2016 was a rollercoaster of a year and left us all feeling that nothing can take us by surprise anymore.

However, probably the one thing that has all surprised us most is the resilience of today’s consumers. But then again, retail is indeed therapy.

At Intu, our network of shopping centres allows us the ability to adapt a birds-eye view of shopper behaviours and industry trends. In 2016 we witnessed the rise of mobile ecommerce, miniaturisation, virtual reality, and an increased appetite for leisure, and more.

So as we look to the year ahead, here our top five retail trends to watch out for:

#1 Hungry shoppers

The role of shopping centres has changed – they’re places where people want to be whether it’s to shop, eat or just have a good time.

We’ve seen more and more leisure entering the shopping centre scene, such as the UK’s first Nickelodeon-branded family entertainment centre secured for Intu Lakeside’s leisure extension. In 2017 we’ll be seeing even more.

Leisure accounts for nearly a fifth of units on the UK’s top 30 centres, and having fun makes for hungry guests, so we predict 2017 will mean an increase in demand for more restaurants and a variety of dining, alongside new leisure brands.

#2 Tech geeks rejoice

Technology has already become a game-changer for the retail industry but next year we’ll be seeing it take a much more significant role.

The role of technology will be more than just about the latest fad but will be implemented to drive serious innovation within the industry to eliminate customer pain points, elevate customer service, and create a differentiated, personalised customer experience.

Augmented reality is set to really take off and will vastly influence the way retailers think about stores of the future, particularly those focussed on homeware, furniture and car products to enable customers to experience and picture those products in real life settings.

Also look out for more in the way of voice-activated technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, growth in cashless payment systems and of course, virtual reality will continue to make its way onto the mainstream market.

#3 Experience continues its reign

Customers are increasingly demanding innovation and experience as part of the physical shopping experience. In 2017 retail store formats will need to provide immersive and engaging environments where shoppers want to spend leisure time.

There’ll be an increase in flagship retail stores adding services such as make-up counters, hairdressers, personalisation booths, etc. Next year we’ll see more retailers begin to follow in the footsteps of Nike and Apple by using their stores as an extension of their brand in a quest to give consumers more reasons to visit and importantly build deeper connections. This will result in more single ingredient shops and pop-ups.

#4 Stay mobile

In this digital age consumers are spending more time on mobile devices and mobile internet traffic is now greater than desktop and it’s a trend that’s set to stick around.

With more people than ever shopping on the go, look out for more brands to bringing the shopping and buying experience straight to users’ social media feeds.

#5 Fast and free and on demand

Consumers are a demanding bunch and free and convenient shipping is an important factor when figuring out where to buy.

On-demand services will be a key focus in 2017 as expectations of fast, free and timely fulfillment take centre stage as led by the likes of Amazon.

The days of staying in for a delivery with a broad time window, or missing a delivery and having to pick it up elsewhere are long gone and retailers focusing on logistics and those who can extend the personalisation of the shopping experience to the options for delivery will stand out in 2017.

These of course are just some of the things we expect to see over the course of 2017, but as we learned over the last 12 months, nothing is ever for certain. All we can truly be certain of is that in 2017 the customer will remain at heart of retailing success, and that’s really what will drive the retail agenda for 2017.

Trevor Pereira is the Digital and Commercial Director at Intu, which owns and operates a network of shopping centres across the UK and Spain

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