"Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable," said a Gartner analyst regarding evolving trends in retail technology. In a USA Today article, "Why shopping will never be the same," Jon Swartz asked several retail experts to comment on the implications of technologies affecting both online and in-store retail competition today. "The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years," said the CEO of a company that sells a location-based app. And, while the experts didn't predict the end of the in-store experience, they noted that in-store retailers are fighting back, using the same tools and technologies that eCommerce retailers have been using for a while.
"Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable"
Some of the game-shifting technologies threatening to upend retail markets include Smartphones, tablets, location-based services, augmented reality, big data, social-media, and, somewhere in the future, 3-D printers -- to name a few.
Here are some of the ways these advancing technology trends will continue to transform the future of retail:
1. There'll be more computer chips and cookies embedded in goods, smartphones, searches, requests for information, etc., not to mention tracking the trails left by your credit card, purchase receipts, buying record, and the paths you followed to get there. I wrote about how Target combs shopping data via purchases, e-mail, and online activity so it can merchandise and sell popular goods that particular individuals want.
2. Customer service will remain the bottom line. "The first 15 years of online shopping were about making it easier for people to find and purchase items," said a social media executive who works with retailers. "Now, customer service is a lot more: it's about helping shoppers based on their demographics, history, needs, and social media profile."
3. Sites and stores will have more ways to provide additional background information to customers, which will affect the customer's desire to stick with you and make the purchases. For example, Zappos has bolstered its content with advice on fashion, trends, outfits and lifestyles.
4. Retailers can better gauge who is just browsing and who's on a mission to buy.
5. Staff will have a pretty good idea of what you want to buy when you walk into a store or go online -- and they'll be much better equipped to provide the specific information and answers you need.
6. Technology will continue to facilitate the growing adoption of location-based services for providing coupons, ads, come-ons, etc.
7. Different ways of dealing with money will become more commonplace. Almost all transactions in the retail marketplace will be paid by smartphone.
8. Wireless technology will turn consumers' phones into stand-ins for credit, debit and loyalty cards.
9. Smartphones and tablets will be used as cash registers. Apple has been doing this for a long time. Nordstrom, among others, was phasing out cash registers in favor of smartphones with store-designed apps for purchases and inventory.
10. Technologies will continue to help retailers harness social media. Retailers will get better at putting their arms around social media to reach, cultivate, and woo consumers.
11. There'll be trade-offs between privacy and convenience. "People always choose convenience and don't realize the cost of privacy," said one analyst. However, young people such as millennials, raised in a more transparent, technical world don't seem to mind, while older people, raised in different communication milieus, may not feel this way.
12. Efficiencies brought by technology will lead to diminishment of the workforce size. This is the inevitable result of efficiency and time saving, while other jobs may be created requiring new skills in working with the new technologies.
"The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years"
Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line
"The pace of change has never been faster," said a Google rep. "Every waking moment is a shopping moment," say the experts. That means 24/7 awareness and readiness by retailers, from the right merchandising to the right pricing to doing everything else a retailer needs to do to win the customer and the sale. "Retailers who don't adapt and use the new technologies quickly and successfully run the risk of losing out" -- which is an understatement in view of today's fast-paced, highly competitive retail marketplace.
"Retailers who don't adapt and use the new technologies quickly and successfully run the risk of losing out"