What Will the Store of the Future Look Like?

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We get asked a lot about what will the store of the future look like. While no one knows for sure, we do know it will be very different because the pace of change will continue to accelerate. Today’s consumers expect more and more from retailers. Consumers are getting tired of many existing concepts. The winning retailer is the creative retailer that knows how to surprise its customers with a concept that is not only more fun, easier and more personal, but above all that is the most relevant and distinctive. In the next five years, the line between online and in-store shopping will continue to blur. It won’t be a question of one or the other, but rather a combination of both with the goal of delivering the best possible customer experience. We are already beginning to see stores experiment in different ways to improve the experience, by concentrating on immersive technology, visual appeal, product freshness, origin and health.

Drive-through pick up locations will continue to become popular as well as showrooms where customers can interact with products and services as well as ask questions before they buy. In order to free up staff to offer more personalized service, we may see robots and touch screens used to tackle the more repetitive tasks like shelf restocking and checking out. The role of the store will change so that it will become a place for people to discover and try new products, improve their skills or acquire knowledge.

Technology will continue to play a more important role in retail. Immersive experiential centers will allow consumers to control the customer experience using technologies such as virtual reality (i.e. any kind of experience that cannot be provided online.)

We may also see brand stores that communicate the brand’s value rather than sell products: community involvement, sharing customer stories and providing product and ordering information. Specialty stores that fill certain niches will continue to be popular. Physical stores will become more closely linked with shoppers’ smartphones to make the shopping process faster and the experience more appealing. This will be accompanied by faster ways to pay, and we’ll see more checkout-free stores. As they enter a store, shoppers will be offered special deals on products tailored to their tastes based on past purchases via their smartphones. It will become harder to resist online shopping as our homes are outfitted with smarter technology and many repeat purchases will be automatically reordered and delivered to the location of our choice.

By 2025 most retailers will have reinvented their space. For grocery that might mean reducing center of store space with more warehouse space in the back. Center store items will be ordered on screen and the rest of the store will be focused on experiences with a focus on fresh and prepared foods. Food is the new fashion and new food concepts are popping up like mushrooms, from market halls to cafés in clothing and book stores.

For fashion and technology, inspiration will play a big role. In addition to the permanent layout of the store, they will need room for flexible departments in order to capitalize on new themes, experiences, interactions and campaigns. A surprising store is in constant motion, because this is what keeps customers coming; curious and interested to see what surprises the store has to offer this time.

Malls will need to focus on food, entertainment, music and activities to engage future shoppers. It ‘s also becoming more important for shopping centers to tell a strong story and stand out because too many shopping centers are interchangeable.

If we look 20 years ahead, new technologies, not yet invented, will be helping to make shopping more convenient and compelling. The physical and digital worlds will merge to offer new services that we can only imagine today. If you’d like us to come talk to your team about the store of the future and retail trends, contact us.

Anne Stephenson
Partner, Explorer Research

anne stephenson

Retail