This time it's personal: Retail in 2016

Rupal Karia, Managing Director of Retail and Hospitality for UK and Ireland at Fujitsu shares his predictions for the retail sector in 2016:

Shielding customers from cyber attacks

Looking at the retail landscape next year, a large focus will be on ensuring customer information is secure whilst trading continues to perform at its optimum level, even during peak trading times such as Black Friday, when retailers are most likely to be targeted by cyber-attacks.

Security will not only apply online however. Physical security will also play its part as the bag tax has an unforeseen effect on shrinkage in-store. The retailers viewed as most secure will win hearts and minds as the rate of high profile hacks continues to rise

Personalisation in an omni-channel world

With the increasing number of sales channels at consumers’ fingertips, expectations of a fast, smooth service are at an all-time high and as a result retailers will need to be more reactionary to the digital world consumers now live in.

Next year, retailers need to find ways to differentiate themselves as we see a growing pressure to maximise online offerings and deliver truly personalised and flexible services. Many consumers now use up to six channels before purchase – for example to research and make decisions regarding a product. Retailers need to provide customers with all of the tools to make a fully-informed decision via seamlessly integrated channels.

With multiple channels, next year retailers need to ensure that they are seamlessly aligned, enabling customers to move freely from one to the other during their shopping experience, no matter which channel they opt for. With all of these channels now in play, it is essential that retailers tighten their security measures to negate consumer fears of using these digital channels and instil customer confidence.

Power of data

With this increase in technology, retailers have an opportunity to cultivate a mountain of data on their customers which is a huge advantage. But a set of data is not intelligence; Big Data changes this and has the potential to offer greater engagements as it helps retailers better understand their customers. What will set retailers apart from the rest will be how they use data to predict their customers’ behaviour, and in turn create bespoke experiences both on-line and instore.

In using those insights, retailers will be able to upsell items both instore and online, offering personalised targeted offers for that particular customer. We also anticipate that as the cost of 3D printing reduces, we will see items be ‘clicked and manufactured’ in real-time, resulting in cost savings for retailers as well as more bespoke products and services for customers.

Collaboration

Over the past year we have already seen collaboration between some retailers take place, and next year these partnerships are to continue to develop and become more selective.

With increasing competition from their high-street counterparts, this type of partnership will become an increasing priority for online retailers looking to establish a physical presence with a partner that has a ready-made customer base and guaranteed footfall. For the ‘high street’ retailer, working with an online counterpart offers an added convenience to their customers. Presenting customers with a viable alternative to simply shopping online, there is an expectation of a wider customer base, which will in turn result in more sales.

Retailers considering this avenue would be wise to spend time researching a partner that best fits with them. One that is different enough not to simply take their customers, but similar enough to drive conversion.

Hospitality in retail

From a customer service perspective, we expect this to become much more prominent, and to see retailers teaming up with hospitality services, creating retail destinations for customers and reinvigorating the high-street. With this, retailers can offer services that will enable customers to do their shopping, socialise and dine, and have their shopping delivered to them at the end of the experience.

We have already seen this ‘Hands Free’ shopping experience made available at London’s Westfield shopping centres. As consumer behaviours continue to change and demand retailers to provide a higher quality of service, we predict that this will see a lot more traction over the coming year with retailers and customer demands.

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