By the year 2025, the retail shopping experience is expected to look dramatically different than it does today. It’s being reshaped by the accelerated pace of new technology and changing consumer shopping patterns. We urge retailers to begin planning for that future now. The following list of forward-looking trends is a good place to start.
1. DIY Retail: THE EVOLUTION OF SELV-SERVICE
Technology will bring on a new era of DIY shopping—changing how we select and access products and the ways we pay. Self-service will make shopping faster, easier and fun.
- The interactionless retail model will become more mainstream. No need to interact with a sales associate. With sensors on all items, shoppers can pay with phone or fingerprint and then leave.
- The traditional checkout process will change. Sales associates will only be there for their expertise. If no expertise is required, there’s no need for an associate.
- Interactive mirrors in dressing room. Shoppers touch the mirror screen for product info, to request another size from associate, or to order and buy from dressing room.
- 24/7 stores—no more rules in retail. After hours, stores have a drive-thru window, robot assisted. Order on iPad at window, robot goes and gets item and delivers it.
2. AUTOMATION: USING SMART DATA TO DELIVER CUSTOMIZATION
As customers willingly provide more personal information, they’ll demand that retailers use that information to deliver better, customized products and offers. This give and take will drive customer loyalty in a new world where old-school rules about loyalty will be thrown out the window.
Retailers will know shoppers well, from RFID in cell phones or biometrics like fingerprint scanners when they enter the store. Retailers will be able to serve up customized products and experiences. They can direct you to items you like and send unique, pop-up sales offers, determined by your profile, to your phone.
- In-home chatbot devices will become mainstream and more proactive—offering advice on the best brands to shop for and the latest offers.
- Third-party, unbiased experts in the form of “digital assistants” will be popular.Shoppers can get honest opinions rather than rely on biased retail associate opinions—essentially an expert network on an app, curated to shoppers’ needs.
- Smart, connected car and home are non-retail examples of this technology.
3. NEW BUSINESS MODEL: ENTERTAINMENT AND ENGAGEMENT
Several stores will exist in the future, but there will be fewer of them. A new model of delivering not only products, but also genuine brand experiences is emerging. People are social by nature and will be drawn to gathering places to share ideas and be entertained. It’s not just about making money. It’s about building trust. Retailers who tap into this trend will be rewarded.
- Show me example: an in-store 3D Printer. Print customized products on the spot. It’s not only convenient, but also engages the customer—who now takes away both the product and knowledge.
- Entertain me example: merge experiences. Bring other categories to the retail experience. Put a coffee shop, café, music experience, bar, or complimentary products or services inside the store. It’s a big reason why local “markets” are making a resurgence across Europe.
- Teach me example: a craft learning experience. Let shoppers see how a product (like a leather belt) is made from scratch. While the artisan experience is already being used, it will become more mainstream in the future.
- Help me example: a retailer app. Pick out clothes and reserve a dressing room from the retailer’s app. It’s both a timesaver and a delighter.
4. LESS IS MORE: STREAMLINING OF BRANDS
In high-involvement categories, specialty retailers will remain a go-to, but variety will be important. With that said, shoppers are reaching a tipping point around American consumption. Feelings of angst about acquiring too much “stuff” is driving a shift toward purchasing experiences rather than things. Along with concern for the environment, consumers feel that retail must streamline and consolidate in the future.
- Brands in the future must have a strong “reason for being.”
- Purchasing everyday commodities through online retailers and automated reordering will reduce the need to visit traditional one-stop shop retailers.
5. RETAIL ON DEMAND: WE WANT IT NOW
The evolution of technology is creating a more demanding shopper base—one that expects what they purchase to be instantly available.
- Stores on wheels will come to you. The selection will be smaller, but shoppers can order on the spot and their purchase will be shipped to their house the same day from a local warehouse.
- Trunk stores, pop-up shops and subscription services will become more mainstream.Shoppers will see a consolidation of the number of brands in this space.
- Returns will be a snap. Purchaser hits the “return” button on the retailer’s app and and either a driverless car or a drone will appear within an hour to pick up your return. No need for repackaging, either.
- “Ship to store” option is gaining traction, but the process needs improvement. Often the purchaser shows up at the store and the order is not there.
- Proof of inventory. Not all retailers update their inventory in real time, causing shoppers to make a wasted trip to the store. In the future, shoppers will see a picture of the item on the shelf before getting in their cars.
6. RETAIL COMES TO YOU: BRINDING THE GAP BETWEEN HOME AND STORE
- Virtual reality and beyond. Shoppers will have access to an interface that allows them to see what a new sofa, paint, garage door, kitchen floor and so on would look like in their house.
- Service at home. Shoppers can order tires online and use an app to find mechanics who will come to their house to install them. For example, order tires online and use an app to find mechanics who will come to your house to install them.
- Purchase on demand. All items will come with barcodesor QR codes, so you can purchase them wherever you encounter them by scanning the code with a smartphone app. You can even do it at a friend’s house.
- Shop in 3D. When shopping for apparel online, click on an outfit and a hologram appears showing the item in 3D.
- Instant try-on. Shoppers can upload pictures of themselves to a retailer app and see the clothes on their actual image rather than on a model.