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