Opinion

From emotional commerce to neuroscience, six predictions for retail and brands in 2016

Sarah Todd, chief executive of Geometry Global UK, gauges the key trends likely to emerge from a volatile and complex year in retail marketing.

Mog’s back. Those of us who grew up with the children's-book character have been enchanted to see her on TV in one of 2015’s most endearing Christmas ads, for Sainsbury's.

Life was very different in 2002 (when Mog made her last appearance in a book by Judith Kerr), and so was how we shopped. How things change.

This year alone, we’ve seen a ream of transformative shopping experiences. Contactless payment technologies are freeing customers from tills; people are demanding magnificent brand experience; online retailers are turning to bricks and mortar; and personalisation has become the new bar. As consumer habits change at the speed of sound, brands are increasingly challenged to understand and predict how and when it’s best to connect with shoppers.

What does next year hold in store for our industry? There's no way of knowing for sure, but 2016 promises to be even more complex and volatile. This is how I see things shaping up.

  1. Destination stores I see a continued trend toward retailers launching multiple destination stores outside bigger cities and towns, driving more brand experiences there. For example, The White Company's new store in Norwich delivers a lifestyle-led retail experience, modelled on a journey through the home. Customers can discover a series of ‘rooms’ across two levels, decorated in tonal shades and accessories to create a more inviting, tactical and aspirational space.
  2. Social commerce Consumers are spending ever-more time on social media and will increasingly tap into those networks to purchase. Social networks are hot off the mark: one analyst has suggested that Facebook’s 'Buy' button could increase its annual revenue by 5%-10%.
  3. Curated commerce Information overload through the possibilities of omnichannel shopping will prove too much: brands and retailers that bring order and value to the customer journey will be in the best position to win the customer’s choice. Subscription services such as recipe-box brand Hello Fresh are expected to grow further, taking the pain out of cooking dinner by providing all the ingredients you need – already measured out – to prepare a meal; and curated lifestyle selections, such as Anthropologie, will continue to have a strong following.
  4. Emotional commerce What you stand for and why customers should engage with you, beyond shopping transactions requirements, will drive purchase decision. Smart labels, traceability (tracking product movement across the supply chain) will play a major role in helping people to buy well.
  5. Just-in-time purchase As people become increasingly time-poor but tech-savvy, they will look for household support from new and traditional trusted brands. Pass My Parcel, which offers same-day delivery at local newsagents, Amazon Dash and Hoover Connected Home are among the types of service and products that will attract their interest.
  6. Neuroscience everywhere This will become an increasingly vital tool to evaluate subconscious biases and behaviour when shoppers walk through the shop - from store design and navigational layout to display, signage and packaging. This is becoming more important as we make purchase decisions in split seconds via ecommerce. I anticipate the rise of testing and learning approaches and fast adaptation both online and offline, to increase conversion.

Will every one of these predictions come true? We’ll see.

Whatever happens, it won’t be technology that wins the battle for the customer, but understanding what the customer wants and working backwards from that starting point.