Why Retail Is Changing and What's Next

As a strategist, I constantly do research that helps us predict what the shopping experience will be like in the future. This helps us help our clients as they look for ways to make their brands interesting and grab consumers’ attention.

In the early days of retail, things were simple. There were no aisles, brands, coupons or 50-percent-off sales. A salesperson showed you one option of a product and you either bought it or jumped on your horse and rode home.

Here are my top 10 predictions for what retail will look like in the next 10 years.

  1. Death of the salesperson: Today’s consumers know what they want before they enter the store. Consumers either buy directly online or research before they go shopping. In the future, a store’s “staff” may be technology rather than human.
  2. Kill the checkout line: Swiping your card or handing over cash will be old-fashioned. Consumers will be able to virtually purchase in the store or simply use their phone or watch to pay. Starbucks is already developing a crossover wallet app, which will not only keep its customers from waiting in line at Starbucks, but at other retailers as well.
  3. Return of the milkman: Home delivery will be expected. Amazon’s two-day delivery has made customers demand products at their front door almost instantly. Instacart is a service that will deliver groceries in one hour.  And it won’t be long before Amazon drones deliver online purchases in minutes.
  4. 100 percent transparency: In today’s world where content is abundant, consumers want to and can find out anything. Soon, retailers will need to reveal the truth behind all their products, from ingredients to where the products are made to the person who actually created them. Pilgrim's Chicken allows consumers to scan their products to get detailed background information, including the farm the chicken came from.
  5. Personalized products: Brands personalize their products by offering multiple versions, scents and sizes. It won’t be long before we start purchasing personalized products from 3-D printers like Mink and grocery stores like Unverpackt in Germany, where there is no packaging, brands or plastic.
  6. Societal influences on retail choices: Societal issues affect the way retailers organize and sell products. Target recently announced that it is moving toward gender-neutral signage. Tesco, a European grocery chain, started its sugar reduction program by announcing it will reduce the amount of sugar across all of the soft drinks it offers.
  7. Enjoyable and entertaining shopping experiences: Going to the grocery store can be a chore. Target is working to obtain an alcohol license for a store in Chicago so its consumers can drink while they shop, turning shopping from a task to entertainment.
  8. Retailer unification: Loyalty programs, such as Plenti, bring retailers together for a common purpose. Consumers are able to earn points that can be spent across multiple retailers, making those retailers more of a team than competitors.
  9. In-the-moment shopping: Today’s consumers expect instant gratification, and retailers will soon be anywhere and everywhere, whether that’s through a store on wheels or even a store on the subway.
  10. Rewarding consumers for lifestyle behaviors rather than shopping behaviors: Wellcoin and Walgreens’ new healthy-living loyalty program rewards consumers with gift cards and coupons.

In the past, the store had all the control. Today, control has shifted back to the consumer, which is affecting the role of retailers in the market.

About Annie Pryatel: 

As a Northlich strategist Annie is focused on understanding the feelings and behaviors of consumers to build better brands and drive innovative ideas. She works with Northlich’s clients to help identify new trends, collaborate on strategic recommendations and bring new ideas to the forefront.