With the rise of the Internet, retailers have spent several years honing the shopping experience on their websites, but just as many are coming to near perfection, consumer behavior is changing. The popularity of social media, an increased reliance upon mobile and big data have shaken up the way in which businesses now need to market to shoppers. With this, 2016 will be known as the year of the engaged consumer. Explore how these five trends are shaping the way shoppers and retailers build long-term, loyal relationships throughout the upcoming year.

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  1. Mobile Dominates All

It’s nothing new to state that mobile will once again ascend as a shopping trend in 2016. However, the size of growth from 2010 to 2017 is quite noteworthy, with a projected increase from $3 billion to $31 billion in smartphone purchases. The divide between digital and physical commerce will be further bridged in 2016, as mobile wallets become a standard feature on smartphones and more retailers accept proximity payments. However, simply switching from cash and credit/debit cards to a tap or scan of a smartphone won’t be enough to convince the majority of shoppers to change their behavior. Instead, retailers need to connect the retail experience to the mobile wallets and consumers’ smartphones by disseminating offers, coupons, rewards and loyalty programs via mobile marketing tactics.

  1. Omni-channel Integration

Integrating physical efforts and mobile strategies across all platforms and locations will be a crucial differentiator in 2016. Businesses that create an immersive in-store shopping experience through seamless delivery of mobile app offers, social media platforms, loyalty programs and the online shopping process together will be the ones to succeed. More so than ever before, this continuity across platforms will drive consumer interest, provide detailed information for purchasing decisions, and give shoppers the power to engage and understand the company no matter which platform(s) they decide to use.

  1. Shopping is Social

In today’s connected world, consumers are talking about brands, products and services on highly visible platforms across the Web, influencing peer-to-peer conversations and playing a major role in purchasing decisions. Gone are the days in which retailers can sit back and hope for positive word-of-mouth content. Instead, they now have the opportunity to play an active role in its creation. By integrating customer purchase and in-store experience stories, ratings and reviews, as well as questions and answers into online communities, retailers can greatly increase awareness of their brands, engage consumers and create loyal, lasting relationships. Ninety two percent of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional advertising. They are no longer searching via Google; instead, they go straight to Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and Pinterest for reviews, purchasing advice and opinions.

  1. Millennials are Key

Those born between 1980 and 1995 are profoundly shaping the consumer shopping experience. In fact, by 2020, it’s estimated this group will have more spending power than any other generation. Millennials are highly motivated by social information, and they carry their networks everywhere they go. Personalized shopping experiences are more likely to motivate them than unfiltered user-generated content. This group also doesn’t respond to the marketing of years past; they are more discerning and less trustful of traditional advertising campaigns. They trust peers over brands, and influencers over celebrities. Brand and retailers need to offer a targeted message based on past purchasing behavior, engage on social media and promote products and services that are socially conscious at the right time, when their customers are on the path to purchase.

  1. It’s About Personalization

Big data in retail has moved beyond merely people counting – today, retailers and shopping centers can potentially combine consumer traffic figures with point-of-sale information, marketing activity, average transaction values, queue lengths, average length of stay, dwell time, weather trends, conversion rates and return visits, to build up a comprehensive picture of customer behavior. Businesses should focus on the “Three R’s” – delivering the right shopper insights to the right decision maker at the right moment. By doing so, this will provide consumers with what they need, when they need it and in the appropriate context. This progressive customer profiling data is critical information that will streamline operations and most importantly, drive incremental revenue.

Consumers already know what type of shopping experience they want. They’re finding the information needed to make purchasing decisions, even if it doesn’t come from the retailers themselves. This doesn’t mean retailers have become less relevant; on the contrary, it allows businesses the opportunity to become more relevant by providing those experiences seamlessly and giving customers the information they desire no matter where they are searching.

Previously published on Blue Calypo’s blog