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2016: the year of omnichannel integration

15th Feb 2016
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In 2015, we witnessed the growth of social commerce, the stronger focus on retail security, and the continued rise of bricks-and-clicks retail. As we venture further into 2016, we’re sharing our top five retail predictions this year that will make a big impact on the industry, and change the way retailers sell to and engage with their customers.

1. Go omni-channel or die

Last year, a study by MasterCard found that eight out of 10 consumers now use a computer, smartphone, tablet, or in-store technology while shopping. This year, omni-channel is showing 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. Retailers will need to merge their physical and digital worlds to serve this new wave of shoppers. 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. Security will remain a top priority for consumers

Although omni-channel comes with big benefits, it also has complexities – especially in areas such as fraud prevention. A study by ACI Universal Payments found that 65% of retailers believe they lack the tools to effectively manage omni-channel fraud.

It’s now no longer enough to combat fraud in isolation. So we expect to see an increase in the number of retailers consolidating their fraud management efforts across channels. In doing so, they’ll be able to quickly detect and address suspicious activities, no matter where and how they’re taking place, and thus offer more secure shopping experiences.

3. Mobile will finally go ‘mainstream’

Retailers are increasingly experimenting with mobile for new services such as Click-and-Collect, coupled with technologies like Beacons which 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.

Yet mobile will not just be a customer trend. This year, 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. Rewards alone doesn’t buy loyalty

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. This year, expect pioneering retailers to transform their traditional loyalty programs 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.

5. Social buying buttons will soar

Social media has been playing a big role in the shopping journey for a while now, but apart from Instagram no social network has been able to dominate shopping just yet. That could change this year. 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. 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.

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