Some say the future of retail is already here – I say the future of retail is still very much in transition and under development. What most people don’t realize is how exciting it is to be alive in today’s world where a number of paradigm shifts in the consumer sphere are underway – never mind the encroaching threat of AI and a Terminator scenario!
The way I see it from all my reading and research, the future is going to be fundamentally different from what we know today. But will it be an idyllic play land for consumers, or a dull and dusty chain-stores only wasteland?
Time will tell.
Future 1: Optimistic
In all my blog posts, I’m very much optimistic about the future of retail. I personally can’t wait for the bloated middle of average retailers selling less-than-average products that are almost guaranteed to fall apart in a year to die out. (Sorry.)
Exceptional customer service from humans and computers alike will be the norm.
But what can we expect from the future of retail in an optimistic projection? Here are some thoughts:
- Businesses will adopt better suites of technology and programs for their back-ends, tailored to who their business is, what they sell, and who they sell to. Cloud-based applications will become the norm, meaning the need for expensive on-premise applications (think buying Microsoft Office Suite Pro at Staples) will be no more. Applications will be fully integrated into each other in a hub-and-spoke model, meaning that one central application will be integrated with all secondary applications (spokes). Business’ data will flow automatically between these applications, big data will become the standard, and all businesses will have a better understanding of what their customers expect in their experiences with their favorite brands.
- Outstanding customer service will be a basic expectation in both ecommerce and physical retail locations. If a human representative is not available, digitally-enabled access points will be available to assist customers in need. All literal touch points for the consumer will be technology-loaded to allow the company to collect even deeper data on consumer behaviour. Exceptional customer service from humans and computers alike will be the norm.
- Omni-channel will become the absolute standard, so much so that the word itself might die out from our vocabulary. Consumers will be able to interact with a brand seamlessly on whatever device or venue they choose. Webrooming and showrooming will collapse into a single, well, room.
- Big box stores will ultimately die out, having too much inventory on-hand that consumers can readily access elsewhere. Price points will no longer be the defining moment in a buyer’s path to purchase; rather, it will be loyalty, accessibility, quality, and experience that will drive customers to buy.
- Boutique stores with limited inventory on-hand will line streets and malls. Absolute customization will tailor the whole customer experience to that particular individual customer – from smart changing rooms to NFC identification of a customer and their preferences both online and off.
Stay tuned for next week when I’ll break down the pessimistic view of the store of the future!