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 it’s headed.
The following is from an interview with Joanne Heyob, SVP, Operations Strategy & Design, WD Partners
** This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
JH: I am personally excited about the fact that retail isn’t dying—it’s evolving! Consumers still want the experience of going to brick and mortar locations. It is up to the retailers to deliver the essence of their brand/lifestyle through well-told stories and passionate brand ambassadors. The brands that invest in stores will be the ones who come out on top and show their longevity in the industry.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
JH: Consumers are more informed than ever before. In some cases, they are more well-versed than in-store associates. They can research products and compare brands all from the comfort of their home using a mobile device. Consumers are all about convenience and want retailers who can provide products and services quickly. Amazon’s growth is a testament to this impact.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
JH: Pop-ups, small formats, and showrooms are what retailers are exploring right now to test new concepts, reach new consumers in urban markets and optimize inventory. Food offerings that are a unique extension of a brand are another way to create memorable experiences. Pop-ups are low risk and can help retailers maximize peak times of the year without the long-term lease commitment. Adding food offerings can create a social aspect to retail that has been missing.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
JH: Augmented and virtual reality will have a big impact in the next 3-5 years providing consumers the ability to experience products and services in a more interactive way—essentially a “try before you buy” service. This could be a huge advantage to retailers who currently struggle with the influx of online returns to stores.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
JH: Experiential retail providing a full immersion into the brand lifestyle is where retail is headed. Brands that embrace change and take action will win—but it has to be changed at all levels—not just the physical space. The operating model, the technology integration and changes to the supply chain all must evolve to support the ever-changing consumer needs.