Grocery Insight Director, Steve Dresser Shares His Thoughts on the Future of Retail

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 Steve Dresser, Director at Grocery Insight

**This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**

What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?

SD: There is so much self help out there for retailers, so much low hanging fruit and things to aim for. If retailers were to get their own house in order before worrying about anyone else, including developments elsewhere, then many retailers would be in a stronger position. The absolute basics remain poorly done in many retailers, due to a variety of reasons. But retail remains incredibly simple – it’s putting things on a shelf, at a good price and people buying them.

Resolving many internal issues that affect customers before the next big idea would put the business on a much stronger footing… Of course, technology is a great enabler of improvements to serve customers in a more effective way than ever before.

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

SD: The rise of online, which has been the case for 20 years now in terms of its presence, but online continues to grow and grow and the delivery times are getting lower. We are now in the realms of same-day click/collect/pickup and order now, collect in an hour so the service gets better and better. Voice ordering (I don’t think that really takes off for another 5 years) is another notable development and technology remains key to development.

In the UK, the rise of discount retailing has also been notable with the growth continuing almost unchecked is a key trend, alongside the ambition to reduce plastic after the realisation that the Oceans were being filled with plastic waste. This kicked off a huge demand for change from consumers, putting pressure on retailers and suppliers to change.

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

SD: The rise of automation will only serve to change retail jobs, especially with retailers looking to reduce costs, ironically online groceries are still unclear in terms of the economics so the growth there needs to be paid for too. In addition, consumers are becoming more aware of how much they eat and what they eat, so there are definite trends in play around areas like vegan / meat alternatives, organic foods and how sustainable the food and fashion is which will all play a part for consumers.

Retailers will have to keep adapting to trends, with food service also becoming a key trend for larger retail outlets. However, bricks and mortar will remain important as the stores are still so important. That said, some of the retailers will see their business erode further to move online, certainly in areas like fashion.

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

SD: General automation and the use of digital, certainly in terms of pricing and digital advertising in stores – it’s likely that as costs reduce, digital advertising and signage for pricing will change to digital. Bringing costs down significantly in stores with prices changed at the press of a button, rather than someone having to change prices manually.

It will also facilitate changes in trade planning with the ability to change prices near immediately, ideal for stores that are overloaded on stock, or if the weather is warmer.

What's the future of brick and mortar retail?

SD: If the retailer is in the right hands, then the future is bright.