It is impossible to imagine a world without commerce. Retail brick and mortar stores are an important part of daily life. However, this is currently changing. New technologies have opened the possibility to redesign traditional retail practices, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition towards eCommerce, affecting traditional stores. According to McKenzie, some countries have seen a considerable increase in their eCommerce sales, giving us a preview of what the future will be like; Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has seen an impressive 81% increase in eCommerce sales in comparison to the last week of February.
Retail stores need to adapt to these new challenges. As a result, it is worth asking, what will future retail stores look like? This post is an exercise in building future scenarios. It considers how future retail stores will look like. We have considered three main scenarios based on the most important industry trends. These scenarios are ‘business as usual’, ‘eCommerce wins’, and ‘the golden mean’. Factors like technology and demographics play a major role throughout this exercise. As you might expect, we consider how retail apps play a major role in each of the three scenarios.
Scenario #1: Business as Usual
In our first scenario we consider that the status quo remains unchanged. Many of the traditional things of a conventional retail store like the actual stores, product placement, and customer interactions remain the same. Although a digital transformation is inevitable, under this course of action stores continue to do what they have done up to now. Technology will gradually but slowly find its way through moderate innovations.
Although this scenario considers technology as an inevitable force of change, it is not the main driver. The main factor disrupting this business as usual scenario is the change in consumer habits. Although customers still recur to stores as the main source of goods, eCommerce will inevitably grow.
In the long term, physical stores will see an inevitable decrease in direct sales and an increase in third-party mediated sales. Delivery apps will play a major role in this process. Ordering products through a web or mobile app will become increasingly the new normal. As a result, retail stores that wish to stand out will adopt their own Progressive Web Apps in order to compete with third-party deliveries. Some stores will even forge alliances with delivery companies depending on whether they can, by themselves, successfully implement or not these activities.
Another important trend in this scenario will occur through the use of IoT technologies. In order to attract customers to their stores, retailers will implement new features similar to those that Amazon Go has introduced. Thanks to the Amazon Go app, customers will be able to buy their products just by taking them from the shelf and walking outside the store. Beacons will automatically detect what they take, adding products to their shopping cart and billing them for the items.
Apps that stand out under this scenario will be characterized for delivering a great UX, making it easy for customers to do anything from finding out the availability of a product to contacting customer service. A feature that can powerfully enhance the customer journey is augmented reality; with it, stores can improve communication with users. Lastly, retail apps will mandatorily need to deliver great customer loyalty programs.
Scenario #2: Ecommerce Wins
The second scenario shows how the future might be if eCommerce positions itself as the preferred alternative for customers. In it, technology accelerates its transformation rate and young customers drive the adoption of new technologies. This can’t be seen as more of the same but rather as a breakthrough.
Many brick and mortar stores will disappear, leaving mostly large warehouses where products are stored for checkout. Robust and resilient supply chains will be the norm in order to guarantee on-time delivery and efficient use of resources. Data will become a key player throughout this transformation, allowing retailers to make informed decisions that will allow them to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Those who fail to quickly adapt will be left behind, becoming a niche market for those who refuse to go digital but failing to enjoy the benefits of eCommerce.
There is great potential for revolutionizing how customers interact with eCommerce platforms. With a considerable amount of clients wanting to buy their products online, companies can justify spending large amounts of money on digital solutions in order to stand out. The defining trend we see growing is virtual reality stores.
To deliver a premium experience, retailers will have the opportunity to migrate from a physical venue to a digital one where customers can recreate the physical buying experience through VR devices. Thanks to the virtual experience, retailers will be able to harness considerable amounts of data that will allow them to improve the experience for customers while maintaining high-quality standards.
Mobile apps will surely become the basic standard for interacting with customers, making scalability a necessity. The go-to experience of a physical store will be secondary as more brick and mortar stores disappear.
Scenario #3: The Golden Mean
At Koombea we think the most likely outcome for retail stores is somewhere between the previous two scenarios. This is where the golden mean scenario shows up. It receives its name from Aristotle’s famous advice when choosing between two options. The right way to go is usually somewhere between two choices. Thus, this third and last scenario considers that there is a middle path between business as usual and a market dominated by eCommerce.
In this third scenario, physical retail stores remain with steady growth. At the same time, eCommerce grows considerably, becoming an important part of the business but without replacing or dominating the existing infrastructure. For retailers and customers, this is the best of both worlds. Besides combining the individual strengths of the previous scenarios, it offers the additional possibility to pair them up to create important synergies.
Having the possibility to deliver a great customer experience, whether physical or virtual, will be possible thanks to the data that each alternative enables. Customers of one segment will be able to enjoy the benefits of their choice while at the same time helping improve the experience of others thanks to data. Companies can use this data to create an overall great experience rather than two separate ones.
Technology plays a very strong role in this scenario. Retailers that are able to deploy their technology in the right way will surpass their competitors. The ideal solution will be to have an integrated technological ecosystem in which customers can easily move between the physical and digital worlds in order to get the most out of their experience. Because apps will be all over the place, having a world-class app will become mandatory. Average apps that do not engage users will be a huge mistake.
Wrapping It Up
Whichever scenario ends up dominating, one thing is for sure: retail apps will play a key role in defining the winners. It is just a matter of time for important changes to take place in the retail industry. If you want your retail app development to move fast and deliver the right products for your customers, then give us a call. Contact us for a free consultation and find out what the next frontier of your business is.