This year social commerce exploded onto the scene, and we started to see a growing trend of New Zealand’s online retailers moving into physical retail – such as Stolen Girlfriends Club and Onceit. According to Vaughan Rowsell, founder and CEO of Vend, 2016 will be the year of omnichannel as technology, payments, and customer experience become more interlinked. Here are our top five predictions for retail in 2016:
1. Mobile will play a bigger role in delivery and loyalty.
In 2016, mobile technology that allows retailers to provide better customer loyalty and click-and-collect services will grow in popularity. Technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons teamed with a mobile app lets retailers know when a customer is near their store, which can reduce wait times for click-and-collect orders and create a far better customer experience. And, traditional loyalty programs in particular will be transformed as they are replaced by mobile apps which connect remotely with in-store systems, to create more personalised offers and make it easier to redeem rewards. For example, emerging technologies like Apple Passbook, soon to be Apple Wallet, let customers keep their coupons and loyalty cards in one place on their iOS device and pay from the app as well.
2. Retail pure-plays will disappear.
With the rise of omnichannel comes the omni-shopper. The modern day consumer is expecting a seamless and unified shopping experience with you, no matter what channel it’s on. In 2016, retailers will need to merge their physical and digital worlds to serve this new wave of shoppers. We are seeing this already with brands like Stolen Girlfriends Club in New Zealand and Shoes of Prey in Australia. Already successful purely online stores, they’ve now opened physical shops in order to bring their online shopping experience in-store and attract more customers. Rather than seeing online and offline as rivals, New Zealand retailers in 2016 will make their physical stores stand out from the crowd by using ecommerce technology to transform the in-store experience, and we’ll see even more online stores move into brick & mortar territory, whether through seasonal pop-ups or long-term stores.
3. Connected devices will transform the shopping experience.
In addition to using mPOS systems and in-store tablets, some retailers (particularly the bigger guys) will look into ways they can leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) in their stores. A study by McKinsey found that using the IoT in retail could have an economic impact of US$410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025. We have always found that New Zealand retailers are incredibly early-adopters when it comes to new technology, so we expect that pioneering local retailers will start making bigger moves in this space in 2016. For example, by using in-store devices to automatically ring up customers, track real-time shopping behaviours, and using connected devices to streamline in-store shopping. Auckland-based fashion store Glamour Boutique does this by using FaceTime to speak directly with customers across the country, show them new products in-store and help them make online purchasing decisions from far away.
4. More stock won’t cut it anymore.
An increasing number of retailers are learning that having more products doesn’t necessarily mean more customers. With increased competition, particularly from big brands entering the New Zealand market such as TopShop and Zara, it’s about stocking the right products for your customers, and giving them a carefully curated product selection. Next year we’ll see more New Zealand retailers change the way they order and manage their stock, to ensure that they have the best and most relevant items for their target market - not just the widest range. Successful online retailer Onceit, which recently opened its first physical pop-up store in Auckland, is doing just that by holding smaller volumes of stock but having new in-store product drops twice a week to provide an unmatched variety of new products for its customers.
5. Social will continue to be a part of the omnichannel mix.
Except for Instagram, no social network has been able to dominate shopping just yet, but that doesn’t mean social media companies will stop trying. 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. In New Zealand, using social networks to discover and talk about products will only grow in popularity. In turn, 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. 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.