Retail reworked: the future role of the store

The traditional retail model is changing, and brands must innovate in order to survive.
8 June 2018

Today’s retailers, to survive, need to transform their omnichallel experience. Source: Shutterstock

When you envision the store of the future, what do you see?

Perhaps instead of the average shop assistant, you will be greeted by a fleet of robots. Using facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence, they will offer you suggestions based on your past spending habits.

Once you find your desired outfit, you can view directly how it looks on you, through a projection of a 3-D hologram of yourself.

After discovering just how great that floral shirt looks on “3-D you”, simply walk out of the shop – no need to wait in line at a checkout, since shop sensors have recorded what you’ve picked up and will charge you via your mobile wallet.

What will the future of retail look like? Source: Shutterstock

And if you don’t fancy carrying the shirt home, don’t sweat! Have a drone drop the delivery straight to your front door.

While these visions may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, none of these features are hypothetical. These are all innovations that are either currently being tested or are already happening.

Tales of a dying retail

As retail moves increasingly online, many have questioned the survivability of the physical store.

Highstreet stores are experiencing unprecedented levels of closures of recent. UK retailer Marks and Spencers have recently revealed plans to close a total of 100 shops by 2022. And this 134-year-old cherished supermarket chain is not alone in this.

Many big-named retailers are closing many of their stores. Source: Shutterstock

But is it all doom and gloom for the brick-and-mortar store? Will the future of shopping be purely online?

Perhaps not. Rather, due to the digital revolution, the tradition retail model is changing, and to avoid the risk of being left being, businesses must adapt.

With more choice and convenience provided to customers than ever before with the rise of online e-commerce sites, retailers are looking for new ways to make their stores relevant to customers.

Physical stores will need to deliver value in new and exciting ways. According to Oliver Wyman’s “Retails Revolution” report, this includes a focus on convenience, experience and customer service.

Experience and social engagement

While we are seeing a rise in online sales, physical stores are still very much needed for human interaction.

In fact, according to a report by Bain & Company, while 70 percent of high-end purchases are influenced by online interactions, stores will continue to play a very vital role. 75 percent of sales are still occurring in a physical location by 2025.

It seems that the holy grail for retailers is creating a digital experience for customers. Those who leverage technology and data to create bespoke shopping experiences for each individual shopper are likely to come out on top.

Here a few examples of businesses doing just that:

Brand storytelling

Manhattan-based concept store Story, charges brand owners for the innovative experiences it creates to showcase products.

Like a magazine, the store gets a complete makeover with a new design, inventory, and marketing message every four to eight weeks.

Every new cycle has a new theme, with ones in the past including love, home for the holidays, and beauty. The products that come into the store are consistent with the theme, as are the sales associates who know how to promote the items.

Brands, retailers, and corporations pay from US$500,000 for a feature slot. Such features have in the past included “His Story,” sponsored by Braun, Old Spice, and Gillette, with a hot towel shave station offering visitors free shaves daily.

Story has fantastically transformed retail into entertainment, addressing the issue of a “dying retail” by giving consumers a reason to come in-store.

The innovative retail store has recently been acquired by 159-year-old US department store Macy’s, appointing Story’s founder Rachel Schectman as its new “brand experience officer”.

The creativity of Story’s marketing and merchandising can revitalize areas of the old department store that need it most.

A focus on customer service and value

Last year, Nordstrom (a retailer known for 100,000+ square-foot stores) opened up an inventory-free concept in Los Angeles.

Why? Instead of selling inventory, this store is service-oriented, catering to local customers. Customers are able to pick up their online orders here, but there but also do much more.

The store includes an alteration and tailoring service, personal styling, as well as a nail salon and bar.

This example of Nordstrom Local highlights the need for retail to focus on the local community and provide personalized customer service.

Using tech to create exciting experiences

Many brands are bringing in innovative technologies to create powerful experiences for their customers.

Holition is an augmented-reality consultancy and software provider that has been working with some well-known retail brands. Last year, it worked with British cosmetics company Charlotte Tilbury on a “magic mirror”

This tool allowed shoppers to virtually try on different makeup looks that are digitally superimposed onto their faces in 40 seconds.

Users could then send the photos to their email addresses, with the ability to refer to them later or share them on social media. If they like a certain look, a shop assistant can grab them the products for them to purchase.

So, is retail dying? Most certainly not. Just the boring ones.