The retail landscape is changing by the day. New technologies and ingenious concepts have cultivated a competitive, customer-driven market. Between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores, shoppers have more choices and price points than ever. Brands are also trying to change shopper’s experiences to meet customer preferences in areas like fulfillment, product quality, price, and overall personalization.
But what does that mean in concrete terms for the retail industry?
A lot, per a World Economic Forum report.
These seven things in retail will be mainstream within 10 years.
E-Commerce Making Up Half of All Retail Sales
Per Statista, as of Q2 2018, e-commerce made up 9.6 percent of the overall retail market, up from 8.9 percent the year prior. Amazon fuels a much of this growth, currently capturing .49 out of every dollar spent online. However, plenty of other online brands are enjoying their own success and contributing to the sector's growth. The brick-and-mortar ecosystem will always serve a purpose, but at present, brick and mortar stores are oversaturated. We should continue to see more physical stores closing, and any new stores that do open will be smaller than their predecessors.
Retail, especially e-commerce, already shows signs of personalized offerings through more granular customer segments and machine learning algorithms individualizing product selection, which consumers primarily experience through email marketing and online store browsing. Soon though, it’ll extend to the entire shopping experience. Smart sensors and digital devices will track customer purchase history data to generate personalized suggestions.
More Automation, Fewer People
In a decade, most non-customer facing roles will be completely automated. Robotics, which we’re seeing in computerized warehouses, will continue to eliminate more repetitive tasks while Internet of Things (IoT) devices will streamline inventory management. Autonomous vehicles and drones will cut shipping costs considerably and allow for more routine purchases to be passively made and delivered online, all without human assistance.
No Checkout Lines
Self-checkout machines already outweigh human cashiers in busy grocery stores around the U.S., but let’s face it, self-checkout lines can still be really long, and not all that efficient sometimes. No checkout lanes will alleviate a major pain point in the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. In fact, Amazon Go and its check-out-free model recently opened its third store in Seattle, with plans for locations in Chicago and San Francisco.
Augmented & Virtual Reality
A lot of people, retail traditionalists especially, don’t like to shop online. To them, it’s a hassle to order something without being able to touch it. They need to see the product up close, see how it looks on them before they’re ready to make a decision. Technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will enhance the e-commerce shopping experience, allowing shoppers to browse inventory, see products up close and even try them — all through their smartphone. Sephora already as an app to try on makeup while Nike has its own AR app for sneakers. Mixed reality should also contribute to fewer returns and more favorable reverse logistics costs for retailers.
What used to be highly specialized and expensive, 3d printing is now entering mainstream status, with people printing everything from firearms to custom household accessories. In retail, 3D printing will help reduce inventory waste, cut production costs and allow spare parts to be readily accessible. A discount retailer that sells electronics online can leverage 3D printing of parts to refurbish equipment, especially classic models that may contain discontinued components.
As touched upon above, drones and autonomous vehicles stand to change the shipping game in a big way. A key area is in last-mile delivery services, which is always the most expensive part of shipping. Because of this, routine purchases like groceries won’t even require a trip to the store. With IoT technology, we’ll be able to set and forget our shopping lists until they’re waiting for us on our doorstep, all for free!
As consumers, we’re truly living in the golden age of retail. But what’s arguably more exciting than these seven things in retail that’ll be mainstream within 10 years is the future technologies we can’t presently comprehend.
One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be one thrilling ride.