December is a time for looking forward – as our CEO, Kamal Karmakar, has done in his recent blog, what can ecommerce expect in 2016? But it’s also a time for looking back. 2015 has been a highly competitive year for many retailers, with new market disruptors and pressure on margins challenging bottom lines.

Those who have survived (and succeeded) in the past 12 months have witnessed changes in the way consumers shop, and the processes and technology retailers are using to meet shifting expectations. Some of them we could not have foreseen, but all of them we can learn from.

Here are some of iVend Retail’s top lessons from 2015 for an even more successful 2016.

Customer loyalty needs a shake-up

It takes a lot of effort and expense to acquire a new customer and very little to lose them, yet many retail businesses aren’t dedicating sufficient resources to nurturing long-term loyalty.

This has been particularly evident in the bricks-and-mortar environment. In an omnichannel report released by iVend Retail this year, we discovered that 1 in 3 shoppers find store loyalty promotions a disappointment compared to the personalized offers they receive online.

There have been notable exceptions, with certain retailers investing in digital passbooks or tools to unite customer retention in all channels. However, those offering generic paper vouchers or points cards based solely on transactions need to up their game.

The fulfillment battleground is being fiercely fought

2015 was the year that we saw some retailers stepping up to offer same day delivery, and others going one better to provide a 60-minute service. Clearly, the industry decided that the customer wants speed!

That being said, speed alone is not enough. Customers want delivery on the promise retailers have made to them – and that stretches across the entire experience. They expect the right product sent to the right place at the right time, in good condition.

They also want that product to be of a high quality and, if they are happy, they want that level of service to continue through their future interactions. Yet not all retailers have the infrastructure in place to fulfill this promise on every order.

It’s not mobile revolution, it’s mobile evolution

Compared to 2014, when mobile commerce was THE talking point, 2015 has been relatively quiet on the mcommerce front. But though the sparks of discussion may have turned to embers, the mobile fire is still definitely alight.

This year we’ve seen the influence of mobile infiltrate new aspects of retail. As I mentioned earlier, mobile loyalty tools have started to gain traction – albeit on a small scale – and the introduction of Apple Pay will increase their appeal in the UK at least.

We’ve also seen a gradual uplift in the number of mobile POS devices being used to liberate customer service, however there’s a long way to go before digital capabilities become a standard part of the store journey to purchase.

What works for online doesn’t always work for bricks-and-mortar

Finally, there was a salient lesson towards the end of the year in the form of Black Friday. In-store crowds were notably absent, as the majority of participants looked online for their pre-Christmas bargains.

The lack of impact Black Friday had on bricks-and-mortar retail provides a wider learning. Retailers may create the same offering across all channels, but consumers will choose the route they want to take; they can run the same strategy two years running, but consumers will choose the route they want to take; they can fix issues from previous years to create an intuitive journey to purchase, but consumers will STILL choose the route they want to take.

In fact, the consumer will always choose to tread their own path. So the best lesson a retailer can learn is how to keep up.

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