Staying ahead of the competition can be integral to any company’s success. It many industries, though, it sometimes comes down to not getting left behind rather than leading the pack. Retail can be one of those industries- with so many direct competitors, some companies don’t want to stray too far away from conventions, while simultaneously incorporating new ideas. It’s a delicate balance, and there are always new trends on the horizon.

It’s no surprise that the biggest trends forecast for 2016 all deal with technology in some way or another. Whether it is making good use of new retail POS, incorporating big data into company plans, or just making sure customers have an easier time making purchases on their shiny new tech devices, it certainly looks like retail will be investing heavily in tech.

Smartphone dominance

More and more consumers have smartphones, and that number shows no signs of slowing down. People that do own iPhones and Androids rarely leave the house or the desk without their phone in their pocket. For many, it’s the first thing they check when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they check when they go to sleep at night. It makes sense that commerce on smartphones is a market with rich potential- and one that is already profitable.

According to Forrester Research, smartphone commerce is expected to go up to $31 billion in 2016 (http://resources.bazaarvoice.com/rs/bazaarvoice/images/Bazaarvoice_WP_Top5_Consumer-Driven_Trends_Retail.pdf). It’s more imperative than ever to have a mobile interface that makes it easy for consumers to shop on their phones and tablets. This can come in the form of an app or a mobile website- in either case, it needs to be more accessible and as easy to use as the company’s main website.

Millenials

“Millenials” is one of the hottest words of 2015 and it’s a trend that will continue to grow into 2016. In many markets, these up-and-coming young adults might as well be viewed as open wallets. They are also rapidly turning into the largest market, overtaking baby-boomers in the United States.

According to Ricardo Rubi, partner at Simon-Kucher & Partners, millenials “have been shown to prefer to invest in experiences rather than physical objects.”(http://www.cpcstrategy.com/blog/2015/10/retail-strategies-2016/#takeaways) For that reason, many retailers will be looking for ways to convey a message behind what they by, rather than simply selling a physical object. They are looking for causes within their products, like TOMS shoes for instance.

In addition, as heavy users of technology, millenials want a streamlined buying process they can use from anywhere- hence the emphasis many companies will be having on omnichannel.

Omnichannel

E-commerce is set to hit $327 billion by 2016 according to Forrester (http://www.bazaarvoice.com/research-and-insight/white-papers/Top-5-Consumer-Driven-Trends-in-Retail.html). However, it’s only one part of the market. The word “omnichannel” has become a bit of a buzzword these days, used to describe the integration of digital and physical retail experiences.

We’re not talking about virtual reality here- although that doesn’t seem like it’s too far off itself. Instead, omnichannel tends to mean an easy, streamlined, and similar experience whether a customer is shopping at a brick and mortar store or on a website. In fact, it’s an emphasis on making the shopping experience as close as possible regardless of the platform the customer has chosen. Many digital-only stores are opening brick and mortar ones, either as a showroom or as another option. Conversely, brick and mortar stores will be attempting to make the transition to digital buying seamless for their markets.

Big data

According to a Salesforce survey, retail usage of big data is expected to increase in the form of sales analytics by 58% in 2016 (http://www.ingrammicroadvisor.com/data-center/big-data-use-cases-that-2016-will-bring). They claim that four times as many high-performing teams use predictive analytics. In addition, there is no shortage of big data available for analysis- in fact, with the increase in technology the increase in data has also come naturally.

More sophisticated POS systems and corporate CRMs have made it easier to get customers onto rewards programs and to maintain more information about business happenings in general. Everything from price changes to inventory to customer buying habits can be recorded automatically through these devices, and once the data is there it’s become much easier to put it to work. This emphasis on data makes marketing more effective and efficient, streamlines supply chain management, and can even increase security in the form of fraud detection.

Social networks as stores

Social networks have been utilized as key marketing platforms for several years now- however, more companies will be using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to actually sell physical goods in 2016. Instead of simply clicking a “like” button, users will be able to click a “buy” button as well. It’s a fully integrated way of selling designed to reach a larger and more dedicated audience.

Of course, where is everybody accessing social media from? Their smartphones, of course. It seems like all the trends of 2016 are geared towards getting folks to buy more, buy quicker, and buy easier, all thanks to technology.