A Pessimistic Look Into The Future of Retail

August 25, 2015 Jessica Thiele

Last week, I talked about the optimistic view of what the future of retail could hold for us – a future that could be a reality in as little as 5-10 years (or sooner).

We’ll all stay inside and get very, very pale. Vitamin D supplement sales will skyrocket.

But there’s also a strong chance that things won’t be all daisies and sunshine for some or even most retailers. Now, I’m not talking about The Terminator hand-delivering our Amazon Prime orders over night. (Although AI is on the brink of being scary.) I’m talking about a future where buyers are deprived of choice and where most of the sellers we know and love today are out of business. Still pretty grim…

Consumers Drive Retailers To Omnichannel

With the increasing use of the internet, buyers will drive the evolution of retail both online and offline through their selection of where and when to shop. Comparison shopping will become a normalized part of the shopping experience, with webrooming and showrooming forcing retailers to be omni-channel or to die trying.

Retailers Compete On Low Margins

Price point will become a driving factor in whether a retailer sinks or swims in both the online and offline world. Retailers who cannot offer competitive price points will wither and die off, only leaving those who can offer products for the lowest points. Many small to medium retailers will not be able to compete, and the retail landscape will be dominated by those who can buy in large enough bulk to be able to offer the lowest prices to their customers.

Consumers Abandon In-Store Shopping

With the death of the small to medium retailer, the choices for bricks-and-mortar stores will be a small fraction of what we enjoy today. The entire customer experience will be centered on the price products are being offered at. Consumers bored with this retail experience or unimpressed by the low-low-prices will forego bricks-and-mortar shopping all together in lieu of online shopping.

Retailers Eliminated As OEMs Go Direct To Consumers

The supply chain will collapse even further as retailers try to secure the best prices for their products from manufacturers and wholesalers. The notion of a wholesaler might disappear altogether from our vernacular. The idea a middleman wholesaler will be replaced by the internet and buying directly from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The bricks-and-mortar retail landscape may become even more stark.

Consumers Bypass Retailers For Better Prices

Consumers may assume the role of their own wholesalers and end consumers in a single role by searching online for the best prices from OEMs. Humans will become even more tightly bound to the internet. We’ll all stay inside much more often and will become very, very pale. Vitamin D supplement sales will skyrocket.

Now, I don’t actually believe this bleak interpretation of some futurists’ predictions will actually come to fruition. Can you imagine a world where, all of a sudden, humans cease to enjoy the social nature of shopping online (think blogs and tutorials) and in-store?

Plenty of these futurists forget that we are social creatures, and I for one shop at my local mall 99% of the time as a social excursion. I much prefer the optimistic outlook that takes into account the surmounting importance of social human nature via valuing the customer experience above all else.

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