New challenges and opportunities will face wireless retailers in 2016. Are you prepared?

Wireless retailers, dealers and carriers will continue to see challenges and opportunities in 2016 as the U.S. industry continues to evolve. Here are four U.S. wireless retail trends to look out for in 2016.

  1. Lines between prepaid and postpaid continue to be obscure
    With changes in the ways that customers purchase and pay for mobile devices and services, the line between prepaid products and postpaid products will continue to be murky in 2016. High-end mobile devices are increasingly integrated into the prepaid category yet postpaid plans are becoming more competitive. Unless a customer buys their phone outright, pay-as-you-go plans require commitment to device financing schemes or equipment installment contracts. Subscribers may be able to pay off their contracts at any time, but this option behaves like a traditional mobile phone contract. It’s a bit of a confusing ecosystem at the moment but overall, consumers are seeing significantly more affordable options for mobile devices and networks, lending wireless retailers value propositions that should help them land more customers.
  2. Retailers riding the upsurge of high-end accessories
    When Dr. Dre’s Beats line of high-end headphones was acquired by Apple, it validated a whole range of high-end accessories and enhanced products. Consumers view these types of products as enhancements to their personal lifestyle, lending them a certain cachet from devices like Apple’s smart watch that they can’t get from more general products. This demand comes at the right time for wireless retailers as they face fiercer competition on voice/data prices and other industry pressures. In 2016, wireless retailers should change their strategy from selling accessories to integrating training, virtual inventory, stock balancing and bundle promotions to increase sales of high-end accessories and enhanced products during an initial point-of-sale transaction.
  3. More financial solutions to high-cost devices
    Consumers are increasingly experiencing more sticker shock as they discover that no-contract models don’t include wireless carrier subsidies, revealing the true unsubsidized prices of smartphones. These prices haven’t been apparent in the U.S. market since the widespread introduction of smartphones, so financial solutions for customers will be more important than ever as device and accessory installment billing solutions continue to be fine-tuned in 2016. Sales professionals will need greater training and tools in order to clearly articulate these solutions for customers and not lose loyal customers to other carriers, stores or communications solutions.
  4. Enhanced device protection on the rise
    Consumers are hooked; they rely on their smartphones for almost everything so the need is even greater to protect the device and to protect the value of the phone for future trade-in. Personal information is more embedded than ever before, so the value of that content is driving even more funds around protecting both hardware and data. Installment billing and leasing helps consumers get a smartphone with zero money down. A valuable corollary effect is that this solution frees up customer cash for accessories, enhanced products, and insurance as well as other mobile security applications.