a solution based on your needs, and implementing the solution how you choose, and training users not just to survive with a new solution, but thrive. Check out our Acumatica demos to learn more.

Additional Resources

The Year-End Rush: Reiterating the Value of Adopting Cloud ERP Now

Why Now is the Time to Make the Move to Cloud ERP

6 Reasons to Upgrade Your ERP Before the End of the Year


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