You’ve probably heard that brick and mortar retail is in trouble. Even industry giants are closing hundreds of stores.
Given retail’s steady migration to mobile and e-commerce, you may be wondering what retail will look like in the future. As predicted by futurist Faith Popcorn, we can continue to expect hyper-customized concierge and on-demand services, and what she calls “consutainment,” the integration of ultra-convenience, consumption, and entertainment.
Are we all going to shop at home in our underwear? Will physical storefronts go away? Move over, Jetsons. Here are a few things you can expect to see based on current technology that’s in the works.
Today, the norm is two-day delivery. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that’s changing. In fact, a surprisingly high 25% of consumers said that they would abandon their orders if one-day delivery wasn’t available.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. Two-hour drone delivery is coming in the foreseeable future, and Amazon is already talking about 30-minute drone delivery.
Your Kitchen Will Restock Itself
While Amazon has pioneered the “Dash Button,” in the not-so-distant future, your pantry will literally order your products for you. One stealth startup, WePlenish, is already launching a line of “IoT-powered” smart containers that promise to revolutionize the modern kitchen.
You won’t have to worry about running out of essentials like coffee, pet food or snacks because your containers will sense inventory levels and replenish those items without you having to lift a finger. No more waking up to find your coffee stash is empty or last-minute trips to the grocery store because you forgot to buy pet food.
Know Exactly What’s In Stock Where
Have you ever gone to a store hoping to buy something, only to learn that they were out of stock? A new feature from Google Home allows people to ask Google Assistant to find in-stock products at the closest store.
For example: “Google, where can I find the Nintendo Switch console?” Assistant will tell you how many stores have it right then and how close they are.
Of course, it isn’t currently available for all stores in all locations, but you can already see a future when it has become standard.
“With the proliferation of mobile devices, smart glass and smart appliances, e-commerce and the marketing associated with it will become more intertwined to our future instant gratification lifestyles,” says Greg Yevich, co-founder and technology director of OperationROI, an e-commerce marketing firm and our client. “Every touchpoint — from digital to TV, radio and social networks — will let shoppers complete immediate purchases on the spot.”
No More Juggling Shopping Bags
One of the pains of going out to buy things is that you have to transport them yourself. Cart them through the store. Carry them out to your car. If you visit multiple stores and make many purchases, this can be cumbersome.
In the near future, the Bonobos model may become more common. For those who don’t know, the store doesn’t carry in-store inventory. Instead, you try things on in-store and pay for them, but you don’t take anything with you. Your purchases get sent to your home. Not ideal with two-day shipping. But with two-hour shipping? Thirty minutes? Less? In that future, your purchases may arrive home before you do.
Digital Dressing Rooms And Curated Experiences
Order drinks. Adjust lighting. Call an associate. All with a few clicks.
In the future, heading to the store may be like going to the movies instead of watching at home. You go for the experience:
Stores hosting unique, in-store-only sales and themed events
High-end stores using driverless cars to chauffeur preferred customers
More “connected stores” hosting interactive experiences
High-end retailer Rebecca Minkoff tripled clothing sales with interactive touch-screens that let shoppers choose products to be sent to their dressing rooms. The dressing room mirror/screen also enabled them to view those same items styled with different colors, sizes and looks.
And dressing rooms as we know them may become a thing of the past. After all, why go to the trouble of getting undressed when you can use an accurate 3D version of yourself to try on items and get suggestions about fit, style, color and more?
Top beauty retailer, Sephora, is already using its highly interactive app to let shoppers try on new makeup colors and get recommendations via the phone’s camera.
Robot Customer Service
People like to solve problems on their own. Seven out of 10 consumers expect companies to have self-service options on their sites, and 67% say they prefer self-service.
Robots may offer another form of self-service that people crave. Lowe’s is testing LoweBot, which speaks multiple languages and can help people find and learn about items. Best Buy has a robot grabber arm for some products. And some malls are even using robot security guards. Sales staff may become a thing of the past.
A Day In The Life Of A Future Consumer
So, what will the future of retail look like?
You make plans to virtually try on new looks at a local store event with friends. You whip together a party in minutes by having items sent to your home by drone. You find that coveted birthday gift for your kids with just a few clicks and it lands on your doorstep. Schlepping bags through a crowded mall will become so 2017.
Using a multitude of social and in-store receptors, like surveys, contests and interactive apps, retailers and brands will know more about what we want — from what style shoe we like to what lipstick looks good on our skin tone — and use that data to roll out more effective, personalized and interactive marketing campaigns.
This means that retailers will constantly need to evolve, innovate and unify their omnichannel efforts so shoppers’ paths to purchase are as frictionless as possible.
Convenience, experience, and options — it will be a whole new world.