By : Asad Khosa
February 14, 2019 01:00 PM
Imagine: It’s 2030. Nearly everything is done online and the boundaries between perceived reality and virtual reality are so blurred at times we can’t tell the difference. Retail is no different—it has truly become digital.
This idea of the future of retail wouldn’t surprise most people based on recent news, back here in 2019. It seems like every week there’s a story of a chain of stores closing, while the birth of Amazon Go’s checkout-less stores has the retail world abuzz. It’s increasingly looking like the digital-first approach is dominating. But what does this really mean and what can we expect to see over the next few years?
Online = offline
As the number of channels increase, the ways customers can interact with retailers has increased. For example, Instagram is becoming a more popular avenue for younger shoppers than physical stores. On the flipside, older shoppers are still opting for in-store shopping, but are supplementing this experience through digital means, such as browsing for products on their smart devices.
Bridging the gap between online and offline channels through understanding consumers’ journeys gives them more control, flexibility and variety in how they shop online and in-store.
Algorithm drives the experience
We’ve moved into an age where data is captured on everything we do, from how many steps we take to how long we spend in-store. How customer data is used throughout the customer journey will be a key differentiator for retailers who put digital first, allowing them to curate end-to-end experiences that help them move from personalisation to individualisation and keep consumers engaged.
Is this the real life or is it fantasy?
Apps like Pokémon Go have introduced augmented reality (AR) to a wider audience than ever before. More and more retailers are exploring the opportunities to use AR and virtual reality (VR) both online and in-store to create truly immersive experiences. Why try to guess how that new sofa will look in your living room when you can use AR to place it there and see for yourself?
The store as a destination
The modern store is not too different from the one 100 years ago. But convenience and price have given online retailers an advantage that brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to match.
Retailers that are winning in the marketplace know this, and they are building experiences in their physical stores that blend reality with technology. This creates immersive, in-store journeys for consumers, and empowers sales associates with new ways to make deeper human connections.
The business of retailing in the age of Amazon Go has changed forever; that’s obvious. The smartest retailers will fully embrace the future and all its digital possibilities—into 2030 and beyond.