The store of the future is, of course, a strange and unknowable concept, as is anything that stretches far ahead of where we are now. But there are many in the know who have a good idea of what might be going to happen in the retail sector, and how things might change both for customers and the retailers themselves. How these stores of the future will be put together, how they respond to challenges and changes, and what their customer service model might be like will be interesting to see. Read on to discover six key components of the store of the future, as far as we can possibly tell.
Once, and perhaps even now, the location of a shop was perhaps not as important as what it sold and how it sold it. If the store marketed well enough and had products that people actually wanted, its location was something that was a by-product; people would come to it no matter what if they wanted to buy something that it sold.
The rise of the online store cemented this idea. People began to realise that they could buy what they wanted without even leaving home. Physical stores even began to disappear altogether.
Then something changed, and it is something that we are in the midst of and which will inform the future of shopping; there has been a backlash against online buying
, and the need in some quarters for physical stores once more. Yet this time there will be a difference; in order to compete with the internet – a mammoth task – the retailers will need to very carefully consider site selection. This time around, the store will need to be located in a convenient location, including parking if possible. Otherwise, even the most ardent of fans will still buy their goods online.
If you are thinking of opening up a physical retail store now could well be the time to do it for a number of reasons. Firstly, your competition might be somewhat thin on the ground, with most people choosing to start an online business, or wait until they are sure that a physical store could survive. If you open one in the near future, curiosity and good marketing should help you to succeed.
Secondly, owners of units along the high street or in shopping centres don’t want them to sit empty, as many of them are currently doing. This means that you could well get a good deal on a lease. Even if it is only on a short term basis, it could be enough to make all the different and ensure that you get a good foothold in the sector before the prices start to go up.
Over time this will mean that there will be more choice for consumers, as more and more retailers take this opportunity to start a new venture along the high street. This is good for everyone, as it enlivens the once dead space, brings in boutique and independent stores, and makes for greater footfall. More choice for the consumer means that, even if they don’t intend to go to your shop, they might pop in on their way past, or be drawn to your window display.
Customer Is King
Of course, the customer is and always has been important, but the store of the future will make them more important still. By asking for feedback and listening when it is given – even if it is negative – retailers will be able to tailor their stores, their customer service, their products and services, to exactly what the customer wants.
This will create not only a store that is exactly as it needs to be, but also a store that promotes loyalty from its customers. If a retailer puts in motion an idea that a customer had and fed back, that customer is much more likely to continue shopping there rather than go elsewhere, partly because they know they are being listened to, and partly because everything is now just how they want it.
We are surrounded by tech every minute of every day. Whether it’s a smartphone, smart home
, tablet, Fitbit
or similar health tracking device, or perhaps even Alexa
herself, it is all around us. Sometimes it’s good to take a break, and the store of the future could help us all to do just that.
Going ‘old school’ and back to basics may seem like a step backwards, but for those who are tired of tech, it will be a welcome relief. They have made the conscious decision not to buy online, so already they are stepping away from technology and look to do thing in a more traditional way. Strip back all the gadgets and gizmos, and shopping becomes much more about the products themselves, rather than about how to buy them, and that can be extremely important.
When was the last time you bought something and had a good, honest, human conversation about it? Or about anything else, like the weather, the traffic, where you might be heading off on holiday this year… It isn’t often we can enjoy a quick chat, or perhaps an indepth one, when we’re browsing online, or rushing to pick something for dinner from a supermarket.
The stores of the future will be much more about human interaction and real engagement. Customers will feel as though they have had a real moment, something that makes them smile and makes them want to go back and buy from that particular place again. They’ll feel good about it, and the shop will gain an excellent reputation.
The store of the future will be willing to take more risks than ever before. They’ll have to – with so much competition coming up and a potentially difficult economic environment to work in, these risks that might have been steered clear of before will be taken. This is an exciting development, something that will make retail shopping good for both buyer and seller.
As with everything, retail seems to work in a cyclical nature. We stopped wanting the high street and it began to disappear. Now that we are beginning – in part, at least – to fall out of love with the internet when it comes to shopping, we want the high street back again.
What will happen in the future is anyone’s guess, but it is likely that the above points will need to come into play and that they will change the way we shop forever.