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What will retail look like in 2040?

By Marjorie van Elven


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So much has changed in retail in the last twenty years that it may seem almost impossible to predict what the next 20 years have in store. But market research firm Euromonitor did just that. The company just published a white paper exploring how technology can change commerce and consumer behavior over the next two decades. Here are its main takeaways:

Shopping is a journey

Physical stores will continue to exist and play a significant role in people’s lives, but their function will evolve. Purchases in brick and mortar stores used to be purely transactional, but today shopping is the final stage of a journey of relationship-building with a brand. “The ideal journey provides value before, during and after the purchase',' explains Euromonitor. As commerce becomes possible via an ever-growing number of devices and platforms, brick and mortar shops will be just one among several instruments for brand awareness and relationship-building.

Euromonitor forecasts physical stores to be the place to see, feel, touch and experience products that require more consideration, which will prompt physical retail to become more and more experiential. According to the market research firm, “seeing or trying a product before buying” is already the main motivation for shopping in store for 47 percent of today’s connected consumers around the world, which is why retailers like Canada Goose are offering fitting-rooms inside freezers so shoppers can determine how outdoor jackets will fair in a freezing environment. “While technologies such as virtual reality or 3D imaging mimic the in-person experience outside of the physical outlet, other characteristics of in-store shopping may be harder to replicate”, Euromonitor says.

Technology will make brick and mortar retail more convenient and personalized

Euronitor also predicts technology to make shopping in physical stores much easier and more convenient. Facial scanning is likely to be used as a means to make the retail experience more personalized, with consumers being able to test clothes or beauty products virtually and pay for their purchases automatically upon exiting 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. Virtual stylists will tell consumers which items in the store match the clothes they already own.

Our entire home will be a shop

For Euromonitor, the era of the Internet of Things has only just begun. “By 2040, connected appliances will be mainstream, especially in developed markets”, says the company in its report. The purchase of goods that require continuous replenishment, such as home care products, is bound to transition from active to passive: consumers will be able to adjust the settings of their devices so that they automatically order certain supplies when they run out.

In addition, our homes are set to become even more personalized: pre-configured profiles based on face and/or voice recognition will automatically adjust lighting, room temperature and music choice for each family member; fridges will help us to keep track of how healthy our diet is; connected mirrors will serve as personal stylist, purchase channel and social sharing tools; and devices will suggest products to consumers based on their lifestyle and what they already own.

The big question is: are you ready for all this? What’s your business doing to prepare for the changes to come?

Photo: Pexels, courtesy of Canada Goose

internet of things