Retail and E-Commerce Our experts provide analysis on the retail industry, featuring insights from a local to global level on where and how consumers will shop across both traditional and emerging retail channels.

Retail 2040: The Evolution of Consumer Expectations

Michelle Evans Profile Picture
Michelle Evans Bio

Evolving consumer expectations and new competitive realities are changing how and where consumers browse and buy. Purchases in the past were transactional. Now, shopping is a journey about relationship building.  

The ideal journey provides value before, during and after the purchase. Physical outlets remain a critical part of today’s shopping journey—both in terms of brand engagement or purchase execution—and will continue to play a role in 2040, though their functions will evolve. 

Consumers shop in outlets when wanting to see or try something

When purchasing physical goods in stores, connected consumers report wanting to see or try on something as the primary motivation. While technologies like virtual reality or 3D imaging mimic the in-person experience outside of the physical outlet, other characteristics of in-store shopping may be harder to replicate.  

e.comBannerWBCommerce2040-v0.2 (1).png

The experience of being in store will evolve in consumers’ eyes to better match individual interests. Consumers will be able to test product claims or try products in the context of its final usage, whether it is trying on football cleats on a turf-like surface or trying on a winter coat in a cold zone. 

How the retail store of tomorrow will likely evolve

Smart retailers will leverage technology to remove the hassles of shopping for mundane purchases while tapping into the innate curiosity to see, feel and experience specific products.  

Stores will exist to sell impulse purchases and irregularly purchased convenience goods. Technology like wearables and voice will guide consumers throughout the store.  

The experiential centre will be built around products requiring more consideration. Some retailers and brands may charge entry for certain experiences, tailoring the experience based on the consumer’s interest.


The innovators of next-generation commerce will face a different set of challenges. In many ways, the next stage of development will require more changes to infrastructure than what was previously required.  

For example, outlets will require not only a technological upgrade but a store redesign to prepare for the consumer in 2040. Many of tomorrow’s outlets will carry less inventory, repurposing the space into a consumer-facing experiential centre. 

Stream our virtual event to hear industry experts and top executives discuss the retail store evolution.  

Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated. 

Interested in more insights? Subscribe to our content

Latest Insights

Retail Asia Summit 2023

Quan Yao Peh 07 November 2023

Eyes on Africa: Unlocking Potential Through Digital Transformation

Fransua Vytautas Razvadauskas 07 November 2023

Loyalty and the New Normal

Nadejda Popova 07 November 2023

Shop Our Reports

Global Inflation Tracker: Q4 2023

This report examines inflation levels and drivers globally and in key countries in Q4 2023 and 2024. Global inflation is moderating, although divergence remains…

View Report

Affordability, Value and the Cost of Living: Where Do Opportunities Lie?

Rising costs of living pose challenges globally, but companies can find opportunities in several categories, essential and discretionary, especially in…

View Report

Consumer Market Flashpoints: Rising Inequality

In the upcoming years, consumers and businesses face an array of challenges, with rising income inequality being among the key ones. Nevertheless, addressing…

View Report
Passport Our premier global market research database with detailed data and analysis on industries, companies, economies and consumers. Track existing and future opportunities to support critical decision-making across all functions within your organisation Learn More