With big retail stalwarts like Sears and Toys R Us bowing to bankruptcy, it's scary to think that good old brick-and-mortar retail stores and big-box outlets might be going the way of the dodo.
Let's face it, retail store shopping experiences have their own sets of thrills, but in this age of quick online shopping and two-day shipping, more often than not (for me, at least), the conveniences of shopping at home win out.
To survive, retail stores will have to evolve with the times and incorporate amenities and perks that e-commerce shops can't match. So what changes are in store?
Market research firm Euromonitor International has a few predictions for us. In a new report titled "Commerce 2040: Revolutionary Tech Will Boost Consumer Engagement," the company took out its crystal ball and prognosticated the future of retail, twenty years hence.
The future of retail
According to the report, 20 years from now, brick-and-mortar stores may stick around but changing consumer shopping habits will force them to evolve into something that's hardly recognizable to present-day denizens.
Facial scanners, virtual environments, the absence of cashiers/registers and personalized virtual salesmen will all be common fixtures in retail stores.
As such, facial recognition and these virtual assistants will make retail shopping excursions more personal and individualized, while virtual environments will provide real hands-on experiences of specific items, something that shopping online can't provide.
The absence of registers and the conveniences of frictionless physical browsing will also remove some of the distinct advantages of online shopping over retail stores while gaining some of its own, leveling the playing field quite a bit.
"Technological advances are increasingly detaching the purchase decision from a physical outlet," the report explained. "Smart retailers will leverage technology to remove the hassles of shopping for mundane purchases while tapping into the innate curiosity to see, feel and experience specific products."
But despite these changes, some things will remain the same. For example, brand engagement, showrooms, product demos and the shopping experience itself will play vital roles in physical stores come 2040.
"Physical outlets remain a critical part of today's shopping journey, both in terms of brand engagement or purchase execution and continue to play a role in 2040, though their functions will evolve," the report stated.
With today's younger shoppers preferring to spend their money on "experiences" rather than owning material things, physical stores will evolve to become valuable destinations themselves rather than mere outlets for purchasing things.
"The journey is no longer just about the end-point—the purchase," the report added. "The ideal journey provides value before, during and after the purchase, converting a transaction into a relationship."
Will you shop in the store of the future?
The big retail store predictions of Euromonitor International's report are not too far-fetched either. In fact, we are familiar with most of the technologies that were mentioned since they already exist in some shape or form. From Amazon Go stores to Apple's Face ID to virtual assistants, the future of retail doesn't sound too distant, after all.
But the key to the future of retail stores is the integration of these personalized technologies and how they could use and adapt them to gain an advantage over the often faceless and impersonal routines of online shopping.
Here are some of the key predictions of the report:
- Facial recognition technology will be everywhere. Facial scanners will recognize customers as they step in a retail store, which can then provide a personalized shopping experience.
- Retail stores will have simulated environments where customers can try out specialized items. For example, cold zones to try out winter clothing or artificial turf areas to test sporting equipment.
- Virtual stylists can help customers make purchasing choices based on what they already own.
- No more cashiers, no more registers. Payments will be made automatically as soon as a customer exits a store.
- Retail stores will have separate entrances and areas for picking up online orders.
What do you think? Can retail stores survive in their current form or should they evolve into something unique and personal? Drop us a comment!
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