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.
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
DK: At the heart of brick and mortar retail is the personal connection with customers. As a scholar of marketing, I’m interested in the psychological side. So what’s most interesting to me is how consumers are responding to major changes in the industry.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
DK: After all these years, in terms of dramatic change, I still have to go with e-commerce! Technologies such as the internet of things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and others are each going to have dramatic impacts on the industry. But e-commerce has quite literally changed people’s daily behavior, not just in the US but around the world. I recently saw a statistic that over two billion people now shop online. So the dramatic change is that it has become so mainstream that consumers now take it for granted that online ordering is an option.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
DK: It seems clear that online sales and deliveries are leading to fewer people shopping in traditional retailers. Therefore, brick and mortar stores are going to have to both change the shopping environment and find new revenue streams. As a result, it is quite likely that we are going to see a lot more creativity around the store experience. In some cases this reimagining may involve offering additional experiences or classes, blurring the lines between stores and museums or theme parks. In other cases, it may involve more mobile pop-up stores that may go to the customer rather than ask for the customer to come to it. But I think we are entering a period of experimentation as brick and mortar stores try to solve the puzzle.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
DK: I’d predict quite a bit more data sharing and integration between the customer and the company. It’s already fairly common for customers to have some level of access to whether a product is in stock or not. I think we’ll see retailers find new and interesting ways to take this to the next level. For example, a supermarket could notify a customer of how busy a store is before they make their typical trip. This would require both the retailer and the customer to provide access to some data.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
DK: Perhaps paradoxically, the winners of our technology-driven retail world will not be the ones with the most advanced technology, but rather those retailers who don’t lose sight of the end game, which is to connect with customers. Retailers that view technology as an end in itself are going to face an uphill battle. But those who leverage technology in service of a strong personal connection will always find a loyal following.