5 minute read
The retail industry is undoubtedly going through a major shift. From omnichannel retailing, to becoming mobile first, to a change in how shoppers use physical stores, retailers have a lot to keep up with.
Undoubtedly, the biggest change is in how shoppers combine online and offline channels, sometimes simultaneously, to create their preferred shopping experience. And we’ve seen retailers respond. A number of high profile retailers have started using various channels in non-traditional ways to create a more unique and enjoyable customer experience.
But let’s look past the present day, to what the future of retailing has in store for us.
The Future of Brick-and-Mortar
While we can expect virtually (if not literally) every retail channel to change over the coming years, one of the most interesting and profound areas of evolution will be surrounding brick-and-mortar stores. Where physical stores were once the all-stars of the retail team, soon they may find themselves starting to play a much more supplementary role.
In-store retail is simply changing. In the coming years, we can expect a growing number of retailers to start leveraging their physical locations less for their sales potential, and more for their ability to improve the customer experience. Barnes & Noble’s CEO recognized this and says they are working to create a “beautiful” and “curated” space with plans to supplement this initiative by adding in-store cafes and a new layout.
Another great example of this can be seen with the once online pure-play company Indochino, a custom men’s suit retailer. Indochino has recently opened up a number of physical locations with the focus not on increasing sales, but rather on improving the customer experience. In-store stylists help customers by taking their measurements and guiding them through the various customizations such as fabric selection and monograming.
Jimmy Choo’s co-founder, Tamara Mellon, said it well in a recent interview. “Department stores are not going to be able to just have racks of clothes hanging up anymore. They need to think about what they’re giving their customers. They can’t just be real estate holders. What kind of experience are you giving customers? What can we give them instead of racks of clothes?” She goes on to say, “People still want physical experiences but they want it in a new way. They don’t want department stores. They want to be part of the tribe.”
The Future of Mobile
Like physical stores, mobile is also undergoing some profound change. Namely, mobile is becoming the backbone that connects various online and offline channels. We recently covered the importance of having a ‘mobile first’ approach to retail, and how mobile can unify the cross-channel experience. That’s the future of mobile.
Going forward we can expect mobile to become an even more central part of the shopping experience. Apps, mobile shopping carts, and innovative technologies are continuously changing and improving the way shoppers connect the digital and physical world.
How retailers use cross-channel customer data will also change. There are already a number of companies that use a customer’s past online purchases to suggest a similar product they might like as well. But this is typically reserved for online shopping, and it’s often not done all that effectively. Going forward we can expect retailers to leverage all of their cross-channel data to gain a more in depth understanding of their customers and offer a personalize shopping experience that is tailored to their preferences.
The Future of Retail
The future of retail is exciting. There are endless opportunities for companies to use technology in creative and engaging ways to improve the way we shop. Amazon’s cashierless stores, dubbed Amazon Go, are just one example of what the future might hold for retail – but time will tell.
If there’s one thing that we can guarantee, it’s that things will change. Going forward, the retailers that find creative ways to leverage technology and customer to create engaging and valuable customer experiences will be the leaders in retail.