What’s in Store for Retail in 2015
Store associates will have real-time access to all that rich customer data via tablets and can actively engage with shoppers both before a sale (e.g., by swiping their store loyalty card to identify an individual) and during a purchase. The associate will be empowered to recommend items likely to appeal to a particular individual and to save sales by offering the shopper a range of purchase and delivery alternatives. As same-day fulfillment becomes more common, brick-and-mortar stores will also have more opportunities to compete with much larger pure-play online rivals.
3. Multiple retail channels will blend. Purchases initiated via one channel may be completed in another or channels may intermingle. For instance, a local store may look to use its online presence as a staging post to encourage shoppers to visit it. A shopper can go online and choose the items that they'd like to see, feel or try on and then make an appointment to visit the store. When the shopper arrives, all their items will be ready to be viewed or tried on. A store associate will also be on hand to make additional product recommendations. The store could also package up this kind of online/in-store activity to be part of specific occasions such as birthday or wedding celebrations.
4. Paying by phone becomes commonplace. Mobile payment technologies have been around for some time, but I believe the launch of Apple Pay in September 2014 acted as a catalyst for real market change. Once Apple entered the mobile wallet market, retailers sat up and paid attention, with some signing up for Apple Pay and others hard at work on creating their own alternative — for example, the Merchant Customer Exchange's CurrentC — or adopting other vendors' technologies such as Google Wallet.
This year, I think we'll see the mobile wallet providers resolve initial teething problems in their technologies and consensus grow among retailers on whose mobile wallets they'll accept, which will be largely determined by which technologies consumers adopt. For my money, I believe Apple Pay will be one of the standard mobile wallets which will end up being accepted at stores around the world.