The world of retail was forced to relook business in the face of change in 2020. This brought about multiple trends within the online, offline and mall space. There are 3 specific trends we at Blue Horizon Licensing are keeping our eye on. We have analysed these trends and looked at the pros and cons of each in a South African context as well as sharing some examples of how brands have effectively implemented these trends in the past year.

  1. Social Commerce: The surge in online shopping is here to stay and we have seen large brands expand their online offering and even Malls take to the online space1 In a study2 conducted by MasterCard, in November 2020, 68% of South African consumers are shopping more online since the start of the Pandemic.  Because of the online shopping rise globally, social commerce entered the marketing arena. In 2020 the following collaborations took place to create a larger offering of online shopping to consumers:
    1. A partnership between TikTok and Shopify3
    2. an expansion of Snapchat’s Native Stores for brands4
    3. And the introduction of Facebook Shops.5

Pros: Purchasing becomes easier for the consumer and small businesses can sell online without having an e-commerce website.

Cons: Instagram and Facebook continue to move away from a social platform to an advertising and commerce platform which I believe will eventually drive consumers away.


  1. Different Payment Options: Payments have developed over the past few years with apps and banks creating more convenient and safe ways to purchase online. Cash is becoming more and more redundant due to COVID-19, cards now have ‘tap to pay’ and Google and Apple have created cardless payment options through various apps. On a local level, the top South African banks have all integrated a virtual or digital pay option on their apps. These banks include FNB,6 Absa,7 Capitec8 and Standard Bank9

Pros: Purchasing online and in store is made easier and safer through the banking apps.

Cons: Smartphone and internet access is still very limited with many South Africans still using cash as a payment option.


  1. Ethical and Social Issues: Commerce is no longer centered on the buying and selling, but the building of relationships between brands and consumers. With Gen Z (people born between 1996 and 2015) entering the adult world, with a buying power of $140 Billion globally10, their opinions and shopping behaviours are something brands and businesses need to be taken seriously. They are ethical, outspoken and not afraid to call brands out on issues important to them such as environmental progress, human rights, inclusion and honesty and transparency. Customer expectations from brands now reflect relationship dynamics, such as the need for loyalty and trust, as well as care and concern for practical social issues consumers face. A few examples from the brands we represent at BHL are:
    1. Mattel and Barbie’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity and representation11
    2. Uno’s creation of Uno Braille, allowing an inclusive experience for everyone. 12
    3. Hot Wheels latest product that is the first die-cast vehicle made from 99% recycled materials and certified CarbonNeutral®. 12

Pros: Brands keep ethics top of mind when marketing and creating products and are held accountable by their customers.

Cons: Brands are forced to relook marketing campaigns and products that don’t speak to what the consumer demands and are sometimes forced to remove campaigns and products while rebuilding their reputation.


Living in a technologically powerful world, both brands and customers are adapting quicker than ever to safer, more convenient and ethical ways of shopping. I have no doubt that by the end of 2021 the shopping experience would have evolved. We look forward to keeping an eye on how these trends develop and which new trends arise.