Many of you are already head down planning FY17 and how you can stretch your budget to meet those targets. Hopefully you have enough reserves of Vitamin D left over from your annual holiday to stay enthusiastic, fired up and curious about how you and retail will shape 2016, which has been officially declared by me as the year of change. I know every year is a year of change, but some more than others.
I was fortunate to attend the NRF (National Retail Federation) Big Show Retail Conference in New York in January. So what did I glean?
1. Total retail
A nimble, seamless, holistic, fluid ecosystem; some are calling this hybrid retailing. A wave of exceptional operators are making beautiful things in this space. Some started as pure play or omnichannel operators but have now carved out an exceptional space through their focus on quality, simplicity and connectivity.
Think Warby Parker, Shake Shack and Bonobos. Their physical stores take on a new and elevated role and gone are the days of ‘stack it high, watch it fly’. These brands understand that the journey is as important as the destination.
The in store experience is often built around the mobile and and embraces the ‘on my terms’ shopper who may research online and then purchase in the store, or touch and feel the merchandise in the store and purchase online later.
2. Digital convergence
This year is about emerging technologies and business models creating ways to attract, engage, and convert shoppers who live in a constant state of partial awareness. Technological solutions have to integrate to provide meaningful solutions driven by shoppers’ needs and wants, seamlessly.
We’ve moved beyond the stand-alone beacon and it is getting integrated into other retail hardware, such as lighting. The blend of social and digital networks creating new vibrant retail opportunities with excellent examples including Peloton, Lowe’s, Sephora, and Walgreens.
3. Enriched engagement
This trend is being embraced in a big way at every touch point. It is about delivering engaging experiences, from selling to seduction. Authenticity, meaning, depth delivered seamlessly, personalised and with relevancy. Check out the great experiences offered up by Toms, Nixon, Found Muji and Mast Bros Chocolates.
4. Social community
Shoppers today are social souls seeking trust and meaningful experiences. They want to feel proud of their tribe. This is about creating genuine connections, sharing and building a community. Eataly, for example, offer a wider range of beautifully curated products in an immersive experience where you can shop, explore, share, drink, dine and learn.
REI also demonstrates leadership in this space by ensuring shoppers get information and products where and when they desire without compromising on the ethos of the company. Their #OptOutside campaign shunned shopping at Thanksgiving and Black Friday and inspired people to get outdoors.
5. Useable data
This year will be characterised by data and analytics. That’s a line you may well have heard before, but I’m not talking big data. Instead, this is the year of smart, useable, meaningful data with the tools and ability to deliver hyper-localised, personalised offers.
Retailers need to get a better handle on who is walking into their stores and to start gluing together the entire journey beyond their digital and loyalty programmes, which only tell part of the story.
The North Face provided a demo at NRF show developed in partnership with IBM Watson, which would appear to have a great future. Shoppers were led to product suggestions based on the answers they gave to a series of questions, such as ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘What activities will this be used for?’ It’s a concept still in development and the next step would be connecting content and ideas back to shoppers, creating lifelong relationships enhanced by machine learning.
What trends are you riding the wave of this year? Remember not to bite off more than you can chew but you have to take at least a nibble - this is, after all, the year of change. #makingretailhappen
This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 743 April / May 2016