Understanding the Evolution of Retail: What’s Next?
For the past five years or so, the doomsday horn has been sounding on brick-and-mortar retail establishments. Marketers, economic experts and even everyday shoppers believe these operations could soon go the way of the dinosaurs.
However, the retail industry has shown resilience and that it deserves more credit than it gets. Emerging mobile shopping technologies like iBeacon, personalized mobile experiences and data-driven shopping experiences have consumers giving brick-and-mortar shops a second look.
Retail’s future will depend on how physical stores can adjust to and coexist with their digital counterparts. Now, the lines between the physical shopping experience and the benefits of the digital world are converging to create an entirely new retail experience based on ease, convenience and excitement.
Here are four retail trends centered on those attributes that are brightening the industry’s future:
1. All-inclusive mobile shopping experiences: Mobile apps and the emergence of personalized shopping trips are altering retail. Digital personal concierges welcome shoppers into stores; iBeacon uses digital messaging to guide shoppers to their favorite products, alert them of new deals and provide helpful tips.
Mobile shopping apps are also improving customer service. Through mobile or tablet devices, sales representatives can immediately answer questions, pull up customers’ buying histories, and construct a customized shopping experience that’s convenient for the customer and profitable for the store. Showing a customer this degree of service can only bode well for stores that want to cultivate repeat patrons.
2. Digital advertisements sent to passersby: Retailers will soon begin to target people with digital messages as they walk by their stores. For example, if a woman passes a beauty retailer stocked with products that appeal to her, an email or in-app alert can use her previous purchasing habits to notify her of any products on sale. Personalized advertisements like this make shopping more convenient for customers. This type of digital alert could easily turn the woman from a passerby into a repeat customer.
3. 3-D holograms and smart shelving: Advanced holograms help customers better visualize upcoming products. Stores strategically place these eye-catching 3-D renderings in windows and at checkout counters to improve customer engagement levels.
For example, Intel’s technology-based intelligent shelving puts prominent digital displays next to new products to increase customer awareness. The displays can be easily updated to efficiently move products before their sell-by dates. This innovative technology can help retailers improve sales on many products.
4. Improved self-checkout experiences: Grocery stores got it right when they introduced self-checkout kiosks, and this tactic can continue on a larger scale in other retail verticals. Apple’s EasyPay self-mobile checkout will help revolutionize customers’ experiences as they become more comfortable with contactless payments.
Retail’s future is by no means bleak. As brick-and-mortar stores continue to mix the benefits of the physical and digital worlds, consumers will respond positively and retailers will gain loyal customers.
Sam Bahreini is co-founder and chief operating officer of VoloForce, a company that aims to help enterprise retail brands ensure perfect program implementation across multiple locations using automation and tools.