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 Shelley Kohan, Retail Pundit, Business Strategist, Speaker, and Professor.
**This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
SK: The ever-changing and evolving nature of the retail landscape presents many on-going challenges; being a chief problem solver for these challenges is very exciting. The exceptionally talented people and companies that I have the pleasure of working with everyday inspire me to put forth my greatest efforts. In today’s retail environment, many companies are developing strategies with the customer at the center of the equation resulting in better retail experiences across many business segments. The ability to deliver relevant products to the target market on their own terms is very exciting.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
SK: The use of artificial intelligence to enhance many levels of the shopper journey has transformed how retailers are interacting with customers. From simple in-store analytics to better understand shopper behavior to using machine learning and robotics in the supply chain to keep products always in stock, there are many applications of AI that are currently being used. This transcends the space of physical retail and includes the many facets of digital such as mobile virtual fitting apps, chatbots for ecom and machine learning features to address customer service issues (to name a few).
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
SK: The top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail moving forward are investments in employees, smaller format stores, improved synergies across channels of commerce and significant improvements in the supply chain. Companies are investing in employees through training initiatives and fair labor practices including compensation. Smaller format stores allow for product curation for specific markets and enable retailers to lower operating expenses. Capital investments in IT infrastructure and resource allocations will build a back-of-house structure that provides consistency of experience for the customer touchpoints. Supply chain strategies include the use of robotics to improve efficiency, shorter lead times to increase speed to market and vendor collaborations including direct to consumer. All of these factors lead to a significantly improved shopper experience in the stores.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
SK: Computer vision will be the biggest impact of the retail industry over the next 3-5 years. The applications and use cases of the technology will transform many aspects of the business including shopping behavior, visual displays, operational functions, and marketing initiatives. For instance, object and image recognition can help with shopper identification, suspicious behavior, merchandise display compliance, real-time shelf inventory, elimination of check-outs all of these are adding context to shopping behavior and delivering frictionless retail.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
SK: Alive and well! Physical retail will continue to be a large portion of the retail sales and by 2023 are expected to be 85% of total retail sales. Companies that are working towards integrating the digital with the physical will be able to increase shopper spend and will not trade-off one commerce channel for another. Experience, social interaction, discovery and immediate gratification will keep the brick and mortar stores relevant.