Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in Behind the Shelf Blog, Future of Retail

by Dave Wendland, vice president strategic relations

It almost goes without saying that the retail landscape next year will look nothing like today. And tomorrow’s consumer will be shopping entirely differently than they did yesterday. I hope this post helps you imagine the future of retail, and inspires you to make it a reality.

Mobile first

Just think, the first smartphone was introduced to consumers in 1994, and now this handheld computer is owned by about 8 in 10 Americans. A decade ago, when looking for ideas and inspiration, a shopper would search online from their desktop, browse a catalog, or walk the store aisles. Today, more shoppers immediately turn to their mobile device as their first choice to look up information or make choices.

Prediction: Shopping micro moments and lasting impressions will begin with mobile.

Hearing voices

While big retailer players are making large investments in voice technology, it is still very much in its infancy and there are many challenges that will need to be overcome before its use becomes truly widespread. However, it will become mainstream, and very soon consumers will simply expect to use their voice as a preferred interface while shopping. In fact, there are predictions that by the end of 2021, more than 1.6 billion people will use voice assistants on a regular basis.hand holding a crystal ball

Prediction: Voice-assisted shopping (and recommended purchases) will shape the shopping experience.

Seamless retail

As you may already know, I’ve never been a fan of “omnichannel” as a term when used to describe a separate consumer interaction driven through an e-commerce site. Rather, I’ve often spoken of “anytime, anywhere, any which way” retail. In other words, the act of creating a consistent and engaging shopping experience regardless of platform.

Prediction: Savvy retailers will recognize that the walls between the siloed channels must come down and the focus must be on the consumer – regardless of how or where they interact.

 Augmenting reality

You may think that augmented reality (AR) is all for fun and games like Pokemon Go or Snapchat filters. But from virtual fitting rooms to the ability to view products in a home or on a person’s body before a purchase is made, AR is redefining shopping. This far-reaching technology has nearly limitless potential in the areas of clothing and beauty, not to mention home healthcare, landscaping, and the home improvement industries.

Prediction: Brands and retailers will be scrambling to catch up to the potential that this technology brings – expecting to attract nearly 1 billion users by 2020.

Diagnosing OTCs

A few years back I hypothesized that self-diagnostics could be combined with OTC products to truly advance patient care, compliance, and condition management. Although there have only been a handful of introductions along these lines (including the recent announcement of bandages that features electrodes that send pulses that may speed the healing process for wounds from weeks to just days).

Prediction: Putting healthcare into the hands of consumers will accelerate.

Curated solutions

One size does not fit all, therefore retailers that recognize and cater their offerings to consumers’ specific needs will shine. Look for solutions beyond meal kits, vitamin packs, and clothing. The possibilities of other types of curated solutions are limited only by the imagination.

Prediction: Smart retailers will begin offering smarter solutions.

There is no crystal ball for the retail industry. No ideal “store of the future” or perfect innovative product. The key is to develop concepts and test them with customers as rapidly as possible. The winners within our industry will be those that can learn and improve the fastest.

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