In more ways than one, 2016 has been another eventful year for the Global Retail Sector. With continued breakthroughs in the field of technology, retailers have gained significant amount of customer information and insights which has helped them deliver a more seamless and personalized experience. Here is a look back at the major highlights by reviewing retail in 2016.
The need for brands and retailers to have an omnichannel presence has been there for a long time now. An omnichannel presence is more than just having a physical store functioning with the company website in tandem. In 2016, retailers have understood the importance of knowing their customers better both in the store and online. Hence retailers have focused more on properly analysing the big data of customers available to them, for making more personalized offerings. Accurate assessment of the customer's in-store behavior and online tendencies is what retailers have given in to. Overall, retailers have looked to establish a highly seamless omnichannel presence with the help of big data analytics.
Retailers have recognized the dominance of mobile phones in the retail sector. The rising number of smart-phone users and the fondness of customers towards mobile apps has been nothing short of overwhelming. Mobile phones have emerged as the most convenient platform to shop from for the customers. Customers have taken a liking to mobile apps. A study by RetailMeNot revealed that 63% of customers feel that mobile apps are convenient and 57% felt that they are faster. Retailers understood the importance of pushing personalized offerings on the mobile apps for the purpose of generating loyal customers. Apart from this, various findings have revealed that promotional and marketing materials in the form of emails have most likely been opened on mobile phones. A 2016 study by Litmus 'Email Analytics' reveals that 55% of emails is opened on a mobile phone. The following diagram also shows how mobile phones have dominated over webmail and desktops when concerned with opening emails.
image source: litmus.com
Social Media in 2016, continued to be the power house of a platform for both the retailers and their customers. Customers, especially the millennials segment, have been in complete sync with social media. They have shown preference in online reviews over advertisements while making a purchase. This is validated by a 2016 study by PWC, which reveals that 67% of customers believed that social media reviews influenced their shopping behavior. Various studies also reveal that customers love interacting with brands on social media. Retailers have adopted social listening as a result, to know their customers better. This does not mean that it's the end of the road for social media advertisements and promotions at all. If anything, retailers believe that since social media is flooded with traffic, why not resort to relevant and pertinent advertising and promotions for influencing the shopping habit of the customer? According to Fast Company, social media advertising reached US $24 billion in 2016, considerably higher than 2015. Indian retailers too have taken a cue from the foreign retailers this year. According to a study by Retailers Association of India and Octane Research, 75% of indian retailers plan to increase investment in social media promotions and advertising. The following illustration validates the fact.
The Modi led Government's decision to demonetize the currency notes of 500 & 1000 brought the entire retail sector to an immediate halt. Demonetization had a huge impact on the overall store traffic of both small and large retailers as people just did not have the cash to pay. The compulsive adversity of cash crunch meant that both retailers and customers had to find an alternative to get out of the current situation. That is exactly what happened. Indian retailers and customers took to digital payment services amidst all the chaos and confusion. Immediately after the announcement, India's leading mobile payment platform, Paytm, experienced an overall increase in traffic by 435% with a 200% hike in number of app downloads and 400% growth in transaction value of offline payments. These are some overwhelming numbers for the Indian retail sector, considering the propensity of Indians to deal in cash. The adoption of mobile wallets and other digital payment services might have been triggered due to lack of options, but it has to be said that PM Modi's ambition of a 'Digital India' is not completely a far fetched dream. Digital Payment methods still continues to be the saving grace for a lot of retailers and customers in India.
— Tickto (@tickto) December 5, 2016
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing are technologies that have emerged in 2016 and come to the limelight. In today's retail world, customers buy the experience that they get. These technologies have ensured that the shopping experience of the customers is enhanced to a great extent. Retailers this year have tried to take advantage of the visual dynamics by turning into augmented reality solutions. Artificial Intelligence empowered chatbots have laid the foundation in 2016 to take customer personalization to the next level. Virtual Reality has allowed customers to have a brand interaction and experience without having to go to the real brand store. With the help of these technologies, retailers are now carving out a smart shopping experience in a smart store for their customers.