Rise and shine: Retail marketing in 2016

Outi Päivinen

by Outi Päivinen

It’s that time of the year again: industry professionals everywhere are making predictions about the retail trends that will gain popularity in the new year. To contribute to the discussion, we wanted to dedicate this month’s Keyword to making our own forecasts. Without further ado, here’s what we think will shape retail marketing in 2016.



These small, budget-friendly Bluetooth transmitters offer retailers advanced data about their customers’ exact location, in-store route and shopping habits. The technology’s hallmark in retail is that it can be configured to send product-specific information and relevant promotions to shoppers in close proximity. In addition to increased convenience, consumers also benefit financially, as beacon apps can function as loyalty cards offering promotional coupons and discounts. The hype around beacons seems to be growing exponentially with the technology expected to break through this year. Industry forerunners, including retail giants Tesco, Target and Macys, provide examples on how to deploy the advanced technology. Additionally, a recent article in Forbes reports that the banking industry has been actively exploring with beacon apps on mobile phones to authenticate people withdrawing money from ATMs. 


Our prediction: Up until recently, beacons have been overlooked and their potential underestimated in the retail industry. However, the core of the problem isn’t retailers’ resistance to adopt the technology, but rather consumers’ resistance to accept it. When consumers are made aware of the benefits beacons can offer them, we should start to see them come in to wide-spread use.


Social commerce

The piece of the e-commerce cake labeled "social commerce" makes it possible for retailers to market and target their products directly through their respective social media channels. With Facebook’s new Shopping Feed and Canvas format, it has never been easier for a consumer to explore products and services without having to visit retailers’ websites. Furthermore, "buy buttons" have spread rapidly in Facebook as well as Twitter. With close monitoring and careful targeting, retailers can achieve great improvements in their sales and revenue.

Our prediction: In addition to Facebook and Twitter, we expect Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube to continue growing their share of the social commerce cake. Brands advertising on Instagram have already seen an increase in their revenue and brand awareness, and we can’t see why that would change.



  1. 52% of marketers feel that the social commerce will become the top trend in 2016.(1)
  2. 61% of customers aged 18-30 would prefer to communicate with their banks through WhatsApp.(2)
  3. 41% of Brits use their mobile devices for checking better prices while they are in-store.(3)

Virtual reality

VR headsets are finally about to hit the mass market in 2016 with Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR already available for consumers. Retailers can use the technology to give their marketing a much-needed edge. With the help of VR, customers can take a quick tour of a sporting goods store, or try on clothes without having to be physically present in the store.

Our prediction: When it comes to retail marketing, virtual reality is still in its infancy. We predict that retailers will have to learn how to execute their VR solutions cost-effectively before the technology can take over the retail industry.





Unmanned aircraft will be used for product deliveries in addition to their well-established use-cases as aids in video and photo production. Amazon and DHL are already testing drones as delivery tools, but there are still some serious barriers preventing their wider adoption.

Our predictions: In the retail scene, drones are likely to be used for photographing and video recording retail spaces. Drone deliveries, on the other hand, will probably not see the light of day during 2016, since government regulations in most countries still prevent their use.