As the worlds of online and offline retail continue to converge, brick-and-mortars are adapting the technologies of their digital counterparts- forever changing the landscape of physical retail.
In the recent Forbes’ article “5 Tech Trends That Will Hit Every Retail Store By 2020“, Natasha Baker makes some promising predictions for brick-and-mortar retailers. While the advent of e-commerce and trends like showrooming, or the practice of first viewing a product in person and then purchasing online, brought along concerns surrounding the future of physical retail, today’s outlook looks far different. In fact, retail experts see a “tremendous amount of opportunity” as the lines between physical and digital further blur.
Looking at the future of physical retail, Baker makes the following 5 predictions:
1.) Retailers will embrace showrooming
“Rather than competing with showrooming, brick-and-mortar stores in 2020 will begin to embrace it.”, says Baker.
Taking the lead from men’s retailer Bonobos, future brands will incorporate the practice of showrooming into their business model, allowing shoppers to experience the product in person and then fulfill their order online, usually while still in store using a mobile payment system.
2. Analytics will be commonplace in physical stores
While most e-commerce retailers have the advantage when it comes to consumer intelligence, Baker predicts that brick-and-mortars will soon catch up:
“E-commerce retailers have had a leg up over their brick-and-mortar counterparts in terms of their ability to selectively target customers based on insights into consumers’ preferences and habits, as well as their ability to refine their tactics continually based on insights they glean via analytics.”
Baker suggests that, “By 2020, offline retailers will have the same tools available to them and will employ them widely. Whether it’s using analytics to map where people walk and what the pick up to better position products in the store or tracking shoppers at the device level to target promotions to them, data will be used to understand customers and increase sales.”
3. Payments and transactions will become totally transparent
With convenience being one of the benefits to online retail, physical retailers will place a premium on streamlined payments.
According to Baker, “By 2020, not only will more transactions take place via our mobile devices, whether it’s our smartphones or wearable technology leveraging near-field communication (NFC) technology, we’ll also see the emergence of even more streamlined payment experiences.”
4. Retailers will make better use of sensory technology
Taking a turn towards science fiction, retailers of the future will be able to understand consumers in ways never thought possible.
According to Baker, “Retail stores will have more awareness of our emotions and how to excite our senses in 2020.”
Using emotion-detective software, such as Emotient, “retailers can detect when consumers react positively or negatively to things such as signs, product displays and interactions with sales associates. This will allow retailers to aggregate data on customer sentiment and to adapt offers in real time based on how customers are feeling.”
5. Technology will become the new sales assistant
According to Baker, “Technology will increasingly automate a lot of routine and mundane work that happens in retail institutions.”
This is not to say that sales people will no longer be necessary. Quite the opposite in fact as employees will now be able to focus their attention on improved customer interactions and brand loyalty- a hallmark of physical retail that will always remain a mainstay.
Though e-commerce has transformed the way we shop, it’s also progressed the industry as a whole, allowing physical retailers to incorporate new technologies, and advantages, into their way of business. As more and more online retailers join the online-to-offline movement and step into the world of physical retail, it’s become clear that having both a physical and digital element to your brand isn’t just smart, it’s essential.
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