This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where’s it’s headed.
The following is from a recent interview with Bob Negen, co-founder and visionary, WhizBang! Retail Training.
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
BN: The thing that I’m most excited about is a retail business’s ability to have an impact on the communities we serve. As independent, brick and mortar retailers, we have the opportunity to be an integral part of the fabric of the communities we serve. We employ people, often times with their very first jobs, we sponsor sports teams, we contribute to local causes… we make a difference! I believe that independent retailers are the heart and soul of communities everywhere, and I find that incredibly exciting.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
BN: The biggest change I’ve seen is the speed at which new stores are succeeding… or failing. With the rise of social media everything has a chance to go viral; the good, the bad and the ugly. This means new stores will have an enormous amount of success if they provide an exceptional experience that people want to share. However, the opposite is also true, and a store that offers a subpar experience is going to quickly find themselves out of business.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
BN: I think an intense focus on the customer experience will take over retail in the near future. It’s the sort of competitive advantage that Amazon is simply never going to be able to replicate. I truly think that the experience of going to an amazing retail store has an inherent value, and that retailers who embrace that value as their guiding philosophy will absolutely flourish in the next three to five years.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
BN: Artificial intelligence and machine learning used to only be the domain of companies listed on the NASDAQ. But these technologies are quickly becoming more affordable and approachable for small businesses. I think we’re going to see an absolute sea change in the way stores manage their buying, assortment planning and customer relationships as small to mid-size retail stores start to leverage technology in their business.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
BN: I have truly never been more optimistic about the future of retail. With increasing access to so many incredible tools, small business people have more opportunity than ever to find their niche and create amazing experiences for their customers. In my new book I write that “Independent Retail is the next disruptor,” and this is not hyperbole at all. As consumers become more experiential, independent, brick and mortar retail will find itself on the forefront of a movement away from impersonal buying, and towards personalized, experience-based shopping.