We won’t look back at 2015 as the year everything changed in retail marketing. The less dramatic truth is that some things changed—it was not a year of total transformation. Rather, it was 12 months of realization, acceptance, and excitement about the new iteration of retail.
Advances, though plentiful, were incremental. Smart retail marketers took time to listen to, and eventually accept and embrace, the inevitable truth that retail marketing would never again be what it was ten years ago (or even five years ago). Realities have shifted forever.
The empowered shopper was one of these realities. While she’s been around since the beginning of the decade, in 2015, she finally took her place as the “giver of the law.” Smart, and growing more savvy with each transaction, the empowered shopper came into her own in 2015, and she shows no signs of giving up her control.
Another reality was the rise of the unique shopper experience. In 2015, our empowered shopper demanded meaningful interaction, real value, true convenience, and transportive storytelling. Retail marketers responded. Some enthusiastically provided great experiences, cultivating critical learnings and satisfied shoppers. However, many other retailers—those unable or unwilling to embrace the necessity of authentic shopper experience—responded with hesitation or trepidation, or worse, not at all. These retailers collected learnings as well, but at a huge price.
For retail marketers, 2015 represented new, thought-provoking, sometimes unsettling approaches to the art of selling. Minds were opened, norms were challenged, and an industry took some small but vital steps toward renewed relevance in the digital age. That journey will continue in 2016, but with greater speed, boldness, and flexibility on the part of retail marketers.
|What trends will drive the continued reinvention of retail marketing in 2016?|
|MOMENT BUY MOMENT
In 2016, we will see the shopper experience broken into moments. Moments feel personalized, intimate and exclusive. More about emotional impact and less about length, macro- and micro-moments will facilitate meaningful exchanges between shopper and brand. Whole Foods’ “Tech-tainment” approach (technology-driven entertainment) has proven successful, and a solid model for retail moment creation. Smart retailers will view every interaction as a moment, from a VIP in-store event to the quick glance a shopper gives a retail app on her smartphone.
The micro-moment is but one way the shopper will use her smartphone on the path to purchase. These always-on resources will continue to proliferate in 2016 and will play a major part in further refining the retail shopping experience. Look for branded smartphone activity to expand beyond notifications and conversations and into virtual reality, games, apps, and enhanced customer service. A smartphone in every shopper’s hand also means the continued rise of social media at retail. Experts say that Facebook will be almost entirely mobile within the next year. Shopper reviews, recaps, and peer interaction will grow proportionally in volume and importance.
|BIG DATA, BIGGER DEAL
The smartphone will also prove itself invaluable as a shopper information resource in 2016. More retailers will deploy information technology in the store, gathering demographic, sociological, geographical, and behavioral data. Smart retailers will dig into this Big Data to build actionable insights that drive meaningful shopper interactions. Guessing will give way to knowing. New systems, such as Retail Logic from SAS, will do this in real time. And while we will see continued shopper concern about privacy, more will begin to understand the value received in the exchange.
|STORES GET SMARTER
In 2016, the Internet of Things will become more of a reality to shoppers. They will begin to see the potential as retailers and brands provide real-world, relevant demonstrations of an interconnected life. Wearables and sensor-oriented devices will lead the way to greater understanding of and anticipation for the IoT. The much-anticipated virtual reality system Rift (from Oculus VR, owned by Facebook) will hasten the adaptation of IoT into the retail marketing mix.
That place where digital and social and in-store meet will be the power spot for retail brands in 2016. It is at this intersection the wired shopper will have the most satisfying experience, enjoying seamless and friction-free movement between platforms and places. With innovations such as in-store mobile imaging and Apple product-driven kiosks from Aila Technologies, retail marketers will create robust, dynamic destinations digitally and in-world. The goal is a retail environment where messaging and activity (and pricing!) are consistent regardless of brand entry-point.