How will Retail change in the next 10 years? A prediction for the future…
(First published in Dutch by Ronald de Groot)
In the next 10 years the retail landscape will change beyond recognition, as we will see more change in that period than we have done in the last 50.
If one predicts exactly what the retail sector will actually look like, then you’re bound to be wrong. Because, who could predict 10 years ago what Facebook and Google would look like today, who’d have thought then that Apple would introduce the iPhone in 2007 which completely transformed the mobile sector (and has challenged the status quo in Marketing).
Today’s consumer is addicted to the internet via their smart phone and the media we consume: we chat via Whatsapp, watch Youtube clips and Netflix films, book an Uber taxi and date via Tinder. The 1999 consumer could not have predicted how their lives and behaviour would change. In the meanwhile we have welcomed Augmented Reality (AR), chatbots, Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our lives.
We live in a digital world where vast and rapid innovation are order of the day, so any prediction today could be obsolete tomorrow.
Retail is shopping and more often than not, we already shop whenever it suits us – 24/7. Although today we migrate online when the physical shops are closed, in 10 years’ time we probably don’t have to worry about shop opening times. For a retailer to exist, means to be available whenever. Consumers’ expectations are high and they will increasingly become more demanding – on-demand access to all products and services via their connected device of choice. They do not expect a difference between what they experience online and offline. In fact on or off line will be concepts of the past, as our world will be interwoven and organisations don’t see different channels or silos. The total focus will be on the client, where the Brands are competing to be part of the consumers’ world and environment.
A no-channel world where personalisation is the order of the day, where technology and algorithms determine on a person by person basis which automatically produced message to send at the most relevant moment, and via the most relevant medium.
Generation Y and Z will be the most important consumers, generations who grew up with the internet, social media and instant messaging, and for whom the smart phone is their primary device. Generations with a mobile number and a social media account, rather than an email address – for these generations email then is the equivalent of the post box today. They will expect tailored, real time advice and service via chat and video. Shop Direct has integrated conversational technology on Very’s mobile app to answer customer queries in real time.
Whatsapp will be a version more akin to Wechat today in China. ‘Conversational commerce’ will be a combination of personal service, contact, advice and sales process that is driven across all communication channels with the consumer. AI driven chat-bots will communicate via speech, videos or chat in such a way that the consumer no longer knows (or cares) whether they are communicating with a human or not. Today we already see the development of selling, advice and service via Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, be that supported by chat bots or not.
Being online 24/7 will be even more important than today and the smartphone will function as a remote control for everything in our environment. That said, it is unlikely that in 10 years we still use devices such as laptops, smartphones or tablets. Instead we’ll use smart devices with flexible screens, which are connected to our own personal cloud based environment. The discussion around data ownership will be a lively one! We’ll see more clever start-ups like DataCoup, who will configure your data to your advantage in your contact with the rest of the world.
Other than screens, there will be further developments in nano technology, which weaves the internet into ordinary daily products. We won’t just see digital tables and mirrors, we’ll see clothing with interactive ‘screens’. Jacquard is already a project both Google and Levi’s are working on today.
AR and VR will play a huge role in the whole retail experience. New Look have already launched augmented-reality photo booths instore. AR will blur the border between the online and real world. We will be able to really experience products in the comfort of our own home before deciding to purchase, which will significantly reduce the return rates. The offline shopping experience will increasingly become a leisure activity driven by the quality of the entertainment (food & drink) available in the High Street or shopping centre, as well as the instore experience with interactive mirrors and walls. The retailer’s objective is to give the customer a total day-out experience, where the product is relevant, the service personal and payment is efficient.
AR and VR will enter the consumer’s everyday life via smart lenses, which will lead to a totally new and improved online experience. The use of smart lenses will grow exponentially, much like the mobile phone in the 80’s and 90’s.
And finally, we’ll be able to voice activate Apps and control them with our hands – much like Magic Leap is already experimenting with.
Of course, this could be completely wrong and we might return to chalk and slate, but I just don’t think so somehow…