By 2020, the retail shopping experience is expected to look dramatically diverse than it does today. It’s being reshaped, with FinTech pioneers and futurists, by the accelerated pace of new technology and changing consumer shopping patterns. The market urges retailers to begin planning for that future now.
Analytics Technology is bringing on a new era of DIY shopping— altering how consumers select and access products and the ways they pay. Self-service is making shopping faster, easier and fun – delivering a new channel for the consumer shopping journey.
Incorporating Technology in Checkout Processes
The interaction less retail model is also becoming more mainstream. There is no need to interact with a sales associate. Enabling sensors on all items, shoppers can pay with phone or fingerprint and then leave. The traditional checkout process is drastically changing, with sales associates will only be there for their expertise. If no expertise is required, there’s no need for an associate. Interactive mirrors in the dressing room where shoppers physically interact with the mirror screen for product info, to request another size from associate, or to order and buy from the dressing room. Slowly but surely, we are also witnessing the emergence of 24/7 stores—no more rules in retail. After hours, stores have a drive-thru window, robot-assisted. Order on iPad at the window, the robot goes and gets an item and delivers it.
As consumers are willing to provide more personal information, they will demand that retailers use that information to deliver better, customized products and offers. This gives and will drive consumer loyalty in a new world where retailers can throw old-school rules about loyalty out the window.
Retailers will know shoppers well, from RFID in cell phones or biometrics like fingerprint scanners when they enter the store. Retailers will be able to serve up customized products and experiences. They can direct consumers to items they prefer and send unique, pop-up sales offer, determined by their profile, to their mobile.
In-home chatbot devices are also becoming mainstream and more proactive—offering advice on the best brands to shop for and the latest offers. Third-party, unbiased experts in the form of digital assistants, are emerging in the market. Shoppers can get honest opinions rather than rely on biased retail associate opinions – essentially an expert network on an app curated to shoppers’ needs. For instance, smartphones, connected cars and homes.
Brick and mortar stores will exist in the future, but there will be a limited volume of them, based on the simple fact – did they adapt to the new trends or not. A new model of delivering not only products but also genuine brand experiences is emerging. People are social by nature and prefer gathering places for entertainment and sharing ideas. It’s not just about making money, it is all about building trust. Therefore, it is a rewarding strategy for retailers.
Digital Evolution Strategies
Consumers are now demanding the spot examples of advertised products and services to build that trust. Some retailers have adopted the concept of an in-store 3D Printer. It is allowing them to print customized products on the spot. It’s not only convenient but also engages the customer—who now takes away both the product and knowledge. We are also witnessing in the consumers demands where Entertain me plays a crucial role for loyalty. So, retailers are merging experiences by bringing other categories to the retail experience. For instance, putting a coffee shop, café, music experience, bar, or complementary products or services inside the store. It’s a big reason why local markets are making a resurgence across the Middle East.
Then we have consumers who are all about the Teach Me concept, otherwise also known as the learning experience. Let shoppers see how a product (like a watch) is made from scratch. While people already use artisan experience, it will gain more popularity in the future. At the end of it all, we have a popular consumer trend, where they rely on a retailer app to assist them in making the final decision. Retailers can expand on their app features from a simple advertising platform to an engagement platform. Such as allowing a customer to pick out clothes and reserve a dressing room from the retailer’s app. It’s both a timesaver and a delighter.
In high-involvement categories, speciality retailers will remain a go-to, but variety will be imperative. With that said, shoppers are reaching a tipping point around the Middle East consumption. Feelings of angst about acquiring too much are driving a shift toward purchasing experiences rather than things. Along with concern for the environment, retailers must streamline and consolidate resources in the future.
The evolution of retail technology is creating a more demanding shopper base—one that expects what they purchase to be instantly available.
Stores on wheels will come to you. The selection is smaller, but shoppers can order on the spot, and their purchase will be shipped to their house the same day from a local warehouse. We are witnessing a variety of Trunk stores, pop-up shops and subscription services which are becoming more mainstream. Shoppers see a consolidation of the number of brands in this space. Returns will be a snap, purchaser hits the return button on the retailer’s app, and either a driverless car or a drone will appear within an hour to pick up your return – no need for repackaging, either. Ship to store, another option which is gaining traction, but the process needs improvement.
In many cases, often the purchaser shows up at the store and the order is not there. Also, gain insights on proof of inventory, allowing transparency to the customer of the available products. Not all retailers update their inventory in real time, causing shoppers to make a wasted trip to the store. In the future, shoppers will see a picture of the item on the shelf before getting in their cars.
Today, retail is at an exciting crossroads of virtually limitless possibility. New data insights, delivery methods and payment innovations can now provide a more personalized experience for every customer. We have an unprecedented chance to exceed customer expectations and cultivate strong loyalty.
Written By: Damien Singh