A brave new world of retail. And it's here now.
We live in an age where things are now stored in clouds, services are purchased straight out of thin air and you can tap and go wherever you go.
From Air B’n’B to Hola and Uber Eats, we have a borderless society, yet anarchy doesn’t reign. As comfort, new positive experiences and speed are the drivers behind an empowered universe.
The shifting way we travel, book trips and even eat, is slowly spreading its tentacles into a new space – retail. China and USA are in the forefront at the moment, but Australia is quickly catching up.
The future of retail
Forward thinking retail experts believe that within a decade, bricks and mortar shopping experiences will transform in two key ways.
First, shopping will become an entertaining experience for trying new products and services, rather than a repetitive chore for purchasing and picking up things to bring home.
Second, shopping annoyances like long customer service lines to frustrating searches for sold out items, will be eliminated.
Here are just a few of the features that are coming in the not-so-distant future. George Jetson would be proud.
Stores that recognise you
Get ready to say goodbye to checkout waits. And you probably won’t even need cash, credit cards, a wallet or even a smartphone.
The future of shopping will have technology that detects your face and track your purchasing behaviour.
Retail prototypes like the Amazon GO store show where things are headed. This store prototype dramatically increases convenience, with payments made via a virtual shopping cart rather than an old-fashioned checkout line.
Even your car could be your wallet for that next run to the drive-thru liquor store or burger joint too. This is already being tested by a handful of shopping centres in Australia to eliminate long lines at the gates of parking stations.
Love for the haters
Retail space will be fitted out with more experiences and lifestyle choices in mind over actual vendors.
Do you find shopping boring? Then head over to China where “husband pods” opened this year at a mall in China. You can see once-bored dudes zoning out with video games in glass enclosures rather than being dragged around from store to store.
Weird? Yes. But it’s also a great example of what retailers and malls are doing. The act of physically going shopping is no longer a necessity – but there are still some clever ways to maximise ones time in a shopping centre.
Retailers have been trying to merge online and in-store operations for years. The full synchronisation of the two experiences will soon be at hand.
This means that - in the same way a website knows who you are when you’re shopping online – stores will soon be able to identify you in the aisles via facial recognition and retrieve your browsing and purchase history instantly.
Convenient or creepy? You can decide! Facial recognition has the same benefits of online shopping, like one-click purchasing, easy free shipping, and endless information like price comparisons and product history from touch screens or voice command.
Stores won’t be restricted by what they happen to have in stock or even by what manufacturers produce. Take running shoes. In the future there will be no restrictions on what size, colour, and style of sneaker you can purchase. All they need is your face and mobile phone to make that custom pair of Nikes.
In fact, stores of the future have been described as “living websites.”
Chinese Supermarket giant, Alibaba, who is worth more than $US500 billion, has launched a chain of hybrid stores, Hema, that merge the online and offline worlds in the one place.
The 48 “new retail” supermarkets called Hema drive sales via their Hema App as well as in-store. In fact, 40% of their sales are made in-store, while 60% of the sales take place via the Hema app.
The shopping experience is next level too. Imagine bags spinning around the ceiling with fresh, live seafood on display in giant aquariums that consumers can choose and have cooked onsite.
The point of this type of shopping is to offer the convenience of in-app purchasing while gaining a cool experience in-store unlike anywhere else.
Try before you buy
Retailers will shift to encouraging consumers to interact with products—to explore and play with the idea this will result in improved sales in the long run.
Last year, Samsung opened a 40,000 square-foot “immersive cultural centre” in New York City that doesn’t stock any products for sale.
Instead, it boasts a three-story wall of digital screens, a multimedia studio, and a demo kitchen designed for showing off things like smart appliances.
It welcomes the public by hosting parties, movie screenings, book signings, and talks by people like wine industry entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk.
What will Australian retailers introduce to our island shores to ensure that our shopping experience is optimal?