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The Future of Retail: A Perspective on Emerging Technology and Store Formats

Platt Retail Institute

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This PRI Research Article examines the history of retail technology adoption in the U.S., emerging technology that is impacting retail today, and how retail store formats will change in the future and integrate various digital technologies.

The Emerging Trends section of the Research Article addresses several of the challenges retailers are facing today. Technologies that affect the customer experience and influence consumer behavior are discussed, including: the rise of online shopping; showrooming; the use of social media for product reviews and instant feedback; access to price comparisons; and the integration of smartphones with other retail technologies, among many others.

Retailers are striving to target messaging and marketing to their customers to create a unique, personalized shopping experience. The foundation for this customization is the attempt to harness a massive amount of data that is available to retailers and channel it to the benefit of both the retailers and their customers. A major challenge for retailers is harnessing Big Data and carrying out the analytics that make the data meaningful.

The Store of the Future section presents a look at possible future retail formats and customer interface technology. In addition to traditional retail stores, possible future store formats may include:

  • Drive-through pick-up locations, as some shoppers will move away from large stock-up shopping trips to more targeted, time-efficient, needs-based trips.
  • Product showrooms that enable the customer to interact with/try out products, as well as interact with sales associates and other customers (both physically and remotely).
  • Immersive experiential centers, as technology will enable shoppers to control their shopping experience. These stores will be venues for collaboration and experiences that cannot be provided online.
  • Brand stores that focus more on promoting the brand than on selling merchandise, communicating the brand’s values, social and community involvement, and conveying customer stories, as well as providing product/service information and ordering.
  • Community service stores in which retailers will provide services that local communities can no longer afford to offer, and locate stores within or near community facilities such as libraries or recreation centers.
  • Specialty stores that will continue to fill certain niches, as well as evolve.

The goal of this Research Article is to inform the reader about the disruptive changes occurring in the retail industry, and to help retailers prepare for and embrace evolving retail formats and technologies.