Caroline Baldwin expert panel image.
Expert Panel

Essential Retail Editor Caroline Baldwin Shares Her Thoughts on the Future of Retail

Feb 11, 2020

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 the Editor of Essential Retail Caroline Baldwin.

What personally excites you the most about the retail industry? 

CB: It’s such a huge industry and makes up a significant slice of our economy – and I think there is so much hope, despite the doom and gloom of the ‘death of the high street’ headlines and I get excited when I see savvy retailers and start-up brands doing interesting things with technology and store design which could potentially disrupt the norm.

What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years? 

CB: The biggest change retail has undertaken in recent years is being thrown under the sustainability spotlight. So many sectors of retail are historically not environmentally friendly (just look at fashion), but the industry so far has done a good job of trying to turn this around and I think this will be a huge focus for many in the coming years too.

What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years? 

CB: I personally get excited visiting a new, interactive store, or using a slick payment method so I’ve checked out online in two seconds. For me retail is about being fast and slow at the same time – either give me such a good experience I spend an hour in your store, or make it as easy and convenient as possible so I’m done in a minute. But the key here is anticipating a customer’s needs so you can serve them in the way they want at the right moment.

What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5? 

CB: There are so many, but much of the amazing customer experience we keep talking about relies on tidying up the technology powering retail which sits behind the scenes. Many retailers are still stuck in legacy systems and struggle to connect their multiple data points, so I think some of the biggest impacts will be finally overtaking those hurdles in the next few years, along with the fact that RFID has come down in price to a point it is starting to be widely adopted and enabled accuracy store inventory. If retailers get all of these “boring” back-end technologies rolled-out, they can start having fun with the customer-facing technology that grabs all the headlines.

What’s the future of brick and mortar retail? 

CB: I believe physical retail is here to stay, but retailers need to make sure they captivate customers and give them a reason to leave their homes and visit a real store. There are some fantastic examples of truly innovative stores out there – Glossier, Nike, MatchesFashion, Amazon Go, CAMP, Selfridges to name a few – what they all have in common is they’re interesting. Retail isn’t dead, but boring retail may soon be.


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