The Future of Retail in an Online World




  • — February 20, 2019

    E-commerce has reached a point that it seems to threaten traditional brick-and-mortar stores into extinction. The rise of the “online marketplace” has made physical stores irrelevant to those who crave the instant gratification of an always- available store that delivers your purchases at your doorstep.


    While this may mean quick and convenient shopping for consumers, it’s a different story for retailers, who may have to adapt to the changes e-commerce brings with it. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the brick-and-mortar store is not the center of consumerism any longer, but that day may have come. As consumers continue to engage with brands and stores digitally, physical stores will have to evolve or face a rough road ahead.


    Brick-and-mortar stores may be an endangered species, but they can fight extinction if they can adapt and respond to the call of the times.


    If You Can’t Beat Them…


    Joining the e-commerce playing field is vital if brick-and-mortar stores want to keep their foothold in the consumer market. The Internet has opened up doors for many online retailers, and it can do the same for traditional retailers who want the tangibility of a brick-and-mortar store. Social media is a great place to start in making an online presence, since many consumers rely on online reviews to gauge shopper experience. Physical stores and e-commerce can work together to provide the best possible customer experience.


    Retailers must de-prioritize physical locations and find new ways to integrate e-commerce into their operations. They must rethink aspects of the business like the in-store layout to enhance customer experience. The current trend is to shrink floor space and transform the physical store into a “showroom” with less stock to save on logistics and other costs. This way, customers can go to the stores and try out products and the retailer can, in turn, provide unique experiences that can differentiate the brand from competitors.


    Blurred Lines


    One misconception most retailers have is that online is entirely separate from offline shopping. Shoppers today, however, want instant gratification—and this is where a physical store can outplay online-only retailers.


    Because shoppers have come to rely on online reviews for most of their purchases, providing kiosks where store customers can check online reviews will provide them the instant gratification they crave. This allows them to immediately purchase their chosen product immediately after checking the reviews. A number of retailers, like Best Buy, use online reviews as leverage by incorporating QR codes into their in-store product labeling.


    Payless is the Future


    Payless retail systems are automated checkout platforms that eliminate the waiting and long lines at checkout counters. By using a network of cameras and AI learning, this innovative platform speeds up the checkout process and increases overall efficiency of brick-and-mortar stores. Pioneered by Amazon Go, other tech startups like Trigo Vision and AiFi are now offering the platform as a solution to help stores provide a seamless and pleasant experience for shoppers. Even in the Chinese market, companies like BingoBox and F5 Future Store are making sure that Chinese consumers aren’t left behind.


    Currently, the available technology allows the platform to help in pricing and inventory control. A recent report states that automation, in general, will open up 58 million job opportunities by 2022 across all industries, which includes retail. There is also a growing number of startups joining the foray into the retail automation space, which hints at a bright future for the retail industry in general.


    While online shopping is on the rise, brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay—at least for the time being. Until there’s a platform that can provide a completely seamless, hassle-free, and secure solution for both retailers and consumers, the physical store will remain to fill in the gaps.

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    Author: Rotem Gal


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