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8 ways your retail business is going to change in 2016

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It’s that time of year when, having packed away the decorations, signed up to the gym and tried to declutter to make room for all the new clutter Santa deposited down our chimneys that we turn to the year ahead.

So what can retailers expect from 2016 and where does mobile fit in? Well, we’ve been using the left over mince pies and the dregs of the Bailey’s to get people talking and here are some of our top tips for things to look out for in 2016.

  1. Go omni-channel or die

Earlier this year, a study by MasterCard found that eight out of 10 consumers now use a computer, smartphone, tablet, or in-store technology while shopping. In 2016, omni-channel will show no signs of slowing down. In order to keep up, retailers will need to merge their physical and digital systems to serve the modern ‘omni-shopper.’

“Consumers now expect a seamless and unified shopping experience and in 2016, retailers will need to merge their physical and digital worlds to serve this new wave of shoppers,” says Pierre-Emmanuel Perruchot de La Bussière, General Manager, Vend.“We’ll see retailers make their physical stores stand out from the crowd by using ecommerce technology to transform the in-store experience, and more online stores will move into brick & mortar territory, whether through seasonal pop-ups or long-term stores.”

2) Mobile is mainstream for consumers…

Mobile is definitely here to stay. In November it recorded its biggest ever growth and it is starting to shape all sorts of processes within the shopping cycle.

For instance, retailers are increasingly experimenting with mobile for new services such as Click-and-Collect, coupled with technologies such as Beacons that let retailers know when a customer is near their store, reducing wait times to collect orders.

Marks & Spencer , for example lets customers buy via mobile and pick up in-store, while others, like Argos , are using mobile to send text notifications whenever an order is ready for in-store pickup.

Customers are also using mobile in their own ways to with half of them using them to search for better deals whilst in-store and a growing number of retailers are looking to mobile apps to offer new ways to find things.

Handpick is pioneering an innovative new technology known as “aesthetic searching”, which suggests clothes based on the same way you would choose the outfit yourself – considering both the event and atmosphere. When looking for a dress for a ‘night out’, you can narrow down the results by mood by searching for terms such as classy, elegant or alternative.

Meanwhile, Powa Technologies is looking at using image recognition to turn adverts into shop windows.

3) … and mobile is mainstream for retailers

“Yet mobile will not just be a customer trend,” says Vend’s La Bussière. “In 2016, we anticipate the continued adoption of cloud-based mobile devices such as mPOS systems and tablets by independent retailers. These businesses are typically more nimble and aren’t tied down to large, complicated legacy systems, so they’re in a great position to switch to mobile omni-channel technologies. These solutions enable them to scale quickly, work from anywhere, and get real-time insights into various aspects of their business – whilst helping to speed up checkout and improve the customer experience.”

4) Beacons will make an impact

There has been much hype about beacon technology, but 2016 will be the breakthrough year for this technology, driven by the need to improve in store experience and give relevant offers in store – this last part itself driven by the trend for showrooming, which had an alarming impact over Christmas: according to EE, 41% of Brits – equivalent to almost 22 million shoppers – regularly ‘showroom’ by using their mobile devices to check for better prices – and a lot more besides – while in-store.

To many retailers, beacons will be the first line of defence. According to Juniper Research, nearly 1.6 billion coupons will be delivered annually to consumers via beacon technology by 2020, up from 11 million this year, as retailers seek to develop proximity marketing campaigns in and around their stores. 2016 will be the year they start to make an impact.

5) Loyalty will be key

While promotions and offers – delivered by beacon – will be important to retailers battling the growing threat of showrooming and the ever more mobile centric view of shopping, these alone are not enough.

Modern consumers still value rewards and promotions, however retailers can’t rely on them to drive customer loyalty. Another MasterCard study found that only 18% of consumers consider promotions as important.

“Loyalty programs will still be successful in 2016, but simply implementing rewards won’t be enough – retailers will need to leverage technology to offer targeted rewards, coupled with great products and seamless, convenient buying experiences,” says Vend’s La Bussière . “This year, expect pioneering retailers to transform their traditional loyalty programmes with mobile apps that connect remotely with in-store systems, to create more personalised offers and make it easier to redeem rewards and communicate with shoppers. “

This tying together of loyalty, offers, beacons and mobile is going to be one of the key themese of 2016 for retailers, a sort of omni-engagement if you will, which should lead us nicely back to where we started with Omni-channel is going to be key…

6) Payments

…. But it doesn’t: Payments are also going to be transformed by mobile and loyalty. The next step in engagement will be to leverage how consumers use their mobile device in store to pay and how that interacts with enhanced loyalty schemes and the overall omni-channel approach as discussed above. There is no simple answer to this and it is likely that in 2016 we will only see the beginnings of it, but moves towards contactless payments – and Apple Pay – will start to pull in loyalty points discounts, e-receipts and e-receipt marketing and much more. 2016 will start to see the closing of the circle.

Barclaycard research shows that just one in three merchants (34 per cent) currently accepts contactless, but with 83 per cent of shoppers also carrying less cash than they did a year ago – and 19 per cent admitting to being ‘annoyed’ if they can’t pay contactlessly – it’s now more important than ever for businesses to introduce ‘touch and go’ as a way to pay.

Over the next 12 months, as consumers start to search for ways to make larger payments more quickly, high value contactless payments – where shoppers can make contactless payments over £30 using a mobile device with Chip and Pin authorisation – are also likely to become increasingly popular.

Early next year Barclaycard will become the first financial services brand to launch high value payments on Android devices, expanding the functionality of its mobile app to include contactless mobile payments. Barclaycard customers using this new feature will be able to make contactless payments for transactions up to £30, and for the first time, will also be able to make high-value contactless payments of up to £100 by entering their PIN on their mobile device.

Although payment technology has been slower to catch on than many expected, next year, 61 per cent of banks expect to increase their payment technology expenditure. In 2016, mobile wallets will become a standard feature on new smartphones and the number of retailers and services (such as the London underground) accepting such forms of payments will increase.

According to Rakuten Marketing, as the link between digital and physical commerce becomes clearer, mobile will become an increasingly integral part of the customer journey to bridge these channels, allowing marketers to understand online to offline shopping more and consequentially leading to marketing budget being attributed more fairly and effectively.

7) Social selling

Social media is going to become a mainstay of retail this year, not only as the customer service and marketing channel that it is today, but also as an actual purchase channel.

WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are both set to reach 1 billion monthly active users in 2016. Yet, social messaging apps are still often viewed purely as a private comms channel. However that could change next year as they become the tool to further social commerce.

Brands are already seeing success across social networks like Instagram, so the rise of social messaging apps as a means for engaging customers with targeted products and offers, and providing support will be the next phase of this trend. For example, YouGov found that 61% of customers aged 18-30 would prefer to communicate with their bank through WhatsApp.

According to Rakuten, in 2016 brands will increasingly use social messaging apps to build personal and targeted relationships with customers and if executed correctly it could be highly successful.

Already, Facebook is testing “M,” a personal assistant in Messenger, as well as providing payment capabilities and customer service feedback via the messaging app and it is likely to expand this service to WhatsApp in 2016.

But it is the sales channel that will be most affected by social. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all released buy buttons in 2015, and while none of them gained widespread adoption; we can expect social networks to continue investing in social commerce.

More and more retailers will start to use social selling tools, such as Soldsie, which allows customers to buy a product simply by commenting on an image on Instagram, or Like2Buy. No longer just for posting the perfect selfie (but we’ll still do that too), social media represents a big opportunity for retailers in 2016.

“UK retail has an exciting year ahead, and these trends are just the beginning,” says Vend’s La Bussière. “The winners in 2016 will be those who can best ride the wave of omni-channel, to improve their operations and bottom-line and at the same time attract and retain savvy shoppers.”

8) The Internet of Things

Many marketers have struggled to spot links between offline and online shopping, but new tools launching in 2016 will allow advertisers to pay publishers based on how they influence consumers, meaning all of the stages of fractional attribution can be recognised.

This is where the Internet of Things comes in. Accoridng to Rakuten, smart devices from TVs to connected home heating systems are providing consumers with more convenience in their lives than ever before. One example is Amazon’s Dash Button, which allows you to order items at a press of a button, enabled by the Internet of Things. With adoption of the IoT expected to rise steadily in the coming years, these devices will become more available in our day to day lives.

Marketers will then be able to tap into this detailed lifestyle data to foster loyalty, by providing a personalised customer experience across all touchpoints. Consumers already expect brands to recognise their shopping activities and personalise their experience through relevant messaging, products and promotions, and the data collected by these devices will enable marketers to build a much fuller picture of customer behaviour.

The data will also assist automated and programmatic buying to make future transactions more efficient and effective.


So there you have it, some of the key things that will impact your retail business this year. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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