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 Carol Spieckerman, President of Spieckerman Retail.
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
CS: The constant change and innovation. Retail used to be a specialized, insular and hidebound industry. Now, it’s a fast-moving, energetic force that is inextricably linked to other industries, from healthcare to high-tech. The migration of “unusual suspects” into the retail workforce is also exciting. This influx of non-traditional talent is going to accelerate innovation and open up new possibilities.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
CS: The evolution from retailer-as-merchant to retailer-as-platform. Retailers are no longer just places that sell stuff (at least the ones that will make it into the future). The shift to platform thinking is driving everything from the expansion of online marketplaces, to the monetization of private brands and retailers’ expansion into services. It opens a much broader world of options and presents a new opportunity for long-term relevance.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
CS: There are many, but I’ll share three: 1. The digital rethinking of physical retail – Bringing digital capabilities into the store environment and leveraging augmented and virtual reality to enhance the store experience. 2. Differentiated and distinct experiences – Rather than attempting to make the store experience mimic online (as is often predicted), winning retailers will work hard to create distinct experiences that showcase and expand upon the unique advantages of each channel. 3. Relentless productivity – It’s fun to talk about all the cool options at retailers’ disposal but at the end of the day, most of it is going to roll up to operating fewer more productive stores run by fewer more productive people. That’s the end game behind many of the shiny objects that you’ll see.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
CS: Artificial intelligence will have the most far-reaching effects because it benefits back-end and front-end operations. AI will be a major productivity driver and take clicks-to-bricks efficiency to a new level. AI will aid in personalization and conversational commerce in the digital space. The applications are nearly endless.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
CS: Rumors of the death of brick and mortar have been greatly exaggerated. Like many things in retail, stores aren’t dead, but they will operate differently and serve different purposes. So, the idea that a single operating model or format will take over is a myth. Multiple formats, from huge experiential flagships to inventory-less hubs and temporary spaces, will proliferate. Some will focus on extreme convenience; others will offer immersive experiences that benefit digital sales – they’ll operate more like media outlets than traditional product-focused shops.