Retail has undergone some of the fastest and most profound changes of any business sector this past year. 2017 has already brought plenty of new milestones and developments driven by changing consumer behavior, mobile, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other trends. The key factor in all of this is the impact technology is having on the retail experience.
Here are four trends we’re sure to see develop more in 2017:
1. So-called “boundary-less” retail will spread.
Retailers are working furiously to appeal to time-strapped, distracted, pulled-in-all-directions consumers. Distributed commerce gets that goal closer to reality — no longer do customers have to be online or in a physical store to shop or make a purchase.
2. Augmented and virtual reality will be explored at a deeper level.
Smart retailers will start exploring how advancements in machine learning, deep analytics and artificial intelligence can deliver a more targeted, personal and enriched shopping experience in earnest.
3. Experiences still matter at the store level.
Our research shows that two out of three shoppers gravitate to stores because they provide the opportunity to see, feel and interact with products. In 2017 and beyond, what will separate great physical retailers from the merely good ones will be the experiences they can deliver to consumers.
While we’re still very much in an exploration phase, it might mean everything from rethinking the fitting room (which consumers hate) to exploring creative ways to draw shoppers in (e.g. social media influencers onsite to offer fashion advice, emerging or established music acts).
4. Amazon Go is not the last example of an automated retail experience.
As others have noted, robotics will change the face of retail in simple ways at first — perhaps performing such functions as checking stock or getting inventory from the back. Although it won’t happen instantaneously, we will see a marked increase of automated and AI technologies in retail — and to combat the potential job losses, there will be increased focus on preparing retail professionals for this evolving reality.