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What’s The Future Of Multichannel Retailing?

The future of multichannel retailing lies in ultra-personalization.

Ten years ago multichannel retailing was such a complicated process that it simply wasn’t viable for many small to mid-sized companies. Today, multi or omni-channel retailing is necessary for company growth. The average consumer has changed quite a bit since the turn of the century and is far less patient than they used to be. – they want their product immediately and via their favorite platform.

When it comes to the future of multichannel retailing(and general marketing), ultra-personalization is the big thing on everyone’s mind. The other major change in consumers over the past few years has been the development of “internal ad-blockers.” What I mean is, people today(especially millennials) have a literal PHD in ignoring generic advertisements because we’re subjected to them constantly. To maximize profits retailers need to reach their target audience on a personal level.

In order to discover where the future of the retail industry is headed we asked a group of industry experts…

What’s The Future Of Multichannel Retailing?

Here’s what they had to say…  

Tom Bianculli, CTO of Zebra Technologies

“As shopper expectations evolve and technology advances, new retail models such as click-and-collect emerge and retailers must hone their omnichannel strategies. Through real-time sensing of what is happening in a store environment and combining that with data analytics and mobility, we’ll see the intelligent brick and mortar store come online. Empowered by new insights and greater business intelligence, retailers will deliver frictionless customer service, elevating the physical shopping experience.

Earlier this year, Zebra Technologies released the 2017 Retail Vision Study. The study revealed retailers’ technology investment plans over coming years – including IoT, machine learning and automation.”


Daniel Gulati, Principal & Head of Seed Investment Practice at Comcast Ventures

“By 2030, physical retail experiences will be powered by today’s most promising (but embryonic) technologies. Brain-computer interfaces will anticipate in-store shopper product queries, and display answers via smart contact lenses to boost conversion to sale. Advanced computer vision will allow for sophisticated shopper motion monitoring, including item removal detection from store shelves. In combination with seamless digital payments, the new retail experience will involve no cash, credit cards or checkouts.

The data exhaust left in-store will power new, personalized modes of shopping online. Pages of product recommendations, shopping carts and 2-day delivery will be relics. Instead, retailers will be able to anticipate shopper product needs with extreme accuracy by stitching online shopper profiles with in-store data, eliminating wasted recommendations and cart abandonment. Online purchases will be delivered immediately via drone or delivery robots, driving shipping costs down to zero. New form factors beyond the screen, such as voice-based shopping, will be ubiquitous.”


Fang Cheng , CEO of Linc Global

“In the future, multi-channel retailing will become completely seamless. Amazon is already paving the way, but in 10 years, all successful brands will have strong shopper relationships, and customers will move between channels without experiencing the current speed bumps that come from a lack of a single customer profile.

Consumers will rely on AI for the initial information filtering that they currently do themselves. Future shoppers will be presented fewer choices, but those choices will be informed by the retailer’s detailed customer profiles and well-suited to shopper need. From transparency in delivery to real-time resolution of customer needs with AI, the idea of channels will be stripped away, and the shopper themselves will be left as the one channel who interacts in a personal way with trusted brands, via a myriad of convenient and accessible digital and offline channels that are more context-aware and proactive than today’s retail environment.”


Chad Rubin, CEO of Skubana

“In 15 years, multichannel retailing will be omnipresent retailing. Commerce will be everywhere, enabled not only by voice search (Google Home and Amazon Echo) but also text, virtual, and augmented reality.

Facebook and Instagram will dominate social commerce, going with consumers wherever they are. These platforms will innovate and enable e-commerce on their platform to the point where they’ll become formidable competitors to Amazon’s marketplace in the near-distance future.”


Julia Munder, International Marketing Manager for Maxwell Scott Bags

“In the future, we will be able to buy across all social, shop and ecommerce channels with ease. I predict the biggest shopping channels will be aesthetics driven apps like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. With the introduction of tools such as Instagram shopping, we will soon be able to purchase items directly from this platform rather than being taken to an external site. Pre-stored credit card information (how Google Play currently operates) will allow us to purchase the items we like in one click. With the decline of the high-street, most shopping will be performed through apps, whether through social channels as detailed above, or ecommerce giants such as Amazon. When we do visit ‘real’ shops, this will become an interactive experience (currently being tested by some retailers) where you are instantly able to access reviews and information about a product, and follow through to purchase, all on your smartphone.”


Bart Mroz, Founder & CEO of SUMO Heavy

“In 10-15 years, multichannel retailing will mean so much more than brick and mortar retail and web-based e-commerce. Consumers will expect to be able to engage and transact directly with brands on any and all digital channels such as mobile, social, IoT devices, and even virtual worlds. We already live in an era where purchases can take place anytime and anywhere, and it’ll only accelerate as new technologies emerge. Retailers and marketers will soon have bridge physical and digital worlds, creating immersive experiences that incorporate augmented and virtual realities into the shopper’s journey. Physical stores will still remain a critical part of any retailer’s omnichannel strategy, but the focus will shift to delivering unique, branded experiences that drive discovery and engagement rather than in-person transactions.”


Doug Berman , Co-founder & Chairman of PollCart

“It appears to me that the future is online, with retailers trying to replicate the social experience of shopping in an online context. We currently see on-demand services increasing with Amazon, Uber and others delivering products and services with immediacy, even for small items that most people believed previously were only suited for in-person purchases. I believe even the chain department stores will scale down in size to become showcase locations for high profile/high margin goods and local items. They will integrate more closely with online channels as the internal cultures of brick-and-mortar and online divisions merge out of necessity. That necessity is driven by consumers move online for the variety of choice and convenience. After all, I have Diet Coke delivered to my house by Amazon.

I can try on clothes in a familiar place without tricky mirrors and without a salesperson hassling me, which I can return easily if I don’t like the choices.

Of course, there will continue to be a place for brick-and-mortar stores, but they will be niche products and highly targeted general merchandise. There will also be stores serving underserved populations, such as the unbanked and under-banked who may not have the same access to online retailers. As with any market segment, these are generalities and there will be opportunities for niche retailers with physical catalogs, but even there you can expect a merging of the online and physical catalogs, which like magazines, will continue to shrink as content moves from expensive and out-of-date paper to cheaper and continually updated online listings.”


Juan Palacio, Founder & CEO of BloomsyBox

“The future of omni-channel marketing is to provide a holistic experience to the consumer, one that transcends any channel providing users with what their looking for when they need it, taking into consideration the different devices that are currently available. Consistency regardless how or where the brand is interacting with it’s customers (online/offline).

That being said, I believe that brick and mortar stores will continue to be extremely important for most retailers, and the integration of new technologies will serve to close the O2O gap and to provide the shopping/brand experience I was mentioning before. And finally I believe that brands that understand the new dynamics will invest heavily in user-data analytics systems.”


Doug Heise, VP of Global Marketing at CoreMedia

“Shopping Bots and Artificial Intelligence: increasingly both sides of the retail equation (shoppers and buyers) will have automated assistance. As a shopper I can save time and hassle by assigning a smart automated shopping bot to find items for me. I’ll tell it to find a great birthday gift for my niece – and it will provide me with suggestions based on my shopping history, demographics, and trending data. I’ll ask it to find a part to fix my car and the shopping bot will know exactly what part to find and will track it down from a seller in Taiwan. On the seller side, I will be able to interact with smart virtual shop assistants that will act like actual experts and help guide me to the right purchase. Perhaps my bot will interact with the sellers automated shop assistant (not to mention various other IoS touchpoints) and the entire process will be conducted via AI-driven virtual buyers and sellers.

Virtual Reality: I want to browse the stock at a store on the other side of the world – I’ll just put on my VR headset and explore it for myself.. VR could bring a whole new level to online shopping. Explore personalized virtual stores or actual retail stores from anywhere in the world.

The convergence of offline and online: in the near future, brick and mortar stores will be simply one step of a broader digital shopping experience. They will be brand show cases, product pick up points and return centers, and much more. You can start a purchase anywhere and complete it anywhere. But the experience will be seamless.”


Steve de Mamiel, Founder of The Mongrel Method

“The future of multichannel retailing will require retailers to adapt to customers that use stores for the primarily to confirm what they cannot do online. Such as check size, feel, etc. Ongoing transactions will be online so the customer transaction experience needs to be identical online and in-store.

The initial search by the customer will only became more and more dependent on the on-line world and technologies such as virtual reality (VR) will be used to take the customer on a walk through to show the product in their environment. Augmented reality (AR) will be used to show the customer how to use, assemble, or maintain the product post-purchase.

The retailer will also be profiling the customer to anticipate the next purchase through a combination of online and instore tracking.”


Casey Wilson, VP of Digital Media for Chacka Marketing

“In 10-15 years, no one will remember the term ‘multichannel.’ It’s not the end of advertising dollars across channels, but rather a shift in the way we think of channels and their relationship to others. Advertisers are embracing a channel-agnostic, audience-centric approach, as it’s irrelevant which channels they use to reach consumers. What’s relevant is that advertisers follow their desired audience throughout their journey and deliver appropriate messaging to them at every stage.

For instance, advertisers wishing to re-engage cart abandoners should create a win-back strategy that resonates with these consumers based on their location in the journey. The tactics, or channels, used to reach these consumers are arbitrary. The key is to find them, wherever they are, and serve them messages that bring them back. The siloed channel approach will be dead well within a decade; the channel ecosystem is where consumers will be found and targeted.”


Jan Bednar, CEO of ShipMonk

“Presently, consumers are buying from more channels than ever. Whether it be social media, in-app, through online marketplaces, directly from websites, or through physical-location partnerships, customers are utilizing all avenues possible to make their purchases. This trend will continue, but I think what you’ll really start to see is a broad-market roll-up in 10-15 years. Customers will still have many channels through which to make purchases, but I think you’ll see one or two entities emerge that control these channels. Amazon and Facebook are currently wonderfully positioned to do this.”


Kristi Hansen Onkka , Founder of HealthiAR & President of GetKristi

“In 10-15 years, multi-channel will not be a term we use. A better term will be omnipresent. Audiences will not be tethered to their desktops, mobile phones or even their TVs. Mixed reality, in the form of augmented and virtual content viewed through contacts and eyeglasses will be commonplace. In fact, brick-and-mortar real-estate will no longer be necessary as virtual pop-up stores allow for real-time immersive social interaction with sales people and fellow customers. The channels of tomorrow will be placing these mixed reality store experiences (not ads) inside useful content, in the context of a location, or within a social network. The future of retail breaks down cultural bubbles, allowing broader access to products and creators of products. It will be a global experience, as translation bots and visual searches alleviate language and location barriers.”

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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