NRF 2016: Setting the Tone for a BIG Year in Retail

Something deeply transformative began happening in retail in 2015. If you were there with us at in Philadelphia in October or eTail East in Boston last August you’ll know exactly what I mean. At both events, in the keynotes, seminars and throughout the expo halls, the conversation kept coming back to how retailers can enable sustainable, scalable omnichannel strategies that incorporate – and maximize value of – their physical stores and assets.

Time and again over the past year discussions with our colleagues across the retail sector came back to one core belief: that the physical store isn’t dying because of online retail. It’s just evolving. And the most successful retailers are heading towards a critical mass of true convergence between digital and physical by seamlessly spanning online and offline worlds.

So as we head into 2016 and get set for what’s shaping up to be another buzzing NRF, here’s what we think will be five significant trends emerging in retail over the next 12 months…

1) More online retailers will open physical stores

We’ve been saying for years that offline need to offer something that Amazon cannot. And, with Amazon itself opening its first real world store, we expect to see more online-only retailers making the leap to omnichannel.

However, these online-to-offline retailers have a very different set of challenges than the traditionally offline brands that took their business online. Their challenges will be less about technology and more about what it means to define their face-to-face experience. Why should customers want to spend time with them instead of just browsing through their website or app?

2) Transparent opt-in data strategies will gain traction

In 2016 we expect to see more retailers realizing the value in becoming increasingly transparent when it comes to data collection. Asking customers to explicitly provide information in return for immediate value is mutually beneficial – and it’s going to become increasingly common.

This is already done by retailers like Golfsmith, which asks for information about your height and golfing style in order to offer expert advice selecting a new club. By offering real value in exchange for data, everybody wins: customers get a personalized experience and retailers are rewarded with increasing trust and loyalty.

3) Physical spaces will move beyond showrooming

We also expect to see more retailers realizing there is so much more value to physical stores in omnichannel than display units or shelves stacked with products. Physical space is a valuable commodity and retailers should be sure the most is being made of it.

Whether it’s expectant parent classes with Babies R Us or beauty therapies at John Lewis, a lot can be done with retail space that turns a trip to the mall into a true customer experience.

4) The commodity divide will deepen

In late 2015 we carried out a piece of research that resulted in a definitive ranking of the top 20 retailers in the US and UK with regards to their approach to in store services and experiences. One trend stood out: many mid-market retailers remain far from investing in in-store services, experiences and education to the degree we’ve seen happening with higher-end retailers.

We don’t expect this to change in the short term – but over the next 12 months, we do expect the perception of any retailer that doesn’t offer a more interesting in-store experience to become increasingly aligned with the low end of the market.

5) Retail’s omnichannel success will influence other sectors

Finally, “omnichannel” was the retail buzzword of 2015 and this next year we expect to see this seamless channel-shifting mindset begin to influence other sectors. Over the last decade both consumer banking and government managed services have become critically disconnected from the way their customers expect to interact. By taking a cue from retail in 2016 we believe we’ll see these begin to change.

As we gear up for NRF, it’s clear that the retail sector is evolving at unprecedented speed. Savvy retailers are finally realizing the potential of their stores in an omnichannel world. They are rethinking their physical presence in new and creative ways, looking at new ways to deploy store staff, using big data to better understand their customers, and harnessing the power of value-add in-person engagement to raise their game.

Meet the BookingBug team at NRF

Our retail team will be on hand throughout NRF where we will be showcasing how the retail brands we work with – including Babies R Us, bebe and Golfsmith – are using value-add in-store services to bring together their digital and physical operations to offer exceptional customer experiences.

If you’d like to schedule a meeting to discuss how BookingBug can help you offer joined-up customer experiences, drop us a line at Alternatively, for the social amongst you, you can follow us on Twitter (@BookingBug) for daily NRF, views and updates from the team. For more information on BookingBug’s retail solutions visit us at

We’ll see you in New York!