It doesn't take an industry insider to recognize the big-picture trends shaping the future of retail. Most shoppers are aware of the convenience of e-commerce, flaws with shopper-derived data security, and new forms of marketing and advertisement.
But a closer look reveals far more about the future of retail than the average consumer knows. These experts are helping shape the future of retail. Here's how they see that future unfolding.
1. Jaime Bettencourt, SVP of Business Development at Mood Media
“The future of retail is a custom-made customer experience, which enables an immersion at the heart of the brand, fostering a community and offering convenience to its customers. We’ll see digital transformation take center stage where technology enables smarter, real-time decision making by retailers that resonates with customers and connects them to brands on a deeper level. The human touch and a holistic brand experience regardless of channel will be more important than ever.”
2. Nikki Baird, Vice President of Retail Innovation at Aptos Retail
“A very distinct split between transactional and experiential. For purchases that are transactional, that is being entirely commoditized. We’ve seen the early impact from eCommerce, but the rise of voice shopping and visual product search will further commoditize, so that for purchases where consumers have already “selected” a brand or a product, breaking them out of that choice will be very difficult – it’ll be on the brand to lose that sale, rather than up for anyone else to win the customer away.
At the other end of the spectrum is experiential retail, where the services around the products are almost more important than the products themselves. When the actual transaction is so commoditized, retailers aren’t going to differentiate on ease of purchase – they will have to either make the purchase experience itself much more experiential, or they will have to make sure that they focus more on the experiences that the products enable.”
3. Doug Stephens, Founder of Retail Prophet
“In terms of the broad changes, we're going to see the roles of stores and media reversed. Media has always been a mechanism to develop brand awareness and drive consumers to stores. Conversely, stores have traditionally been merely a mechanism to distribute products. However, media is increasingly going to become the point of purchase. Online sales are growing at +20 percent globally each year. Whether it's my connected refrigerator ordering more milk, my car booking its own oil change or buying a car on my mobile device, media will no longer be a call out to visit a store. Media will be the store.”
4. Antonia Hock, Global Head of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center
“There is no longer a traditional retail segment. Every brand is in retail in some way because now brands all sell some type of product or experience that requires an immersive, personalized, real-time consumer offering. The future requires brands to wrap experience into everything they do, and one of the biggest future trends is the immediacy of response & personalization that consumers expect through any channel. It's a 24/7, 365 extremely personalized world. All brands must remember me, anticipate my needs accurately, and personally respond immediately to every contact. That sounds simple, but it's hard to execute at scale.”
5. Cate Trotter, Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends
“There is no single ‘future’ for retail. There will always be different models that work for different retailers. Convenience and experience will underpin all of it though. Customers shop in different ways according to their wants and needs at the time and this will guide the retail models of the future. They are not separate values though – an experiential store should still offer convenience, while a streamlined store can make convenience an experience in its own right. I think we’ll also see more physical stores being used as e-commerce fulfillment spaces that also make money by letting people visit them.”
6. Bryan Eisenberg, Co-Founder of Buyer Legends
“Amazon launched Amazon Go technology, new advertising technology and Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) in their app for Whole Foods purchases. They will launch more “services” technology to enable rapid digitalization of physical retail as well as a “local” marketplace. The local marketplace will allow customers to search for, purchase and fulfill by delivery or pick up from retailers/restaurants “near me.” They have seen the “near me” searches grow exponentially on Google and want to own that slice of retail as well.”
7. Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director at TCC Global
“There’s a clear distinction to be made between food and non-food retail. Most grocery retail is still essentially the same as it was 50 years ago, despite technological advances in check-outs, payments and behind the scenes operations. In non-food however, e-commerce has become much more meaningful and the role of the store is being revolutionised – we need fewer, better and more experiential stores that support online ordering, collection and returns. In general, retail is moving into overcapacity in physical terms in many countries and malls, high streets and retail parks will need to be reimagined.”
8. Kasey Lobaugh, Chief Retail Innovation Officer at Deloitte
“There is no shortage of conjecture about the future of retail. Unfortunately, most projections are flawed. Many are prophecy-based rather than based on hard data, and most provide fuzzy time horizons for realization. Others are largely self-serving, with tech companies promoting specific visions in order to sell their services. We believe that the future of retail is not defined by one model; rather, it hinges upon changes to a competitive environment that will be shaped by a series of disruptive forces. Retailers must make strategic choices to compete in the future, but those choices will be unique to each company.”
9. Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner at RSR Research LLC
“The “Retail Apocalypse” was a click-bait headline; while the industry is undeniably culling old stores from the marketplace, retailers have been closing and opening stores “forever” as store concepts change and markets move – so that’s not news. What is news is that former pure-plays are discovering the value of physical stores in the context of a complete digital+physical selling environment. Shopping is a human behavior – there’s definitely an entertainment component to it. So look at how people entertain themselves today – with digital content. Retail has a bright, digitally enabled future.”
10. Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye Solutions Limited
“The future of retail is bright. People will always need to buy stuff. But how they do this has changed. While tech has also enabled retailers to automate and scale the ways they do business, the weakest are struggling to adapt and modernize how they sell what they sell. This exposes those with an ill-defined and mediocre offer. Understanding customers, as the driving force of any retail business or brand, and building an agile, fully integrated, digitally enabled and data-driven customer proposition is what will separate the winners from the losers going forward.”
11. John Rampton, Founder of Due
“The future of retail will move more toward an online service but will still include in-person shopping experiences. There will be more on-demand service offerings, including delivery within the hour via drone or some robotic delivery service so that consumers can feel like trying things at home rather than in a store. In this way, the retail experience will come to them through physical, augmented, or virtual interaction. “
12. Steve Dennis, President and Founder of SageBerry Consulting
“For years retailers could get away with just being good enough. But good enough no longer is as the customer is more in charge. We are seeing what I call the boring middle collapse and retailers need to choose to be either more remarkable at the value end of the spectrum or more remarkable at the more premium experiential side. Either way, the distinction between online and physical channels is going away. Retailers need to work to deliver a more harmonized experience regardless of how the customers choose to shop. The customer is the channel.”
13. Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded
“The future of retail continues to evolve. How it will look in even one year is impossible to predict entirely, but I believe that customers will only be in more control of their path to purchase. This means retailers — either online, offline or both — need to embrace what modern customers expect from them and be more proactive in supporting them during their path to purchase. Using AI and ML in particular, retailers will be better positioned to be more precise and proactive in their customer support, inventory management, and overall retail operations.”
14. Shep Hyken, Author of The Convenience Revolution
“Customers continue to be smarter. Year after year their expectations increase, especially in the areas of customer service and customer experience. Customers no longer compare a retailer to its direct competition. Now they compare that retailer to the best service they have had from anyone. That means the bar is raised. If the retailer has what the customer wants, customer experience (which includes service) will be a big differentiator. While this has been going on for a number of years, it is more important than ever.”
15. Bob Phibbs, CEO at The Retail Doctor, a New York Consultancy
“Retail will continue to evolve with shoppers increasingly moving basics, renewables, and disposables to online while boutique brick and mortar retailers will thrive.”
16. Kevin Sterneckert, Chief Marketing Officer at Symphony RetailAI
“Consumers will continue migrating to the paths of lowest resistance and highest value, which means retailers that provide the best experience with the lowest points of frustration will win a greater share of wallet.
I see an increase in direct-to-consumer transactions between manufacturers and consumers, expanding the definition of retailer to now include suppliers. However, manufacturers are not organized to accommodate all transaction types of a full-service retailer. Hints of what retail in the U.S. will look like can be seen in the reflection of retail in western Europe: high service and more frequent purchases with smaller transaction sizes.”
17. Richard Heyes, Managing Director at Tecmark
“A lot of people say that the high street is dying, but I don't believe that to be the case. I think what the future holds is linking online with high street experience. The retailers must know where they sit in the market and offer either value for money or luxury alongside a first-class experience. It's never been more important to be clear on who your target audience is and where you sit in the market. The key thing is to then work to drive traffic into the store from online searches (there are many made on mobiles) in addition to passing footfall. I believe high street retail stores will likely become more akin to ‘showrooms' where people can touch and feel the products before purchasing. I think that's something that online retail will never be able to replace, so offline retailers should evolve to fit this.”
18. Dennis Wakabayashi, VP of Digital and Integrated Marketing at The Integer Group
“2020 will be known as the “Rebirth of Retail” across every industry as shoppers take control of their data and rush to subscribe to their favorite brands virtually and in-person. Stores will proliferate as “instant” retail experiences pop-up, and big footprint retail centers will become the playgrounds of real-life customer engagement and experimentation.
Consultancies and agencies will start taking bold leaps of faith to break down the physical geography of shopping, and adventurous brands will help them along with reaping huge rewards. We've all seen this coming for a long time, and this is the year it's finally happening. The combination of 5G and augmented reality means instead of ditching math class to catch the next Supreme drop 11 am on your cell phone, you might hunt for the next Supreme VR pop-up in Central Park. Alternatively, Nike may decide to launch their newest Jordan's at VR pop-up stores exclusively in neighborhood basketball courts across the world.”
19. Keith Anderson, SVP, Strategy and Insight at Profitero
“More personalized, experiential, and circular.”‘
20. Stephen Rector, Founder and President of Bakertown Consulting
“The future of retail is strong for those brands that recognize that the customer should be the #1 focus — in terms of product development & design, user experience both in-store and online & logistics on how to get the product to the customer as quickly as possible. For those companies that fail to be customer focused, they will disappear.”
21. Dr. Lucas Lu, CEO of 5Miles
“Today’s high-tech, urbanized environment favors big-box retailers like Walmart and e-commerce giants like Amazon. Centralized operations, though efficient, tend to focus on selling new, standardized products, leading to less durability and more waste. However, we’re starting to see a return to decentralized, localized commerce.”
22. Nate Masterson, Chief Marketing Officer at Maple Holistics
“As social media continues to take over our lives, there is a rising need for retailers to move their companies onto relevant platforms. While brands are already able to let consumers buy products directly from their posts, many people still leave the platform to make a purchase from the site itself. This has the potential to change with considering the consistent rise of social media usage. As this becomes the primary form of communication, it will eventually be the only way to reach consumers.”
23. Kosta Popov, Founder and CEO of Cappasity
“We are now living in a time when customer expectations are changing particularly fast, and retailers that can't keep up get left behind. A consumer who enjoys the online shopping experience at an e-store automatically begins to expect the same level of service from every virtual point of sale.
Thus, the expectation loop is born, and the only thing for retailers to do to get ahead of the curve is to innovate, innovate and innovate.
Emerging 3D technologies are a force poised to drive the revolution in the online shopping experience.”
24. Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group
“More than ever, a holistic shopping experience across all customer touch points is vital for brands. With an increasingly complex customer journey and dozens of customer touch points with brands from apps to websites to brick-and-mortar stores, companies need to present a seamless experience across touch points for customers. As an example, REI, the camping/outdoors clothing company, does a tremendous job providing a great online experience and, for those seeking more information on a product, they’re able to come into a store and speak with a highly knowledgeable expert to match the product to their need. The ability to shop conveniently online complemented by an elevated in-store experience provides REI customers with the best of both worlds.”
25. Vivek Kumar, Founder and CEO of Qlicket
“Outside of the well-known changes coming to the retail industry— such as the rise of e-commerce — workforce obstacles will define the future of retail to a large extent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average employee turnover in the retail industry was 58% in 2018. In other words, only 42% of the average firm's retail workers remained with their employers into 2019. The solution to this problem is cutting avoidable turnover through technology and giving employees a voice. By encouraging workers to provide feedback throughout their workday, companies can bridge the communication gap between management and employees.”
26. Jacquie Young-Sterling, Director of Customer Experience at CompliantIA
“Smaller store formats, stores within stores, exclusive private labels lines, better customer experiences and operating in the niches. The future of retail is broad and exciting for retailers who can think outside of the box, listen to their customers and reinvent themselves without losing themselves.”
27. Alen Paul Silverstein, CEO of Imagination Park Technologies
“Augmented Reality will allow shoppers to try on clothes, shoes, cosmetics in-store prior to purchasing or online — this is called Virtual Try-on (VTO). This AR engagement will excite people and lead up to more purchases similar to what Nike is doing for Sneakers, L'Oréal for cosmetics, and Ikea for furniture purchases. Physical retail stores will leverage AR to provide a gamification experience for shoppers to fully engage the space to participate in scavenger hunts, sweepstakes, and receive on-site purchase coupons for instant redemption. This mixed experience will activate and engage consumers and result in increased personalized shopping experiences.”
28. Robyn M. Bolton, Founder of MileZero
“Shoppers expect a customized and effortless shopping experience and that expectation will soon extend to the products they buy. As more DTC brands, like MTailor (men’s clothing), True Gault (women’s shoes), and Susan Lanci Designs (per products), go mainstream, shoppers will eschew the time and hassle of having mass-produced goods altered to their specifications, and instead opt for tech-enabled fittings at home that result in custom clothes at their doorstep.”
29. Jon Nordmark, CEO and Co-Founder of Iterate.ai
“The future of retail will be driven by artificial intelligence and microservices. How? The holy grail of online retail is in personalization, and it requires AI. Retailers are acquiring AI companies at a faster pace. (Ulta Beauty, for instance, which invested in Iterate, recently acquired an AI firm and an augmented reality startup.) AI is driving personalized chatbots, it’s behind online product bundling, visual search, voice shopping, and in-home devices. Companies will be forced to move faster than ever before. Amazon is driving that race, putting $22 billion into R&D and making 7,000 new AI hires, and doing more AI acquisitions than any other U.S. company.”
30. Amy Webb, Quantitative Futurist and CEO of The Future Today Institute
“The future of shopping will consist of a constellation of mobile app features, augmented and mixed reality mirrors, robots, faceprint checkout kiosks, and voice recognition systems, which are all used to identify you and provide you with an array of services. Retailers, struggling to combat vast online shopping experiences, will start deploying AI-power Digital Associates, thanks to the convergence of AI, voice and facial recognition technology, predictive algorithms, big data, and robotics.”
31. Ville Levaniemi, co-founder of HappyOrNot
“It’s fair to say that traditional retail has been somewhat limited in terms of its service offering, insofar as the sole purpose of the entire shopping process is typically the end purchase, meaning that buyers strictly shopped for products.
Consumers in the retail sector are now predominantly ‘digital millennials’, and this demographic shift has driven a considerable change in consumer behavior. The future of retail is heading towards a more experiential and consumer-centric model, where shoppers prioritize experiences over what’s actually in their shopping bags when they walk out.
At the same time, the power of the customer is increasing. Significant companies have been reduced to rubble overnight because of media savvy disgruntled customers. This means the consumer experience is a new priority for retailers and a necessity for them to survive in the future. ”
32. Rob Maille, Head of Strategy and Customer Experience, CommerceCX
“With the trends we’ve seen taking shape over the last few years, it looks right now as though the future of retail is really about understanding your customer, creating a great experience and extending on both bricks and clicks. This year alone, we’ve seen a few big brands start to implement AI and robotics into their brick and mortar stores as a way to further reduce friction in the shopper experience by incorporating digital into their businesses and better connecting both their online and brick and mortar operations into a more seamless experience for consumers.”
33. Paul Duffy, President of NexTech AR Solutions
“The future of retail lies in creative uses of augmented reality to empower customers by offering a more personalized, fulfilling shopping experience both in-store and online. AR can be paired with a number of other up-and-coming technologies and as well as existing e-commerce infrastructure to create a truly comprehensive, interactive shopping experience. This includes holographic brand ambassadors, high-quality 3D, and 360-degree product imaging, facial recognition to “try on” AR items and artificial intelligence to monitor customer reactions in real time and provide actionable insights, just to name a few.”
34. John Konczal, Product Management and Marketing Leader at Manhattan Associates
“The future of retail belongs to those that fully embrace and invest in omnichannel. Modern customers expect retailers to meet them wherever and whenever they are. To meet the demand of immediacy driven by the rise of BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) and same-day delivery, many retailers are transforming their stores into mini-fulfillment centers. In this context, the accuracy of inventory availability becomes critical to ensure a seamless customer experience across both digital and physical channels. As such, a sophisticated inventory and order management system is crucial to offering successful (and profitable) omnichannel fulfillment.”
35. Mike Funk, Group Strategy Director for R/GA Portland
“There’s a lot of talk around the impending death of retail. The truth is, retail isn’t dead. Old, stagnant formats are. The future of retail will be concept-led, and this means the retail experience will lead with an intention larger than simply product availability and quality service. These are table stakes today and consumers will soon expect much more. Retailers that win will reinvent their spaces to serve as platforms for experiences like education (REI), community (Rapha, Tracksmith), and activity (Nike, Lululemon). But more importantly, these retailers will be able to harness the power of data and leverage the flexibility of digital to ensure the cadence of programming aligns to the rhythm of their consumers' lives, not necessarily their priorities as a brand.”
36. Jimmy Duvall, Chief Product Officer at BigCommerce
“The future of retail will revolve around providing customers a great, convenient experience and ensuring they have options to buy in the way that works best for them. While it's not all that different from the core principles that have guided retail for the last century, technology has reinvigorated the entire experience. Physical retail won't go anywhere, but it will incorporate more customized concierge and on-demand services. Additionally, the opportunity to purchase goods will be more intertwined with our lives, similar to the experience created through Instagram Shopping.”
37. Michael Hardman, CMO at SAIS Group
“The future for retail is in connective strategies. A website for any retail brand is a prerequisite these days (and is already viewed as traditional), a business is not even in the game if they have no digital presence. The next stage for businesses is to understand their consumers and customer interactions, connecting them with everything their business can provide both offline and online. These connective strategies are also related to the various communication channels and digital touch points you can have with your customer from social media, website, app (native or progressive web app), in-car, Al driven product (e.g. Alexa, Siri) — the consumer decides how they want to connect with your brand. These strategies need to be cohesive for the consumer to get what they need out of your organization and this will lead to more businesses looking toward Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to help them manage every aspect of their campaigns.”
38. Franklin Chu, U.S. Managing Director at Azoya
“To glimpse into retail’s future, we can look toward the biggest market in the world: China.
In China, retailers and brands are making transactions faster with simple QR code technology, which allows shoppers to access detailed product information and even pay using a smartphone app. al commerce lowers customer acquisition costs because retail companies leverage their existing customers to market their products with enticing content and incentives to share with their own connections.
Sophisticated marketing, including live streaming videos by influencers, shorten the customer journey by helping to build brand engagement, trust, and credibility.”
39. Erik Huberman, CEO and Founder of Hawke Media
“Retail is not shifting as much as the media will have you believe. However, there are two things that are shifting. The first — people expect an experience when going into brick-and-mortar locations these days. If you have a store that doesn't think about the consumer experience, you are going to struggle. The reason for this is the other shift. People are extremely comfortable purchasing online now. So if they aren't provided additional incentive by visiting a store, they'll happily purchase the product online. That's really why you see so many retailers failing. They are used to just needing to have products on the shelves and that's where their job ends. The ones who have understood this shift have been more or less fine.”
40. Mark Van Zuylekom, General Manager, Australia and New Zealand, at Esendex Australia
“Mobile. Research by Google indicated that people today have 2x more interactions with brands on mobile than anywhere else – tv and in-store included. We talk about multi-channel or omnichannel, but consumers access most of these channels via their mobile phone. Even AR or VR technology retailers adopted rely on mobile to deliver (the Genius App by L’oreal or the IKEA Place App for instance). No matter what channels retailers wish to engage consumers, mobile is the device to get to them, so all content/strategies need to be optimised for mobile.”
41. Emil Waszkowski, Head of Consulting at Future Mind
“Fortunately, physical stores will continue to attract customers – in fact, Forrester estimates that 86% of U.S. retail sales still happen in brick-and-mortar stores. By using technology to their advantage, retailers have already been blending the online and in-store shopping experience to provide new value to their customers and stay competitive. The changing nature of retail, however, is bound to require a more tech-fueled and customer-centered approach from the retailers.”
42. Ethan McAfee, CEO of Amify
“The future of retail is becoming increasingly digital. Brands and retailers are finding that a strong digital presence to augment, not necessarily replace, their brick-and-mortar presence is becoming increasingly crucial to remain competitive. E-commerce is so ingrained in the consumers’ mindset that 66 percent of in-store shoppers will price check a product online before purchase, meaning that consumers appreciate the insight online shopping provides. The ease and convenience of online purchasing is important to consumers, and increasingly correlates with a business’s success.”
43. Rob Keve, Co-founder and CEO of Flow
“We're seeing a rise in Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) and how they're dominating niche markets within categories like ready-to-wear, athleisure, performance wear, and others. DNVB's are already proving to be popular among Millennials, and we expect this trend to continue with Generation Z as they become old enough to make more buying decisions.”
44. Marc Gingras, CEO of Foko Retail
“With the rise of e-commerce taking customers away from traditional
brick-and-mortar retailers, and major chains expanding their product
offerings and speeding up same-day deliveries, it’s important for retailers
to find ways to differentiate themselves, both in-person and online.
Because of that, the future of retail will consist of retailers elevating
the in-store and customer experience in an effort to stand out from the competition, whether that’s through seamless shopping experiences (think click-and-collect and self-checkout lines), boundary-pushing technologies (like augmented reality that help customers try products or AI-assisted selling that offer suggestions), or more personalized and authentic interactions with sales staff and associates.”
45. Mark Smith, President of Kitewheel
“Consumers aren’t making purchasing decisions based on price anymore; they make these decisions based on experience. Since research shows that customers will pay more for a better experience, the future of retail will involve creating ever better–more personal, more seamless, more anticipatory–experiences for customers. The key to a good customer experience is understanding the customer journey–how it happens, where it breaks down, where it can be improved–and using these insights to optimize the journey for each individual customer.”
46. Benny Saban, CEO of Sonarax
“We see a clear trend in bringing back the face to face brick and mortar physical store experience returning, but in a whole different way. After a couple of decades of growth in e-commerce and m-commerce for shopping and other retail support transactions, the capabilities of nearby communication technology is helping to bring shoppers back to the physical stores by re-creating the digital online experience in the real world physical store. This means, immediate service. immediate personalized offers, extending digital re-marketing in-store, all through proximity -marketing and location-based connectivity using mobile phones and beacons. As well, it offers retailers to have a truly multi-channel business as they are able to stay with their customers throughout every payment moment (online, attended and unattended POS). In terms of digital payments, secure authentication, anti-fraud security, we predict that local-based services communication technology will improve greatly.”
47. Brandon Leibel, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of
“Gen Z is the future of retail. Trends move quickly with Gen Z’ers, so constantly keep yourself up to date on the latest, or you’ll find yourself out of touch. You can also appreciate and learn from their social media skills. This is the generation that has mastered the art of self-promotion, so allow yourself to be mentored by them as well.”
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