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As we embrace the first week of the new year, and before 2017 takes full flight, it’s a good time to look back at the news makers and advancements in customer experience in 2016.

Here are the headlines, in no particular order:

Panera leader: Payment, mobile innovations boosting customer experience
As of January, 2016 it had been 21 months since Panera Bread rolled out its Panera 2.0 initiative, aimed at enhancing the customer experience at its 1,946 bakery cafes, and the St. Louis-based company kept going full throttle in resetting the client experience at the point of purchase and payment transaction.

Talking with HP retail product chief Cory McElroy
In our first ‘Talking With’ installment we talked with Cory McElroy, director of product management for HP Retail Solutions, to get his view on mobile consumer security — a huge focal point for retailers given more consumers than ever are browsing and buying via the smartphone and other mobile devices.

Kmart chief: We’re focusing on the fun factor and meeting shopper needs
Given the news in the first week of January, 2017 about Sears closing more stores, it’s interesting to look back a year ago and the launch of Kmart’s strategy to provide every shopper, whether online or in a store, the best consumer experience and is relying on both old and new approaches to fulfill the goal. CEO: We’re building something new and much more to come
The year 2016 brought a big change to – a new owner in Wal-Mart. Here’s what the quest was all about at the start of last year.

Talking With: Cisco Retail CTO Shaun Kirby on digital disruption
Retail Customer Experience talked with Cisco Retail CTO Shaun Kirby to get deeper insight on the digital disruption taking place in the retail segment and how technology will play a valuable role for creating highly relevant customer recommendations.

Discount Tire wheels out mobile payment with one goal in mind
The 56-year-old largest tire and wheel retailer realized buying tires isn’t usually a fun time for consumers so it decided to make the purchase point as easy and pleasing as possible.

5 tips for boosting customer loyalty
Kevin Cochrane, CMO of digital experience management player Jahia, shares specific tips creating a loyalty strategy.

Talking With: Ikea Sales Leader Karen Haas on why businesses must know the customer
A comparison to Apple with regard to customer experience is no small compliment as Ikea continues to expand and innovate.

Talking With: SAP Global GM Lori Mitchell-Keller on CX trends, the focus on mobile
Retail is an industry under tremendous pressure to fulfill consumer expectations.

5 things retailers must do to make IoT not about “things”
Retail is doing a horrible job with IoT because it’s not about things at all.

Casper striving to flip mattress industry into new retail realm
Casper Co-Founder and CEO Philip Krim is forging a new retail approach in the legacy business of selling mattresses, and he isn’t about to lie down and surrender anytime soon.

Omnichannel retailer aims to give beauty industry a complete makeover
Birchbox is much more than an new beauty retailer. It’s striving to define a new realm in customer experience and an innovative omnichannel strategy.

Dunkin’ innovation chief: Hope is no strategy; retailers must differentiate or die
John Costello, Dunkin’ Brands president, global marketing and innovation, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the state of retail and what retailers must do to survive and beat the competition.

Fashion upstarts aim to flip apparel industry into new customer experience era
Fashion retailers Stitch Fix, Rebecca Minkoff and Revolve, have one goal in common: flipping the traditional apparel industry into a new era. While they are all focused on providing a unique, customer-centric shopping experience, each is taking its own path to attain the goal.

Target innovation chief: Mobile is king, stores a vital asset in customer experience
Target intends to keep investing heavily in customer experience technology, but mobile playing a critical role.

Talking With: Citi’s customer/digital experience chief on delivering superior customer experience (Part 1)
In this first part of a two-part interview, Retail Customer Experience talks with Chief Customer and Digital Experience Officer Alice Milligan on how Citi is innovating the customer experience.

Talking With: Citi’s chief customer/digital experience officer on mapping the customer journey (Part 2)
In this second part of a two-part interview with Citi Chief Customer and Digital Officer Alice Milligan, Milligan discusses mapping out the customer journey and how Citi is hurdling obstacles in delivering top-notch customer service and experience.

Talking With: Amazon payments exec on brokering consumer trust, solving customer pain points (Part 1)
Mobile Payments Today sat down with Patrick Gauthier at the 2016 Shoptalk conference to discuss a wide range of topics including e-commerce, the checkout experience and what makes Pay with Amazon different from MasterPass, PayPal and Visa Checkout.

The Honest Company CEO: Innovation, focus are keys to success
Initially a pure etailer, The Honest Company fast became a brand now found offline on mainstream retailer shelves. And it happened in just four years.

Priceline Group: We are a platform for experience
Maelle Gavet, executive vice president, global operations, The Priceline Group, discusses her company’s strategy during a fireside chat at the Shoptalk event held in mid-May in Las Vegas.

Under Armour, Luxottica share insight on immersive retail innovation
Under Armour and Luxottica may not seem to have much in common at first glance, given their specific retail industry focus. But the athletic performance apparel retailer and the eye wear maker and seller actually have more than a few things in common.

Online apparel retailer stitching up a data-driven customer experience
While online clothing retailer Stitch Fix aims to ‘fix’ the shortcomings inherent in traditional retail environments, it is just as focused on using art, science and data to drive its unique business proposition.

Pokémon Go spurring mall, retail traffic but sales not so much
Pokémon Go is driving consumers to malls, retail shops and business districts as millions of gamers search for characters in the game.

Talking With: H2O+ Beauty CEO Joy Chen on relaunching a legacy brand
2016 was a busy year for the company founded as H2O+, a skincare brand started in 1989. It undertook a complete relaunch as of last May. With a new name, H2O+ Beauty, the company is moving in a new direction. Now it’s all about ecommerce and marketing innovation.

Creating a ‘phygital experience’: Experts offer insight, tips and strategy advice
When it comes to technology one steadfast trend in 2016 was the arrival of new buzzwords and phrases and the term ‘phygital’ was the big word when it comes to retail customer experience.

Wal-Mart SVP: Mobile pay exceeding expectations, meeting consumers’ needs
There are more than a few big reasons Wal-Mart is advancing its mobile retail customer experience and the big one is consumers want a smooth, fast, easy experience. In fact, they’re demanding it.

Petsmart deploys unique musical experience for pets, owners
Family pets spending time at a Petsmart PetsHotel, as well as their owners, are getting a much more lyrical experience as the retailer is piping in playlists aimed to enhance the customer experience.

United Airlines, Freebirds World Burrito share insight on location-based marketing
There is a well-worn philosophy when it comes to the real estate industry: Location is everything. The same is true for the retail segment when it comes to deploying customized location-based marketing.

Tips for turning a browsing shopper into a buying shopper
Mobile technology strategy, whether it’s launching an app or initiating a coupon program, is a bit trickier for some retailers due to regulatory oversight. Yet there are best practices and approaches that can, and do, work when it comes to spurring the browsing consumer into becoming a buying consumer.

Dunkin’ Donuts, Pita Pit share tips for driving mobile app adoption, use
Digital gurus at Dunkin’ Donuts and Pita Pit offer up real-life insight on mobile app strategy.

Amazon, Great Clips share advice for developing a best-in-class mobile experience
When it comes to creating a best-in-class mobile experience for the retail consumer it’s about testing and learning, adjusting to new form factors and tapping high quality data.

Pizza Hut digital leader Baron Concors talks mobile strategy, best practices
Baron Concors, Pizza Hut global chief digital officer, said the “focus on mobile is a focus on customer,” and that retailers must turn their mindset to becoming students of human behavior.

Cognitive computing: IBM’s ‘secret weapon’ in transforming experience
Retailers already know they must embrace cognitive computing to better engage with shoppers, differentiate their offerings and adopt a culture of innovation. Cognitive computing systems are becoming the secret weapon helping companies transform consumers’ shopping experience.

Why egift rewards during holiday season are a win-win
Retailers and consumers are leveraging egift rewards for holiday promotions and passing on checks.

How to: Crafting a compelling POS display, avoiding big minefields
Crafting innovative POS displays requires creativity, a change of strategy and a different mindset, as well as avoiding common pitfalls and misstep.

3 steps for reinventing customer service with social support
HP Director Kriti Kapoor explains how social media is rapidly becoming the main conduit for customer care and support and why, if your company hasn’t moved in this direction, it’s time to leap forward.

Cisco talks virtual reality and customer experience in retail
Cisco’s Shaun Kirby, CTO, Rapid Prototyping, talks augmented reality and virtual reality and the tremendous consumer uptake.

Is your CX language up to par? If not, it may be hurting the customer experience
There are many aspects to customer experience and a big one not often mentioned is language. As one consultancy’s report reveals, poor language is translating to millions in wasted CX spend.

Jewelry etailer reaping big rewards with price negotiation tool
Consumers love a bargain and, as one online jewelry retailer is learning, consumers love to negotiate on price.

Ashley Furniture taps VR, AR to deliver an innovative customer experience
The national brand is rolling out a consumer augmented reality app and an in-store virtual reality experience come 2017.

And finally, here’s what’s expected to come this year:

Predictions for retail, payments, and mobile in 2017
From mobile wallets to on-demand apps, and consumer demand for a more personalized and interactive shopping experience, merchants big and small are facing a new wave of expectations from customers.

New year, new resolutions: 4 brand strategies to boost customer satisfaction in 2017
From creating improved customer experiences to a renewed focus on employees, 2017 will be a year where companies deploy new employee engagement strategies that result in increased customer satisfaction. Here are four predictions on how brands will step up their game in the new year.

5 tips to boost customer loyalty in 2017
The new year is fast upon us and with it comes new opportunities for brands to surprise and delight their customers with engaging and rewarding experiences. A well-designed, innovative loyalty program can help you get there.

7 keys to customer experience happiness
Storytelling and understanding the rules of a “happy life” are two of the dominant themes throughout my career and education, with science being added as an interest as I have grown older. All three come together beautifully in customer experience.

Convenience for retail consumers will demand innovation in 2017
2016 was an interesting year in retail. Many established brands died a bricks and mortar death. While many thought this signaled the demise of the physical store once and for all, some pure play etailers shifted their clicks to bricks, perpetuating the age old debate of online versus in-store.

Data analytics and the changing world of retail in 2017
If there’s a word that described the retail space in 2016, it’s change. Change in technology, tools and best practices. And, (no surprise), 2017 promises more of same.

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Photo Credit: iStock

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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