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The future of retailing?

I like the beginning of a new year. It is a time of reflection when we look back at what went right or wrong last year and make resolutions for the year to come. It is a time for dreams, setting out new goals and finding opportunity for innovation. What can be more positive than that?

Reviews and predictions are to find everywhere these days and as head of a creative agency who is always confronted with the expectation of bringing innovative solutions to our projects I ask myself:

what is the future of retail?

Here are my own few predictions for 2013:

1. shopping is more than ever becoming a lifestyle.

With product offering split between the real and the virtual world the actual retail experience in a store will concentrate much more on the service and interaction with the sales professional than the product purchase itself. Product stock may slowly disappear from select retail stores in favor of online ordering and they will change into show room type spaces, where social media come to life. People who shop similar brands have a commonality. Retail space will be used for social interaction, giving brand aficionados a platform to compare and exchange their passions about the brands they adore. Many retailers have already started “club memberships” to foster such trends. Service staff will need to be trained to initiate and assist this scenario to create memorable real life experiences with strong emotional connections.

2.Product stock may slowly disappear from retail spaces.

Customer like to get a deal and they are savvy. The best way to check where to find a product for the best price and get recommendations is online. Customers may not come to buy necessarily any longer, but to test and compare product in real and experience the brand. Then they buy it online later, where they sometimes can find a better deal. So the retail environment becomes the brand ambassador and must deliver the lifestyle promise of the brand. Retail spaces will be places,where customers will be educated on products, test and evaluate. Orders can be made on site but product will be shipped directly to the house. No need to carry out any longer. No need to stock much product. Justifying increasingly expensive sft prices stock space will be converted to valuable branded consumer front space.

3.Registers will slowly disappear.

As the act of immediate buying will not be the main purpose of a retail environment, cash registers will slowly disappear in favor of mobile devices, which will allow the sales person to place orders and no-cash transactions at any time during the experience in the showroom and have product shipped to the customer’s home (following the model that Apple stores pioneered).

4.Product immersion will be favored.

Product immersion will be the new focus. Showrooms are defined by the act of testing and handling a product. Sample product will be available for customers to try out before a purchase. All product is displayed for test use. Touching and trying a product gets a customer hooked faster.

5.Smart environments backed by big data.

Retail environments will be backed by data knowledge. Big data collection on consumer behavior will play an important role in direct marketing and play out in store increasingly. Retailers are already able to send personalized messages to customer’s mobile devices, guiding them to their favorite brands and items. Proximity sensors will allow brands to send support information on smart phones, when customers are present in stores or interact with a product. Digital signage will adjust  content when a customer is nearby. Sensors will “recognize” a customer, her likes, favorites and aspirations with individual data sets built from shopping histories combined with  social media profiling.What sounded like sci-fi a few years ago is available technology today that will show up increasingly in the retail world.

I believe that there lies a great future ahead for retailers, brands and creatives, who

1.are willing to think out-of-the-box

2.embrace the sociological changes social media and online shopping are bringing to the physical world

3.don’t miss to make adjustments to physical environments, staffing and service offering.

These are my thoughts on the immediate future of retailing.

I would like to open this up to a conversation and would love to hear other predictions.

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