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Retailers Need to Pay Attention to These Trends in 2016

When the PR maven who popularized the term “metrosexual” more than decade ago sniffs out a trend, retailers had best take note.

Marian Salzman, chief executive officer of Havas PR North America, delivered a keynote speech titled “Future of Everything: Top Trends Key to Anticipating What’s Next for 2016 and Beyond” at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2016 Big Show in New York on Wednesday and discussed what she thinks will shape the year to come.

“A great trendspotter is looking for the cultural moments and what’s really happening in the zeitgeist,” Salzman said, noting that nothing happens instantaneously without precursors. “The future is not something that’s done to us. It’s something we co-create.”

Uneasy Street

“Everything about today’s word is a struggle,” she said. “We’re waiting for that other shoe to drop. We no longer assume everything is going to end happily-ever-after—we just don’t know what’s going to happen next.” So, with a consumer base largely consisting of anxious, overwhelmed, overloaded people, retailers and brands have a great opportunity to make them feel more at ease by being more transparent and forthcoming with production information, she said.

Tech Addict

“Technology is harming our ability to be together and pay attention. We are addicted,” Salzman continued, noting that when consumers walk into stores today, they’re only half present. “Human interactions have got to successfully interrupt their parallel digital lives. A person asking if they can help you is an interruption to a real life.”

The Golden Age of B.S.

“Truth matters increasingly less,” she said, adding that most people are satisfied with “truthiness,” a gray area that’s more akin to spin. “They want the facts to be the facts they want them to be.” She said that brands and retailers are getting more mileage out of bold claims that don’t necessarily stick to the facts—but that they would be wise to evaluate their willingness to continue being part of that.

What’s Renewable?

“What’s renewable will be new again. ‘New’ new is not necessarily the most important thing,” she said, noting that “lightly worn,” “lightly used” and “lovingly used” are phrases that brands and retailers should keep in mind.

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Mind the App

“Building a dedicated app might not suit you, but you’ve got to make sure it’s useful to your consumers and not just vanity,” she stressed. “If it’s not fun, we don’t play it; if we don’t play it, we don’t use it. At the very least you’ve got to optimize your website for mobile. You need to make it easy. Apps equals easy in the mind of today’s consumer.”

Getting Smart

Smart is the new sexy, Salzman said, and brands need to make it a core part of their packaging. “People want product labels to be smarter. Where was it manufactured? Who manufactured it?” she said. “We expect all those products we’ve let in our front door, back door and e-mail to make us smarter… Today, people believe they are the brands they wear and use and patronize.”

The Roar of the Cloud

Businesses need to be a mix of cloud and place, she said, noting that while virtual audiences are great for the bottom line, it takes live audiences to make an event. “Big retailers pioneered using the Internet to reduce costs and increase reach. Small retailers can do the same thing. Size really doesn’t matter,” she said.