Our environment is constantly changing. New technologies make us encounter smaller or larger revolutions in various areas of life every day.
Looking at the recent past, when we compare the changes between 1999 and 2009 to those of the following decade, we see that the pace of change is increasing exponentially. And this trend does not promise to slow down, quite the contrary.
Modern technologies are irreversibly changing not only the reality but also our way of perceiving it and functioning in it. Clearly, this also applies to processes related to consumption and trade. Today we are witnessing a very interesting process of shaping the conditions for the peaceful coexistence of traditional and digital sales methods.
We are seeing many trends and emerging technologies that we believe could change the entire retail industry. However, there are no certainties; we can only talk about the likelihood of change, not make categorical statements about the future. This makes planning even more difficult because nothing can be certain. So it is necessary to analyze many variables in order not to miss the beginnings of a mini-revolution.
We already know that the pessimistic predictions of the past that all sales would move to the Internet were false. However, we also see, especially from the US example, that some stores that clung to the mall model ended up as vacant lots.
On the other hand, we increasingly look at physical stores and online stores as complementary goods. A case in point is giants like Amazon, Google, and eBay, who are opening locations and want to be visible both online and offline. Malls are becoming spaces where we simply want to spend time, and they are being redeveloped with that in mind.
One example is the American Dream Miami concept, which, with 600,000 square feet, will be more like a hyde park than a mall. The stores are becoming showrooms that attract customers with technology, modernity and a focus on providing a pleasant experience. Instead of standard “warehouses with cash registers”, we see an increasing number of much smaller concept stores. Such moves have already been announced by international giants such as Ikea and Nike. The latter additionally wants to introduce cabinets in its stores that allow for direct order pickup or an extended product reservation system in the store itself.
We already have a number of start-ups successfully implementing technologies in regular stores, such as chat bots, interactive displays responding to the mood of the customer or virtual assistants in the smartphone. An example can be the native start-up Abyss Glass, enabling the design of interactive mirrors that, in addition to reflecting the silhouette, display tailored content depending on the place and context, affecting the recipient accordingly. This solution will eventually also allow you to pay for selected products or order other sizes with home delivery directly from the fitting room.
Entering the store of the future, we are greeted by a bot that presents a personalized offer. Through applications on the phone, we open the gates to the store. While shopping, artificial intelligence through cameras verifies the products we put in our cart and connects them to us as specific customers. When we stop somewhere for a longer time, our cell phone or an interactive bot offers us assistance. And when we finish shopping and pass through the gates, the app itself charges our credit card for the products we put in the cart.
Thanks to this, the seller keeps the stock up to date and automates the ordering of goods. In addition, based on the analytics conducted during the shopping process, personalized customer data is collected with information about what they bought and what they were interested in. This allows us to offer complementary products on the next visit, or send a personalized offer when the customer has not visited the store for a long time. This describes the process that start-ups such as AiFi, Sensei, Outernets or SwiftGo are trying to enable.
We are slowly realizing that people no longer come to a store just to buy products. The market is moving towards a trend that can be described as “retail as a service”, where the store experience is to be a service in itself. Since the internet has taken over and made selection and purchasing easier, stationary stores must become something else.
Following in this vein, Walmart recently introduced an app that allows people in a stationary store to select products and pay for them online. This blurs the lines between the digital and analog worlds. However, the sensation of “touching hands” and experiencing the selected goods in person still remains.
From 3D to real
Advanced ad targeting and marketing analytics allow us to better match products and offers to individual customers. In surveys, up to 65% of people declare that they accept the transfer of part of their personal data in exchange for discounts in stores. It seems that such an opportunity will not be overlooked by brand or store owners in the long run.
In the era of changing the business model of shopping centers and retail itself, it is also time to change the approach to the entire process of creating, creating, planning and building stores. At the design stage, we are already able to make a technical presentation of the premises in full 3D, and on that basis make adjustments to the final design. Retail seems to benefit from the idea of “build it twice”, where the entire concept is first prepared on a computer screen, and then transformed into reality. With such an approach to the entire project, we are able to shorten the stage of execution works on the premises to the necessary minimum. We begin to take care of every detail virtually, before it is created in the physical world.
In this day and age where every element matters, we look for professional service providers who understand the new values that are being presented to clients. We look for long-term partnerships with external companies, because in the long run this is the only way we can build innovation and value. The opposite of this is unfortunately still observed on a daily basis in situations where the choice of suppliers is dictated only by the immediate need and not by a long-term strategy.
*Article originally published on retailnet.pl.