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Sam Langley-Swain, Strategy Director

As 2015 draws to a close, we’ve identified five key trends that will loom big on retailer’s agendas in 2016:

1. Tactile technology

Our case studies demonstrate that integrating technology into retail can lead to an enhanced customer journey and can change customer behaviours. However, the tendency to implement technology for technology’s sake, without envisaging the desired customer experience can have the opposite effect, alienating and intimidating consumers.

Rigid systems need to be transformed and configured to fit the retail environment. Installations and apps need to be instinctive for consumers to use and fit within existing brand palettes, tailoring the instore digital experience to be brand relevant and brand enhancing.

Centrepiece display in store with digital signage and floor projections

2. Emotional context

Over the past two years, we have seen and helped brands add richness to product purchase journeys through retail-exclusive experiences.

Trends such as behind the scenes exclusives have brought to life the emotional stories that went into product creation/presentation. A surge in the importance of peer-to-peer sharing illustrates how consumers want to understand the real-life benefits and their emotional relevancy.

We’ve helped The North Face develop a #neverstoplondon community around their product by designing it into their Regent Street flagship store. And Mercedes-Benz challenged us to engage their potential customers through exclusive experiences such as an ‘Ikea furniture and smart car challenge’ in pop-up locations.

Think imaginatively about discovery-oriented retail, designed for emotional connection.

3. Dynamic dialogues

As fast as technologies like RFID, NFC and beacons are being integrated in-store, a wave of counteractive products are crashing in to quell them. Around 200 million people globally have installed ad-blocking software and companies that sell RFID blocking wallets are enjoying healthy growth.

Far from representing a crisis for the brand, the rise of ad-blocking should unlock new opportunities for brands to create more genuine conversations with their consumers.

mobile-payments-shutterstock_192262859

People are increasingly willing to share data and their attention as assets, in return for payment, status or influence. Rethink the values associated with each side of the exchange process, and assess from a consumer’s perspective what benefit they are receiving.

4. Tailored transactions

2015 has been filled with conversations with our clients about brand experiences and transactional experiences. And, interestingly, how they can become one in the same. In a multi-channel market where delivery may be your only physical touchpoint with a brand, how can these experiences be turned into something valuable and own-able by a brand?

Transactional experiences can vary from the styling of the product presentation, the payment method and location (does it have to be behind the till?) the format of delivery or the speed, location and convenience of fulfilment.

Whether it’s the most exciting or most convenient experience, brands that want to drive engagement in 2016 will be looking at the transaction stage as a ‘moment of connection’.

5. Joining conversations

Word-of-mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising, according to a report from global management consultancy McKinsey. Earned media is becoming even more, powerful for brands who understand social.

Rather than brands simply distributing content and being like ‘parents circling at a prom’, the use of more genuine engagement platforms like messaging apps are allowing brands to be part of natural consumer conversations.

The challenge for retailers will be looking at how stores can be integrated into this social sphere, can retail assistants be given a voice and converted into brand advocates, can individual stores be given access to the conversation?