The Future of Retail: Emerging Technology and Store Formats

A recent research article from PRI, "The Future of Retail: A Perspective on Emerging Technology and Store Formats," examines the history of retail technology adoption in the U.S., emerging technology that is impacting retail today and how retail store formats will change in the future and integrate various digital technologies.
Retailers are being driven to engage with customers differently due to technological innovations and also to create different experiences in the course of that engagement, whether in a physical store, online, on a smartphone or tablet or via a call center, among other ways. Customers today access multiple channels to make a purchase, leading to the requirement that all channels work seamlessly to support the brand and the experience.
The shift from multi-channel to omnichannel marketing finds retailers integrating various systems in order to achieve a unified customer experience. Retailers are also using technology to improve workforce and task management, including the proliferation of handheld devices for use by retail associates.
The future of retail will be about choice, consistency and customization. Customers will expect to have the option of making the choice of what works best for them in terms of how, when and where they want to shop, and the retailer must be prepared to meet the customers' expectations. However the customer chooses to interact with the retailer, there must be consistency across every available shopping channel. Perhaps the most pervasive advances envisioned are related to an in-depth understanding of individual customers and their product/service desire, and the retailer's ability to be responsive to the individual consumer's needs.
The consumers' desire to shop anytime, anywhere is not only having an impact on retail adoption of various technologies, but also forcing retailers to adopt new store formats for the future. We envision that, in the future, a specific retailer may adopt various formats, while ensuring a level of brand cohesiveness across these formats. In addition to traditional retail stores, these may include: drive-through pick-up locations, product showrooms, immersive experiential centers, brand stores, community service stores and specialty stores.
Looking at the history of retail and the innovations that have shaped the shopping experience over the years, it is abundantly clear that the pace of technological change has increased exponentially. Widespread adoption of electronic cash registers, barcode scanning, and self-service checkout took place over decades. More contemporary technologies such as digital signage, mobile POS, and personalization via advanced data analytics are changing retail in a matter of months.
Steven Keith Platt is director and research fellow at the Platt Retail Institute. To learn more on this subject and download the full report, "The Future of Retail: A Perspective on Emerging Technology and Store Formats," click here.
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