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5 Retail Tech Trends in 2016

December 11, 2015

2:12 pm

The proliferation of technology in the retail space is happening at an impressively swift rate. What was hot last month could easily be obsolete in a few weeks, and the trends that worked yesterday may prove ineffective today. That’s just the nature of the current technological landscape. And while it’s challenging to know what will be relevant in 2016, we can look at current trends and see exactly what retailers are focusing on.

Growth of Mobile POS Solutions 

“Over the years, we’ve seen POS systems evolve from cash registers that simply ring up sales to full-fledged retail management solutions that allow retailers to stay on top of inventory, reporting, customer management, and ecommerce from one platform,” Vend, a leader in POS solutions, points out in its recap of the history of point of sale systems. They also reference the fact that the 2015 year-over-year growth rate of mobile POS software installs in North America is an impressive 41 percent.

While traditional POS solutions still exist, nearly every system will be mobile by the end of 2016. This prediction is based on three key things. First, mobile POS solutions are much more efficient for retailers. They take up less room, store more information, and provide lots of flexibility. Second, from the consumer side of things, mobile POS systems are able to streamline the in-store shopping process to create a better overall experience.

Finally, mobile POS solutions are more affordable than ever. Advancements in cloud computing mean mobile POS systems cost only a fraction of what traditional cash registers cost. When multiplied across dozens or hundreds of POS systems, this can result in significant financial savings.

Use of Location Based Technologies

 “With millions of shoppers toting smartphones in their pocket or purse, it’s no surprise that proximity marketing, through the use of location-based technologies such as Bluetooth-connected beacons, is becoming more than a flash-in-the-pan – as retailers look for ways to provide more personalized, real-time messages, offers and promotions,” writes Sharon Goldman, a reporter in the retail space.

With beacon based technologies expected to result in more than $4 billion in U.S. sales this year alone, it’ll be important to watch what happens in 2016. Will location based retail strategies prove to be a trend, or will sales numbers grow in the coming months and years, as expected? It’ll be fun to track this one.

In-Store Digital Displays

Expect to see a lot more digital technology in physical stores in the coming months. We’re on the cusp of some pretty fundamental changes in the industry and it looks like retailers are finally ready to accept mass adoption of in-store touch screen features, interactive help desks, immersive POS displays, and more.

Savvy retailers will recognize the natural convergence of content marketing and digital technology and begin to invest in crossover content strategies that allow them to repurpose content and reach an entirely new demographic. On a related note, social media experiences will begin to merge with in-store shopping experiences, which will further blend the line between the real world and the internet.

More Omnichannel Strategies

While we’re not going to predict the death or imminent fall of brick and mortar retail as an industry, it’s becoming clear that the only physical retailers who will ultimately survive the transition to ecommerce are the ones who invest in omnichannel strategies.

While major corporations like Target and Walmart have obviously done well with omnichannel strategies, 2016 will be the year that more small and medium-sized businesses dip their feet into ecommerce, too. These brick and mortar stores will still need to place their primary focus on physical sales, but having the online revenue stream and visibility will be necessary for sustained success in the evolving economy.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Will augmented and virtual reality (VR) take off in 2016? Most experts agree that we’re still not ready for total adoption of VR devices, but you can bet some big brands with deep pockets will begin brainstorming ways to leverage this polarizing technology. Adrian Siobin of AdAage.com calls VR the “next frontier for retail.”

Prepare for 2016

As a retailer, you can’t separate your business from the advances in technology. While you may picture your business as a brick and mortar “mom and pop” organization, the reality is that even mom and pop stores need to align themselves with developing trends. In 2016, you’ll want to keep an eye on the trends dissected in this article.

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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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