Einstein was wrong! Technology is advancing at a speed that is faster than the speed of light, not literally of course. But none of us can deny that we live in a time where every day there is a new invention and a new innovation that weaves technology into the fabric of daily life. This can’t help but force one to wonder what the future would look like.

Stores are here to stay

The increasing popularity of e-commerce would suggest that in the future brick-and-mortar stores would go out of business. The convenience that the online stores offer would seem to agree with the notion. However, the future may not be so bleak.

STORES magazine is a National Retail Federation publication which collated a list of top 100 retail stores, save for Amazon, top ten stores are old-school retail stores like Walmart and Target. According to CBRE, 70% of Millennials prefer brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to online retail.

Jose Neves, founder and owner of Farfetch and Browns rightly said that fashion is not downloadable, there is a need for the human element. To succeed, however, a balance needs to be built between the online and the offline shopping experience.

The Amazon Go example

Amazon has implemented concepts like computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to automate the shopping experience at their stores. Mobile applications are tracked, a virtual cart is maintained and users are able to “Just walk out” with products. Their phone pays for the products automatically. Smartphones in the future will become integral to the shopping experience. Tracking of purchasing history and such methods will cater to individuals personal needs. This sort of innovation is another example of how in the future of retail stores, robots will eventually replace menial jobs for which humans are not entirely essential.

The Omnichannel experience

Amazon Go is one of the most popular examples of a business implementing an omnichannel approach to the retail experience. An omnichannel consumer is one that uses both online and the offline medium to fulfil his or her shopping needs. According to a 2015 IDC study, such shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those shoppers that use only one channel. Hence, in the future, a retailer will focus more on the omnichannel approach where consumers, with their smartphones playing an integral part in the process, shop both online and offline.

A 2015 InReality study showed that 75% of the shoppers actually browsed for products while shopping in a physical store. Retailers in the future will have to integrate the use of a smartphone in the physical in-store shopping experience. Thousands of gigabytes of data is generated by users. Analysis of such will allow for a seamless offline shopping experience.

One of the best examples of an omnichannel integration in a business is that of Disney. A user can use their mobile responsive website to plan their trip to the very last detail. My Disney Experience allows you to view all the attractions in the park once you are there and even view the estimated wait time. Furthermore, their Magic Band programme is a tool that acts as a key to your hotel room, a storage device for your photos with Disney characters and even allows you to order food.

Predicting the future of retail stores

• Speed is the whole point of technological advancement. In the future, technology will integrate with the retail experience to make the shopping duration shorter (think Amazon Go and InstaPay)
• Internet of things is becoming the new normal. All kinds of wearables are connected to the internet which will allow data to be collected at various touchpoints. Big Data analysis coupled with predictive customer analytics will make the shopping experience far more personalised than it is today.
• Smartphones will play a major role in the future of retail. A Forrester study showed that by 2016 4.8 billion people will use smartphones. This coupled with mobile point of sale devices will increase mobility in and out of stores, virtually removing the need for checkout counters.
• An omnichannel experience will emerge where customers will be able to move across online and offline channels with ease while having full visibility of wishlists, prices, inventory and etc.

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