What retail will look like in 2040

RetailME Bureau

Fast forward 20 years, retail and the way commerce is conducted within it will be noticeably different than today, states research firm Euromonitor International. The lines between real and virtual will increasingly blur as consumers routinely layer virtual over reality. Technology will continue to reshape the world.

Former retail outlets will shift into micro experiential centres, helping consumers discover and test products for later drone delivery to the preferred address. Restaurants might have ‘smart’ menu boards, personalised to each diner. In addition, restaurants will evolve with one set dedicated to dine-in and the other for delivery. Convenience stores will likely be the only outlets with inventory.

The retail journey is no longer just about the end-point, the purchase. The ideal journey should provide value before, during and after the purchase, converting a transaction into a relationship. For retailers finding it difficult to compete on price alone, the customer journey can differentiate when done right. Physical outlets remain a critical part of today’s shopping journey, both in terms of brand engagement or purchase execution and continue to play a role in 2040, though their functions will evolve.

Having that said, technological advances are increasingly detaching the purchase decision from a physical outlet. Smart retailers will leverage technology to remove the hassles of shopping for mundane purchases, while tapping into the innate curiosity to see, feel and experience specific products.

Stores will exist to sell impulse purchases and irregularly purchased convenience goods. Technology, like wearables and voice, will guide consumers throughout the store. Products will automatically be added to a virtual shopping cart upon selection, while robots will be leveraged for customer service and inventory management.

Overall, the rise of digital commerce will lead to a redesign of storefronts and delivery. Stores catering to the consumer desire for convenience will create separate entrances for pick-up of online orders. On the other hand, experiential centres will be built to enable consumers to touch, feel and experience products that require more consideration. In addition, by leveraging technology retailers will be able to identify consumers when they enter the environment, rather than waiting until they checkout and pay for the goods.

In many ways, the next stage of development will require more changes to infrastructure than what was previously required. Retail centres will require not only a technological upgrade but a redesign to prepare for the consumer in 2040. Many of tomorrow’s retail stores will carry less inventory, repurposing the space into a consumer-facing experiential centre. Entertainment venues will deploy flexible designs to shift from one event type to another. Entertainment operators will adjust the venue’s layout to meet the need for different food and delivery options.