The retail landscape in 2015

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In the ever-evolving retail sector, staying ahead is critical if brands are going to continue to meet the needs of customers and reap the financial rewards as a result. So with that in mind, what are the key trends for retailers to be aware of over the next 12 months?
Personalisation 
Customers today expect a personalised shopping experience if they are going to be encouraged to part with their hard earned cash. One size fits all is not enough, so retailers must be prepared to invest in proving that they understand every inch of the customer journey. 
E-commerce retailers have been tailoring their offers, landing pages and recommendations for some time now and the future of personalisation looks to enter bricks and mortar stores very soon with the introduction of Estimote, iBeacon technology, PayPal Beacon and Near Field Communication. This will enhance the in-store experience, make the customers’ life easier and allow tailored marketing messages along the purchase journey.
Multichannel Retailing
In order to appeal to more consumers and make the brand experience a positive one, retailers who have not already done so are expected to adopt a multi-channel approach and make their products and service readily available to the consumer via store, online, telephone ordering, mail orders, interactive television, catalogue ordering and comparison shopping sites. 
Those already doing it are reaping the benefits, generating maximum ROI and loyalty through the convenience and choice that multi-channel retailing offers. Retailers must gain a single customer view across all platforms, allowing them to track customers and their communications across every channel. Choosing the right channels, specific to customer preferences is key to putting them first in the multi-channel environment. 
Innovative Loyalty
With the average consumer enrolled into around 7.4 loyalty programs, it’s still a valuable channel for retailers. That said, with around 53% of loyalty scheme members halting participation due to irrelevant reward offerings and slow accumulation, retailers cannot expect to generate returns if they aren’t meeting the customer needs. Retailers need to have a clear strategy in place if they are going to maximise the opportunities loyalty programs can bring and provide a better experience for the customer.  
Focusing on personalisation, instant gratification and added value is expected to take the lead in the coming year
Technology 
Customers today must be engaged throughout the shopping experience if they are going to be turned from browsers into buyers. Using in-store mobile devices to accept payment, demonstrate products, provide further information and promote social sharing will encourage consumer-brand interaction, which will in turn builds deeper relationships.
Interactive shopping experiences, including interactive displays and shelf media can allow retailers to significantly maximise point of purchase conversion. These types of engagement can act as an extension to the overall brand conveying brand values and powerful experiences to engage and persuade consumers. Technology will no longer be limited to e-commerce retailers and will prove prominent for the high street in 2015.
Big Data 
If retailers are to pre-empt consumer purchases and make the experience truly personalised they have to ensure they are collecting the data which provides in depth information on behaviour, history and consumer whereabouts. Big data can help retailers target their loyalty schemes more efficiently, personalise recommendations and create a dynamic pricing structure; all of which generate better relationships. 
Big data will be collected from in-store purchases, online behaviour, social media and even more channels to give retailers a rounded view of the customer purchase journey. Measurability will bring new opportunities for retailers in 2015 transforming customer data into customer journeys. Big data is creating big answers and big solutions, something retailers should be focusing on. 
Social Media
Currently retailers are using social media to establish a digital presence to ensure they are accessible across every platform; it’s also being used to monitor feedback and act as a customer service solution. There are already clues that 2015 will be an even bigger year for social media as retailers begin to use it as a platform when developing products and marketing campaigns.
With Twitter leading the way in the US market with its new ‘buy’ button allowing users to shop from tweets, it seems this social e-commerce solution could soon be implemented in the UK making shopping even more convenient and easy for the consumer – definitely a trend to look out for.
Customer Service & Experience 
Retailers are beginning to see the bigger picture; understanding that customer experience and service are key differentiators in the retail sector and should be at the heart of the business strategy. With 66% of consumers switching brands due to poor customer service, it’s more important than ever before for retailers to ensure prerogative to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty levels through the overall brand experience. 
Retailers should be implementing processes to ensure every customer experience is a positive one, no matter how they are interacting. Social media will have an increasingly vital role here in order to serve the needs of the ‘always on’ consumer, 24 hours a day.
Need for Speed
As consumer lives are becoming busier the importance of convenient, speedy and alternative delivery options are key priorities for UK retailers in 2015, if they are going to keep up with the fast-paced world of today. Retailers are beginning to recognise that  offering next day home delivery and click and collect services helps to drive repeat purchase and increases customer lifetime value; an emerging trend in 2015 will be same day home delivery which some early adopters are already trialling and it seems consumers are willing to pay a premium for this service. 
Alternative collection points and remote locker solutions are also becoming more apparent in the retail sector. Waitrose are leading the way with their innovative temperature controlled Click and Collect lockers on the Transport for London network which could see fellow retailers following suit. 
2015 is in the hands of the consumer...
Consumers today are now in control of how, when and where they are shopping; the core trend set to continue in 2015. Retailers must ensure they adapt to this power shift to ensure their strategies are successful in winning and retaining customers. The multi-channel landscape brings great opportunity, but only if leveraged correctly, keeping the consumer interested at every touchpoint, and the experience at the heart of the brand. 

About Joanne Varey

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