5 Key Trends Marketers Can’t Ignore: Retail in 2016 (and Beyond)

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Jan 12 2016, Posted by Lisa Cramer

This article was originally written for CMO where it was published on January 5, 2016.

Which retail technologies will pay off in 2016? Will beacons take off? How about wearables? And, what about in-store analytics—will that really become a thing?

Here are 5 key trends to watch out for in 2016 and beyond…
1) Advertising Won’t Be Enough

  • 70% of shoppers are now becoming aware of products through means outside of brand/retailer advertising (Deloitte).
  • There are now 198 million global active users of ad blocking software, up 41% from 12 months ago (PageFair & Adobe).

It’s becoming an increasing challenge for the majority of retail executives we talk to everyday to capture consumer attention. With the touch of a button, consumers can skip TV ads. And, even digital advertising—our new ray of hope—is under fire thanks to ad blocking and an exceptional consumer talent for ignoring ad placements. Moving forward, it will become more and more critical for you to reach consumers in-the-moment—whether they’re on social media, doing some smart phone research at a stoplight or browsing a store. And, without question, stores will take on a more important role than ever in influencing your consumers, given their hold on over 91% of all retail sales (U.S. Census Bureau). There’s no denying that physical stores need a digital presence, but what about the other way around?

2) Technology Will Transform the Role of the Store

We touched on this briefly above, but let’s talk more about this changing role of the store…

  • Digital interactions impact 50 cents of every dollar of in-store sales (Deloitte).
  • Shoppers who use digital while they shop in-store convert at a 20 percent higher rate compared to those who do not use digital as part of the shopping process (Deloitte).
  • Only 12% of shoppers cited the sales associate as an important factor in their purchase decision (InReality).

So far we’ve seen pure-plays like Amazon, Bonobos, Warby Parker, Rent the Runway and Birchbox move in-store—all will huge success. On the other hand, we’ve seen big names like: Sears, Barnes & Noble, Game Stop, Staples and Ann Taylor forced to undertake major store closings. Why is that? These successful pure-plays didn’t just open another store with the traditional sales and distribution models as their primary goal. Instead, they tapped into the unique needs of their customers and reengineered the function of the store to fill the gaps in their existing experience that could not be achieved online. And, often they used the store as more of a marketing tool to build awareness, generate buzz and act as a multiplier for all other channels.

3) Content Marketing Will Finally Become a Reality In-Store

Over the last couple years, we’ve witnessed a rise in the use of online content marketing campaigns:

And, for good reason…

  • 75% of marketers surveyed said they saw positive bottom-line outcomes from their content marketing efforts, such as increased loyalty and reduced marketing and media expenses; 57% said they saw positive top-line business outcomes in the form of increased revenue and sales (Forrester).

But, what could this mean in-store? Already we know that:

  • Proximity-based offers triggered on mobile devices have increased likelihood to purchase during a store visit by 73%, and 61% of shoppers said they would visit a store that offered these real-time offers more often (Swirl).

Proximity-based beacons to influence consumers in real-time is already a reality. But, that’s on mobile through the download of an app. So, what about other options? As we move into 2016, we’ll see more use of remote content management to trigger real-time content updates across digital screens or displays in-store, segmented by date, time, locations, store promotions and soon even consumer demographics. This will also come with the ability to gather engagement analytics and to optimize your campaigns with A/B and cohort testing, just as you do online.

4) Brick-and-Mortar Dinosaurs Will Bite Back With Real-Time Analytics

We touched on analytics above, but let’s dive a little deeper. Thanks to advances in technology, retailers can already gather basic engagement analytics with digital screens, access footpath mapping and trace how consumers move through the store. But, now brands inside these retail stores can start gathering highly accurate insights as well, including:

  • How many consumers walk past their brand daily
  • Of those, how many notice their brand
  • Of those that notice, how many stop?
  • How many engage and with what content?
  • And, for all this, how many are male, female and in what age brackets?

Insider Tip: Be wary of mobile tracking via WiFi—this method may soon become obsolete. Apple has already started to randomize MAC addresses on the iPhone to prevent tracking and other mobile companies could follow suit.

5) IoT Will Call for an Omnichannel Rethink

When the omnichannel strategy was hatched, the goal was to keep consumers shopping, from channel to channel. And, rightfully so.

  • 40% of purchases are made crossing channels, whether searching in-store and purchasing online or vice versa (comScore).
  • The average in-store only shopper spends $1,400/yr; ecommerce only—$200, but omnichannel—$2,500 (Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon).

But, exponential growth in digital is changing things…

  • There are now over 800 possible shopping journeys available to today’s consumer (Cisco).
  • By 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet is expected to exceed 40 billion (ABI Research).

While omnichannel strategies were a definite step in the right direction to bridge the digital and physical worlds, we’ve translated the concept largely into replicating each channel everywhere. But, with the IoT and wearables, adopting and replicating the same experience on every new digital channel is not feasible. It’s time to evolve tactics a bit, i.e. every channel does not need to deliver the exact same experience or primary functions as other channels. Instead, we need to carefully evaluate whether a channel makes sense for our unique brand, then identify the unique “why, how and wow” of these digital channels for our consumers, that is:

  • Why this channel is relevant and impacts consumers positively,
  • How it helps move them along their path and eliminates friction,
  • What the unique “wow” is that cannot be easily replicated on other channels and can be used to amplify the incredible in their experience

The future of retail is now. Exponential growth in digital is leading this charge. It is therefore more critical now than ever to pay careful attention to emerging trends as we ring in 2016.

Have you noticed any other trends that marketers need to pay attention to moving forward? Please post below. I’d love to hear!

Image Copyright: gstockstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

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