What the retail store of the future will look like

BYOD retail, home manufacturing, super personalisation and… vending machines? Sean Boiling paints a picture of what the future will look like when you walk into a store.

Offering exciting technology-driven in-store experiences is about to become a key focus in Australia as new approaches converge digital and physical in-store retail. The future is unlike anything we’ve seen before and the bricks and mortar store definitely has an important role to play.

Ecommerce and online shopping have reinvented how consumers want to shop and the ease with which they can do so. Australian consumers are still way ahead of Australian retailers and want personalised shopping experiences that are convenient, interactive and provide unprecedented choice, whether they want to shop from home, in a physical store or on the go via mobile.

In the 12 months to June 2014, Australians spent $15.5 billion on online retail. This level is equivalent to 6.6% of spending at traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers according to the results of NAB’s recent ‘Online Retail Sales Index’. Marketers and business leaders need to appreciate that customers don’t see channels, they just see brands. Marketing is part of technology and technology is now pivotal to marketing ROI.

Technology is moving back into the store with savvy retailers now considering ways they can excite their customers through automating more of the shopping process – think scan a barcode and go, using gesture browsing on interactive screens, providing Google Glass to store assistants and offering geolocation services for time-poor customers.

At this year’s Online Retailer event in Sydney, we were part of ‘The Future Store’, an interactive display of what retail experiences will be like in the next couple of years. Visitors engaged with interactive simulations of ground-breaking but commercially available technologies such as smart product placement, drone delivery, digital wallet, self-checkout, gesture based window shopping, customer recognition and 3D body scanning.

With the customer at the heart of doing business, technology is set to revolutionise the in-store experience. Soon we will be talking about how ‘online’ selling is traditional. In-store technology experiences are about to explode. But, to prepare for the next wave of retail transformation, marketers need to champion an easy and enjoyable path to purchase on every channel their customers want to engage with.  It’s no longer going to be enough just to have an ‘ecommerce’ or ‘digital’ experience it must be a seamless brand experience.

General Pants is an example of a retailer that is successfully blending interactive technology into the bricks and mortar store experience. Their kiosks enable customers to take images, share with their friends and read reviews while in the store. If customers are keen to use Instagram why not capture that photo in-store?

Technology can work in many different situations to improve the customer experience and companies need to think outside silos and channels to remain competitive. So, what’s the future going to look like when you walk into a store? Perhaps something like this:

  • BYOD retail – with a digital wallet you’ll be able to bring your own smart phone into a store, pick up a product, tap its barcode to your smart phone and instantly pay and go. Your receipt will be sent via text or email to you. No more standing in line. Self-serve just got a whole lot smarter and faster.
  • Home manufacturing – with your own 3D printer at home you’ll be able to buy the design and print your own tableware at home in the latest spring/summer patterns and styles. You could print off a matching vase to as a centrepiece for your next BBQ.
  • Super personalisation – think gesture browsing Minority Report style and really smart advertising that understands you contextually with relevant offers that your suit your lifestyle preferences.
  • Vending machines – are for more than chips and drinks. They are a network of stores that can sell across shopping centres, train stations, bus stops and airports. In other countries, companies are using them to sell fresh flowers, make-up, phone chargers, clothing and much more.

Australia’s vibrant street shops and large shopping centres will continue to exist it’s just that the mechanics of shopping will be different – more consumer driven, faster and offering unique experiences.

Sean Boiling is head of service delivery, APJ, at Hybris Software.