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Yes that’s right. Many of you are already head-down planning FY17 and how you can stretch your budget to meet those targets. Hopefully you have enough reserves of Vitamin D left over from your annual holiday or have stocked up on enough gin to be enthusiastic, fired up and curious about how you and retail will shape 2016. Officially declared (by me) as the year of change. I know every year is a year of change, but some more than others.

I was fortunate to attend the NRF (National Retail Federation) Big Show Retail Conference in New York in mid-January and it gave me considerably more food for thought than I could digest in -9 degrees. Let’s just say you can’t expect a Brisbane-born girl living in Auckland to own the right wardrobe for strutting the sidewalks in that weather.

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This was a record-breaking show with more than 34,000 attendees, 540 exhibitors and days packed with presentations and a chance to meet some of the best retailers and understand a bit about what makes them great.

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I returned with my mind full of ideas and opportunities and a chest full of flu, contemplating the power of digital, in particular our smartphones, continuously in hand.

Yes our ‘Smart’ devices ae all knowing. They know exactly where we are, our tastes in food, music, film and fashion. They follow our friends, family, finances, our secrets, our hopes and even our dreams. Yes the universe is in our hands. But while it was a good reminder, it’s not new news. So what else did I glean?

Juanita’s Top 5 Trends #makingretailhappen for 2016

#1 Total Retail

A nimble, seamless, holistic, fluid ecosystem; some are calling this Hybrid Retailing. A wave of exceptional operators are making beautiful things in this space. Some started as pure play or omni operators but have now carved out an exceptional space through their focus on quality, simplicity and connectivity.

Think Warby Parker, Shake Shack, Bonobos. Their physical stores take on a new and elevated role and gone are the days of “stack it high, watch it fly”. These brands understand that the journey is as important as the destination.

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Photo: Warby Parker

The in-store experience is often built around the mobile and digitally-connected consumer and embraces the “on my terms” shopper who may research online and then purchase in the store, or “touch and feel” the merchandise in the store and purchase online later.

#2 Digital convergence

2016 is about emerging technologies and business models creating ways to attract, engage, and convert shoppers who live in a constant state of partial awareness. But technological solutions have to integrate to provide meaningful solutions and innovation driven by shopper’s needs and wants. Seamlessly.

For example, we’ve moved beyond the stand alone beacon and it is getting integrated into other retail hardware, such as lighting. And beyond that, the blend of social and digital networks creating new vibrant retail opportunities. Excellent examples include Peloton, Lowe’s, Sephora, and Walgreens.

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Image: Peloton

#3 Enriched engagement

This trend is being embraced in a big, big way at every touchpoint on the path to purchase. It is all about delivering engaging experiences from selling to seduction. Authenticity, meaning, depth delivered seamlessly, personalised and with relevancy. Check out the great experiences offered up by Toms, Nixon, Found Muji and Mast Bros Chocolates.

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Image: Mast Bros Chocolates

#4 Social community

Shoppers today are social souls seeking trust, meaningful experiences, and they want to feel proud of their tribe. This is about creating genuine connections, sharing and building a community. Eataly for example offer a wider range of beautifully curated product in an immersive experience where you can shop, explore, share, drink, dine and learn.

REI also demonstrates leadership in this space by ensuring shoppers get information and products where and when they desire without compromising on the ethos of the company. Take a look at their #Opt Outside campaign for example which shunned shopping at Thanksgiving and Black Friday and inspired people to get outdoors.

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Image: Eataly, New York

#5 Useable Data

This year will be characterised by data and analytics. That’s a line you may well have heard before 2016 but I’m not talking big data. Instead this is the year of smart, useable, meaningful data with the tools and ability to deliver hyper-localised, personalised offers.

Retailers need to get a better handle on who is walking into their stores and to start gluing together the entire journey beyond their digital and loyalty programmes which only tell part of the story.

The North Face provided a demo at NRF show developed in partnership with IBM Watson which would appear to have a great future. After completing a series of questions, taking them through the decision making funnel such as “Where are you going?” and “What activities will this be used for?” shoppers were led to product suggestions based on the answers.  It’s a concept still in development and the next step would be connecting content and ideas back to shoppers, creating lifelong relationships enhanced by machine learning.

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Image: The North Face / IBM Watson - www.fluid.com

Under Amour is exploring concepts of connected fitness, with apps tracking training behaviour, gear usage and overall health which will result in recommendations for products as well as building information around trends which could influence product innovation, inventory decision making and refining store curation.

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Image: www.bidnestetc.co

Over the next few blogs I will delve a little deeper into these key trends I have identified, bringing to life the good, bad, mad and exciting of what this means in the wider retail eco-system.  So have a read and explore what this could mean for you in your business and how you can make the right changes. This is, after all, the year of change. #makingretailhappen

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