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What’s The Future Of Retail?

20 years ago, going shopping actually required “going”.

Today, with services like Amazon Prime Now, the only going you’re doing is by opening up the app, clicking a few buttons and within the hour, you have your delivery.

20 years might not seem a long time, but it was enough to revolutionize an entire industry. Retailers are feeling the shake of technology under their feet and every day, we’re witnessing more and more traditional retailers close up shop. Adapting isn’t key to growing anymore, it’s key to surviving.

To learn what the next 20 years of retail may look like, we spoke with 10 industry thought leaders and asked them one question:

What’s the future of retail?

This is what they shared with us…

Ben Tai, Founder & CEO of DrivenBI

“Ultimately, business intelligence (BI) transforms data into Wow, just what I wanted! moments. Imagine that a woman looking for a jacket online later sees that identical jacket (or one just like it) in a window display as she passes by a store. Behind the scenes, the aggregated search, location, and user behavior data can trigger notifications prompting a salesperson to place them there. BI will bring the right product to the right person at the right time. Information monetized.”


Adam Secher, Principal/Broker with Baum Realty Group, LLC

“Retail cycles focus on differences in demography and generational behavior. Post WWII Baby Boomers experienced retail in shopping malls and suburban strip centers, and today’s gen-x and gen-y consumers are experiencing retail in regional malls and dense urban or micro-urban trade areas. In 10-15 years we will see the impact of mature, omnichannel retail. The biggest difference will be where and who – aided by a dramatically different last mile delivery network. Consumers will now interact with retail transactions directly in their home, office, school or recreation venues, and the notion of the sales clerk or staff will differ dramatically. Restaurants, service, and experience based retailers will be as strong as ever – but immersive online consumption will gradually obviate the need for large retail stores dedicated to single merchandise labels. There will be a proliferation of larger and more Costcos, and smaller and less single label flagship stores.”


Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt

“Globalization and technology adoption are not an option, they are the keys to business survival. All businesses that are resistant to new technology, change, and risk are guaranteeing their lack of relevance to this generation of shoppers.

There is a huge change happening in the business world today. The online market has led to easier ways to reach out to audiences, which has rapidly escalated market penetration in niche sectors. Stores, brands and companies are realizing that finding ‘new’ customers is just not a viable business model for growth anymore. It is all about keeping customers happy and engaged to make them repeat buyers. A fine line- overly promotional turns them off but not keeping them interested results in a need for new customers and these are far more difficult and expensive to capture. Getting the personalized customer experience just right regardless of device is the determining factor for future business success.”


Sue Welch, Founder & CEO of Bamboo Rose

“Technology will continue to reinvent the retail industry, moving beyond augmented reality and artificial intelligence until the entire industry is connected. Additionally, as consumer shopping habits change, retailers will need to do everything faster to satisfy the hunger for instant gratification. The retail industry will rely on technological innovation to speed design to market processes while still providing customized, on-trend products that the consumers really want. To streamline these backend processes, digital marketplaces will take over and the adoption of more visual, collaborative and social tools will drastically increase as retailers begin to shop just like consumers. Overall, the product development process will become a social exercise in the buying and sharing of ideas as the retail community collaborates and leverages shared knowledge, expertise and experience to create great products that consumers actually want to buy.”


Taylor Romero, CEO of SpruceTech

“Retail is going to go to and return from what I call, “Arcade-ification” That is to say; retailers are going to try and engage with guests using things that work in the home; big screens, flashy displays, interactive touch screens. But, what they are going to find is that people aren’t dumb and will rightly ask, “Why can’t I do all this from home?” Then, retailers will shift back to what makes them special; human-to-human interaction.”


Lindsay Bayer-Shipp, Retail Brand Strategist with Birmingham-based Bayer Properties

“During the last several decades, the concept of shopping has consistently evolved. Development of present and future retail is taking shape around a consumer that is more interested in the experience their shopping destination provides. One such example is “cool streets,” a new urban concept that has emerged in major cities from coast-to-coast during the past couple of years. Cool streets have become a hot retail trend with retailers popping up in locations that are conveniently located and on-brand. Cool streets are perfect for a retailer that is looking for more control over expression. Although the concept of cool streets is somewhat new and still has yet to be proven successful on a widespread scale in terms of long-term retail format, they are a large part of the evolution of shopping and will push the retail industry to continue to think outside of the box to stay relevant.”


Ankit Runwal, Marketing Specialist at Social Annex

“The retail industry is on the cusp of a major revolution with the rise of progressive technologies, changing business models, and altering customers shopping behaviors and patterns.

Retailers’ futures will be largely dependent on Gen Z and Millennials’ behavior. They won’t think online vs in-store but will consider both while shopping.

Shoppers will be demanding more personalization in terms of product range, offering, delivery, service experience, and the number of shopping channels and touchpoints.

We can not deny the growth of ecommerce but that doesn’t mean the end of the conventional retail store. Shopping is not just fulfilling needs but it is more of an experience. We will never stop visiting stores. The innate need to touch and feel will never leave us. I believe online shopping will always stand at second place for the shoppers.

And we shouldn’t be amazed to see Internet companies opening more stores like recently Amazon’s opened a brick and mortar bookstore.

Future retailers will strive to have a strong presence on multiple channels to provide the customer with seamless omnichannel shopping experience.

Retailers will draw attention to loyalty, engagement, excitement, innovation, cutting-edge interactive experience and high level of services, which will not only allow customers to see, touch and feel the products but create a memorable brand experience for them.”


Cliff Allen, Dean, School of Business, Portland State University

“The future of retail is pending the fallout of the omnichannel effect and the role of the internet of things (IoT) on Millennial’s shopping habits. We know that brick and mortar are suffering, but have they hit bottom? The questions still arise about how important the brand and who is the retailer? Is it Nordstrom, REI, or Amazon? We know analytics is going to blur the personal connection between shopping online and in the store…or both. The companies that figure out how to align both will win. In the meantime, supply chain professionals are trying to see how best to serve the customer, where are the distribution centers, and how will logistics play in the overall strategy? Coupled with the continued reliance on the IoT, other shopping trends are popping up like online grocery which may be the game changer. All that is known is that the omnichannel has moved IoT connections from scarcity to abundance which is basically Moore’s law playing out in the retail channels.”


Kiran Buckman, Founder of Inverse Culture

“Retail is moving into a more efficient & interactive space over time. Labour intensive tasks are getting automated, which is leaving more room to create a 360 customer experience to maximize conversions & improve customer satisfaction. Improving both will lead to increased lifetime value of customers. We see a few examples with Amazon Go & style recommendation tools which can nurture a customer on scale, with the fixed costs.

The drastic reduction of fixed costs in retail will charter a new age, where the retail sector will have to heavily improve their customer service to be able to compete with the online drone delivery service.”

James Sullivan, Partner at Windels Marx

“Many traditional brick and mortar retailers have had a difficult time adapting to the new e-commerce paradigm. They have had a difficult time competing with the likes of Amazon. Even relatively successful retailers, like Walmart, have been late to the game, and are moving quickly to catch up. Due to the rising number of retail liquidations, we will probably see more pop-up retailers at stores, as landlords seek to fill vacant stores. There have been, and will continue to be downward pressure on rents long term as landlords seek to fill empty retail space. Retailers are more likely to seek innovative ways to limit risk, like seeking out joint ventures with complementary brands (such as RadioShack’s store within a store agreement with Sprint), or entering into short term leases at malls before committing to long term leases.”



About the author

Nick Hastreiter

I write about the future of business. I approach this by interviewing founders, CEO's, and other game changers to share their vision for the future of their industry.

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