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Consumer demand is constantly evolving and 2016 is set to be no different, retailers and wholesalers will continue to see changes in the market and their industry sectors. The most successful companies will be those who invest in streamlining back office operations, enhancing customer experience and adding unique value in the pursuit of happy, loyal customers.

We caught up with some movers and shakers in the industry to find out their predictions of the retail industry trends we’ll see in 2016, and their top tips for multichannel merchants to help them succeed.

 

Robert Gilbreath, VP of Marketing & Partnerships, ShipStation

 

What trends are going to shape the retail space in 2016?

Consumers are becoming more and more comfortable and are beginning to expect that they can spot an item once, set a subscription, and mark a 'to-do' off their list. This is not only putting regularly purchased items on a subscription from a retailer like Amazon, but also finding unique curated items as a subscription buy. Whether for themselves or for a gift, 2016 will find more and more businesses and consumers taking advantage of this space.

 

How can independent retailers best look to grow their business in 2016?

Beyond the obvious of launching their online store, indie retailers should look at their channels to market and which channels can potentially make the biggest impact to their bottom line. During 2015 we saw businesses launch and find huge success with little to no real marketing spend just by using their social followers to promote their wares. Retailers should think about how they can make their social channels work for them. 

 

For matured retailers or those just starting out in 2016, what tips would you give them?

Go multichannel online. A retailer's own site is a must, but beyond that, there are so many options for them to get their products in front of more consumers. Amazon and eBay are potentially great choices and there are also so many other niche marketplaces to consider.

Follow ShipStation on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @ShipStation.  

 

Nii A. Ahene, Co-founder & COO, CPC Strategy

 
What trends are going to shape the retail space in 2016?

Mobile will continue to dominate mind-share for consumers of all retail categories. Our phones are now fully ingrained in the buying process, whether it's researching, comparison shopping, or transacting. Amazon by far was the first to fully capitalize on this trend with a reported 80% visits coming through their mobile apps. While an app experience does not make sense for most retailers, figuring out how to embrace mobile to enhance the shopping experience should be a key focus retailers in 2016.

 

How can independent retailers best look to grow their business in 2016?

Look beyond last click attribution to define success. As online marketers, it's easy to fall in love with last click attribution, but as a consumer it's rare that one single engagement results in a sale. Given the increasingly noisy and expensive performance marketing (Text + PLAs) landscape - it's even more important to focus efforts higher up in the funnel. This doesn't necessarily mean blowing budgets on hard to track marketing campaigns, but it does mean investing time and effort to figure which KPI's higher up in the funnel (cookie pool, email list size, social reach, property traffic) create enough awareness to drive performance lower in the funnel.

 

For matured retailers or those just starting out in 2016, what tips would you give them?

Concentrate on targeted email. Now that an overwhelming majority of consumers use smartphones on a daily basis, the email inbox has re-emerged as a powerful tool in the arsenal of sophisticated marketers. We're seeing a lot of our savvy clients leverage past buying behavior to craft very targeted offers that appeal to repeat buyers or buyers of complementary products to increase overall customer LTVs.

Follow CPC Strategy on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @CPCstrategy.  

 

Chris Dawson, Editor, Tamebay

 
What trends are going to shape the retail space in 2016?

2016 will see retail move even further from offline to online, as we saw on the Black Friday weekend sales. Whilst the high streets were relatively quiet, online was busier than ever.

We’ll also see a focus shift for online merchants from the UK to cross border trade. Many merchants already sell to close EU countries like Germany and France, with the US and Australia firm favourites for export due to a shared language. 2016 however will see merchants start to focus their sights on the emerging markets such as China, Russia, Brazil, India and Africa. Alibaba has already started to put EU country Managing Directors in place to assist merchants selling to China and we’ve seen success from early adopters over 2015’s Singles Day where many merchants sold more in a day than they’d normally sell in a month on Alibaba’s TMall platform.

 

How can independent retailers best look to grow their business in 2016?

Independent retailers have an advantage over established brands and high street retailers in that they’re nimble without a huge infrastructures and don’t have investment in property which they need to monetise. However the independent retailer now needs to start to scale up to take full advantage of the volumes online trading brings. Those retailers who remain small will start to see ever increasing competition and there are only two ways to remain competitive – either scale up to increase sales or go niche where there is little competition to start with.

 

For matured retailers or those just starting out in 2016, what tips would you give them?

The UK is a saturated market for online retailers. UK consumers spend more online per head of population than anywhere else in the world. Naturally this has already attracted competition with over 200,000 registered businesses trading on eBay UK and many retailers from around the world targeting UK consumers. Whilst selling to the UK is the natural first step, new and established retailers should have the same goals and that is to target overseas customers where competition is less fierce. Initially, make use of programs such as Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) and eBay’s Global Shipping Program to easily make your goods available overseas. As you see volumes increase start to list directly on Amazon and eBay’s international marketplaces.

Don’t ignore unfamiliar marketplaces such as TMall in China, and remember that even in the EU, Amazon and eBay aren’t the dominant players in each country. You can read more about marketplaces around the world at tamebay.com/tag/marketplaces

Follow Tamebay on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @Tamebay.  

 

Joy Daniels, Marketing, Magento

 
What trends are going to shape the retail space in 2016?

Top retail trends will have an emphasis on convenience, health, and sourcing transparency.

Convenience — If Millennials want to buy something or outsource a task they don’t like to do--they go straight to their phone. “There is an app for that!” So what does this behavior mean for retailers large and small? The app culture is putting pressure on retailers to figure out the important customer moments that they can make more convenient for their own customers. For example a local wine store might not want to develop their own app yet, but they can offer a local delivery service during a key holiday or partner with a delivery service on an ongoing basis. Or consider offering extended store hours during a peak period or offering pre-ordering and pick up via the phone or online.

Health — Monitoring individual health is becoming more of interest to consumers. Businesses aimed at stress management, nutrition, recovery, and relaxation are cropping up everywhere and in high demand.

Sourcing — There is fast fashion from the mega brands and then there is the other extreme. Customers looking for locally or consciously sourced goods are the rise. These individuals will often downsize to secure better quality goods, and they definitely want a more personal, direct connection with retailers. Independent retailers can build their business around this consumer choice.

 

How can independent retailers best look to grow their business in 2016?

Businesses are getting really creative in terms of getting in front of new customers and keeping the customers they have.

Collaboration — Online only retailers are partnering up with brick and mortar stores to get in front of each other’s customers. For example, a brick and mortar and online fashion company hosted an event for their customers to showcase the wares of an online pure play service.

Multi-purpose — Independent retailers may want to consider to expand their basic service with add on services – for example including consulting or food and beverage services on top of their regular business. A ceramic store could also have a coffee shop or home goods store could have a bar. That way the store can also become a regular destination.

Customer programs — Retailers can get creative with customer loyalty programs – they can be kept simple if done through social media and this is a great way to collect customer information and get better connected with customers.

 
For matured retailers or those just starting out in 2016, what tips would you give them?

Efficiencies — Make the time to look for waste whether it is cash, resources, or time. Leverage technology – take a look at all the SaaS solutions that are out there (for businesses at all levels) to help you manage and build your business. If this isn’t your strength, get information from multiple resources and businesses that are using these technologies successfully.

Get connected — Give customers the incentive to share their data, collect information wisely and keep it safe. Then really use that data to connect with your customers with helpful information, new ideas and products, and promotions. In terms of social media, don’t just expect them to follow you, follow them back!

Know your customer — Finally consider varying the price points of your goods and services to appeal to multiple audiences. Also, millennials get a lot of attention from retailers, but Baby Boomers are largest current generation in America! Do you have goods and services for them?

Follow Magento on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @Magento.  

 

Tracey Wallace, Managing Editor, Bigcommerce

 
What trends are going to shape the retail space in 2016?

Social commerce is going to be big in 2016. In 2015, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest began priming their pumps for social commerce, but the floodgates will open in 2016. But by calling social commerce just that we are really limiting it. Social commerce is really just to say that social networks are now becoming channels through which retailers can and should sell, in addition to their already owned and operated sites, Amazon listings, etc. In all, the trend is that we are moving toward omnichannel commerce at very rapid pace. Everything has been set, retailers are getting ready and consumers are leading the charge. You see Google working on updating its retailer advertising suite to include both on and offline storefronts. You see once online only stores open brick and mortars. You see once only brick and mortar stores opening online shops. And then there is B2B –– a huge sales-driven industry, and we'll be seeing the vast majority of them come online in 2016 –– and really pick up the pace with selling in 2017.

 

How can independent retailers best look to grow their business in 2016?

Get smart about which channels you sell in and optimize your operational backend. This means you need to figure out which channels provide the highest ROI and margins for you. Those channels could be Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, your brick and mortar, your website, Google Shopping –– whatever it is, figure out what is working best and then double down. But, don't put all your eggs in one basket. You need to have your items on nearly every single channel, but you can figure out which to focus on by determining individual channel ROI. If Amazon, your website and Google Shopping are your highest ROI channels –– increase spend there while still working to optimize your Facebook ads and Twitter copy. You never know where the consumer will be shopping next. All you know is that your product needs to be there. As for operational backends, the biggest challenge with multichannel selling is inventory management. Use a channel manager ecommerce solution that can act as a selling hub for you. With Bigcommerce, you'll soon be able to see exactly which products you are selling where, how well they are doing, if you need to adjust anything and more. So, doing the 1st part if you have this part in place becomes much more time-effective and data-driven.

 

For matured retailers or those just starting out in 2016, what tips would you give them?

For matured retailers, stop thinking Amazon is your foe. They are your friend. They want unique SKUs, and you have them. Start testing out Amazon selling strategies and utilize their warehouses to decrease your shipping costs. You can work well with them. Heck, some of our sellers are making more than $1 million in revenue after only a year on the marketplace –– and still pulling in tons of orders on their own sites thanks to SEO, Google Shopping and more. This is no time to remain silo-ed in your thinking.

For those just starting out, there's a lot to do and you are likely going it alone or in your space time. The number one thing I tell every new store owner to focus on are these:
- Secure checkout (Paypal and Square are best here)
- SEO (This means write unique, relevant product descriptions and product page meta data)
- Product Images (Do not use what others are using. Take your own. Make them beautiful. Put them on Google Shopping. This works.)
- Once you get all of that finished, then you, too, will need to look to expanding into marketplaces.

Follow Bigcommerce on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @Bigcommerce.

 

Andy Geldman, Founder, Web Retailer

For those who sell through online marketplaces, two big events from last year will really make their mark in 2016. The first is eBay's focus on smaller sellers, following their split from PayPal. I think we'll see more changes from eBay in 2016 to improve their marketplace for independent retailers. The second event was the launch of Jet.com. This new venue is already a significant sales driver for some US businesses, and they have a staggering half-billion dollars in the bank to expand much further in 2016. What does that mean to you? Well, if you've added new sales channels in the past, and been disappointed by the results, it's worth thinking again in 2016. Despite the negative press, eBay is still a huge, diverse and broad international marketplace - don't write it off. And "alternative" marketplaces, which have failed to perform for many sellers in the past, are not to be looked down upon either - 2016 might just be the year when they really take off.

Follow Webretailer on twitter for more great tips and advice throughout 2016 - @Webretailer.

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About the Author

Grainne is the Head of Campaigns at Brightpearl and leads the execution of Brightpearl's global campaign strategy. Having worked in the retail tech space for five years, learning more about how technology can help retailers grow is a huge topic of interest.