We've been shopping differently for quite a while now. That once linear path that today seems so simple is gone. It's been replaced with a hodgepodge of interactions and transactions that are highly dependant on individual preferences. I for one, buy all my essentials online. I like to sort, filter, compare and see product details in a concise way. But I still do my apparel and gift shopping in-store because I love the visceral experience of touching things. Other's however, have their own shopping habits. The reality is that we're in the midst of a profound retail shift and as retailers we often wonder what the store of the future looks like? But there are a few common threads that can help us navigate. One. Customers are firmly in charge. Two. Technology is a driving force escalating the pace of change. In this three part blog series, we'll look at the technology that is driving retail change, examine what the future of retail stores might look like, and lastly compile ideas on how retailer's today can prepare.
Part 1: Key Technology Drivers that will Influence the Future of Retail
Technology is changing the game, there is no doubt. In some cases, it's literally turning the old retail model on it's head. Eliminating profoundly ingrained retail processes and proceedures like manufacturing, inventory, delivery and marketing. Here are a couple of fast moving technologies that you should consider as you look towards retail's future.
IoT (Internet of Things)
This is both a retail inventory and a marketing story. Think of it this way, what happens when your lightbulbs or fridge filters or smart diaper caddy automatically orders replenshments for you? The smart object compares prices, shipping options and gets you the best deal on the internet. For many of your purchases, you are essentially removed from the vast and intrusive marketing process as we know it today, saving both time and money by relying on automation to manage your household chores. Retailers will be forced to be even more price and inventory sensitive and being digitally connected will no longer be optional if you want to stay in business. If you think thist reality is far-fetched, think again. Amazon Dash was a crude experiment in this direction and many smart objects are sold on store shelves today.
The statistics say that by 2020 85% of all handsets will be smartphones. So where do you think most ecommerce will take place? So, it stands to reason that our very cumbersome email communication will go by the wayside. Even social media and messaging will most likely be replaced in the relatively near future with more interactive and seamless technology. Think about powerful AI driven chatbots or personal shopping assistants who can listen to your needs, access your purchase data and preferences and show you a tailored selection of items that fit the bill. And then go back and forth with you as you analyze the offerings to dial in just the right item - and all the while the machine is learning. This technology is rapidly progressing and moving into retail expereinces.
Driverless Cars and Drones
Imagine the disruption to retail shipping, distribution and inventory management when a retailer of any size can seamlessly call a roving driverless car or drone at will and deliver your groceries, prescription, books, party dress in minutes. As we all know, driverless cars have been tested for years and delivery drones are in active beta in many parts of the world where regulations allow.
Did you know that it's possible to 3D print a vehicle? Look up Local Motors and you'll see their 3-D printed bus. A revolutionary leap in manufacturing. And their goal? Have a customer come in to a showroom (or online), custom order a vehicle in the morning and pick it up in the evening after having it custom made-to-order. That's a vehicle. Clothing, shoes, houshold items all are much easier to print and will soon be a major disruption to the retail manufacturing and inventory cycle - among other things.
Imagine bringing your 3 closest friends to a shopping excursion in Tokyo from the comfort of your own home. You can see, smell, even feel the products around you. You can converse with a local merchant - instantly translated - see people wearing or using product and ask questions. Today, many businesses and retailers are experimenting with this technology. Designing a new office? Strap on VR headset and sales consultants and designers can give you an emmersive experience and walk you through each room - completely furnished. The ultimate try before you buy.
Pokemon Go was just the beginning. It let the world know in an instant that was possible to successfully layer virtual and real worlds. It's a simple leap of faith to see how this could become part of the retail realm. You walk into a store and with a simple pair of glasses (or something else for that matter) you get a layered experience - almost like ecommerce meets bricks and mortar. You get product information, style sugestions and on-hand inventory in the blink of an eye - the best of both retail worlds.
This list is by no means exhaustive, new technology is entering the retail sphere at a fast pace. The change is inevitable, framing it as an opportunity to reimagine retail makes the possibilities exciting. And, learning is the best antidote to change! Check out these great reads on the future of retail and the changes happening right now...
Learn how modern POS retail management software can help you stay agile, supporting your retail vision!
Other blog posts in this series:
Topics: Business of Retail