The Evolution of Retail
As technology continues to advance and our expectations for on-demand service become further entrenched, the way we shop will continue to evolve. Retail brands that embrace the new reality, while continuing to strengthen their point of differentiation, will enjoy a bright future as we move further into the 21st century. Those that don’t may find themselves extinct.
Here are some of Revolve’s predictions of inevitable change.
Technology will give consumers more control over their shopping experience.
Real-time data will improve in-aisle navigation, shop-ahead services and appointment pre-booking, putting shoppers squarely in the driver’s seat. Embedded digital information – think smart screens and mirrors – will give shoppers instant access to in-depth data on things like product reviews, inventory on-hand and price comparisons. As shoppers are given greater access to information, they’ll begin to take further control over their shopping experience.
Retailers will become the cornerstone of their community.
In an effort to keep shoppers in the store longer and develop more meaningful relationships within communities, retailers of the future will offer complementary services and experiences that go well beyond products. Pro Skateboard in Halifax has already embraced the future, having partnered with Anchored Coffee to bring in a take-away coffee bar, and Oddfellows Barbershop to provide consumers with cuts while they shop. And on a larger scale, international clothing retailer Urban Outfitters has started introducing high-end coffee and clothing repair stations in their stores.
The checkout desk will disappear.
Mobile payment technologies like Apple Pay, Square and NFC will be adopted by more retailers, allowing customers to pay from anywhere inside the store, directly from a sales associate’s Smartphone or tablet. And more retailers will offer order online and pick up in store services. In grocery stores, smart shopping carts will automatically total purchases (like online shopping carts do now) and present customers with coupons for the products in their cart. As the shopper leaves the grocery store, he’ll be prompted to pay directly from the shopping cart.
Sales associates will evolve from product specialists to consumer specialists.
As retailers provide their sales teams with in-depth, data-driven customer profiles available the moment a customer enters the store, they’ll be able to develop relationships that lead to more rewarding and personalized experiences. To be effective in this new environment, tomorrow’s sales associates will need to be researchers and diplomats, equally proficient in using technology and making connections with customers.
Loyalty programs and perks will change.
Loyalty programs will evolve beyond discount or points clubs to offer personalized rewards based on what each customer values most, and will be delivered exactly when they need it most. Retailers will be able to accomplish this by developing in-depth customer profiles. By seamlessly weaving personalized perks throughout the in-store purchase path, retailers will be given a new way to nudge shoppers towards a final sale.
Retail footprints will get smaller.
As the lines between warehouse and retail blur even further thanks to improved same-day delivery services, there will be no need to carry vast quantities of product in store. Instead, customers will select the size, colour and pattern of their garment at retail, and have it delivered directly to their front door by the end of the day. This evolution will create a huge opportunity for retailers, who will be given extra space to create inspiring displays or incorporate complementary services and experiences into their store.
Some things will stay the same.
As retail technologies and services evolve, the importance of creating and maintaining a strong brand will not diminish. Retail brands of the future will still need to live and breathe a well-defined brand promise that differentiates them from competition and speaks to a true consumer want or need. Brands that accomplish this, while evolving their retail environments to the new ways people shop, will enjoy a bright future for decades to come.
CEO, Senior Brand Strategist