Experts Weigh In: What Does the Future of Retail Look Like?

Sep 28, 2022

Brands have long understood that their future lies in a different kind of retail experience – one that is more digital, integrated, personalized and sustainable. Indeed, the pandemic has brought that future forward but few retailers were truly prepared for the scale of the digital shift and the impact it has on the bottom line.

In line with these emerging trends, some retailers have already started experimenting with new technologies such as augmented reality and machine learning to create a more immersive shopping experience for their customers. Others are also turning to services like curbside pickups and same-day deliveries in order to stay competitive in the market.

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Still, questions remain on the path forward. What does the future hold for brick-and-mortar stores? What role will technology play in the future of retail? How will customer demands evolve in 5 years' time? These are just a few of the questions that we asked retail experts to share their views on – read on to find out what they have to say!

Andrew Busby – Global Retail Industry Lead, Software AG & Founder, Retail Reflections

In my time as a retailer, I have witnessed so many changes such as the introduction of barcodes, the internet, self-service, e-commerce, click & collect / BOPIS. But perhaps the biggest and most influential changes have come from outside the sector: the introduction of the smartphone (iPhone) in 2007 and in the same decade social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In recent years, many others such as Tik Tok, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit etc. These have revolutionized the way that brands and retailers sell to and engage with their customer base in ways we had never imagined.

Ibrahim Ibrahim – Managing Director, Portland Design

Physical stores will become the "stage set" for brands to tell their stories and to create experiences that deliver personalization, social, participatory and learning experiences. They will become media platforms to recruit customers to drive them online or to social platforms.

We will see a shift from "stores with shelves with products to sell" to "stages with stories to share". Stores will become more data-responsive, with architecture that is programmable and reconfigurable in accordance with data that gives insight into the customer journey and behavior. In other words, they will behave like physical websites.

The stores of the future will not only monetize their experiences but also the data that those experiences generate. Stores have the potential to be the most powerful media platform available to a brand.

DeAnn CampbellChief Strategy Officer, Hoobil8

While technologies like the metaverse and virtual reality are most often cited as the future of retail, I see these becoming a solid but smaller niche for the retail industry in the future. As Gen Z ages up and begins to earn higher wages in the work world, their preference for more human experiences and support for environmental and social improvements will change the retail landscape.

Technologies like 5G will not only alter the speed of online interactions, but also free up retailers to offer e-commerce in unprecedented formats and locations. A movement away from oil-based or disposable materials will fundamentally alter supply chains, delivery systems and how products are handled as part of a circular retail system.

Forecasting the Future of Stores

The experts have spoken, and there is no denying that retail is headed for an exciting future. Consumers today are more connected than ever before, and this is changing the way we shop. Considering how big of a role technology is playing in retail, brands that embrace these new technologies are bound to be more successful. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how companies adapt in order to stay afloat.

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