Retail’s Radical Evolution

Retail’s Radical Evolution


Rita Das

When I was growing up, shopping meant going from store to store in search of the perfect pair of jeans or a new favorite dress. I always had a mission: I was looking for something specific. And even in grocery stores, I loved just strolling the aisles to see which food items looked good and what new products were available.

That was then. Today, the abundance of new technology has fundamentally changed shopping. And not just the buying experience but customer expectations, too. Nearly everything imaginable can now be found and bought online, and – thanks to Amazon – consumers expect packages delivered within 48 hours or less. While I still enjoy grocery shopping in a physical store, shopping for clothes is a different story. The thought of walking around a retail store just no longer excites me.

But this change has caused me to think about the shopping experience overall. So I wanted to share two big trends I’m seeing.

Arrival of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) has been “coming soon” to major global retailers but now it feels like it’s really and truly here.

Take Sephora for example. The makeup megastore has an app where customers can virtually try on various makeup products. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to not have to physically apply and remove makeup over and over until it’s right.

The Ikea Place app is similar. It allows customers to get a virtual view of Ikea furniture in their actual room, allowing customers to see how the pieces would fit in their home without any physical effort. Talk about easy!

Both of these apps are a great example of how catering to customer convenience (“try it with absolutely no physical effort”) is driving more brand loyalty. So without a doubt, expect more retailers to follow suit.

Let's get Phygital

In addition to new technology trends, I’m seeing more movement towards “phygital” experiences – that is, experiences that combine the physical and digital to create a holistic and memorable customer experience.

Take Amazon for example. Amazon has been in business as a pure play retailer since 1996. But over the past few years the company has expanded into actual brick & mortar locations with both physical bookstores and Amazon Go.

Last year I got my first taste of Amazon Go and was hooked. The experience was seamless. I walked in, picked up the items that I wanted, put them in my reusable bag, and simply left the store. No waiting in long lines to get a snack, no frustration, nothing. Using AI-powered tracking cameras, Amazon knows what you pick up and charges your Amazon account accordingly. This tracking allows Amazon to make data-driven decisions on what items need to be restocked, what items are best sellers, and more.

Amazon also brought their digital expertise to bear on the physical world with the acquisition of Whole Foods. Since Amazon has acquired it, consumers can now purchase items from Whole Foods online and have them delivered to their doorstep – a great example of this merging of online and off.

With the abundance of technology, it’s no surprise that consumers are expecting more from their favorite retailers. And as a consumer myself, I am nowadays more intrigued by the overall brand experience itself, rather than just strictly the product.

My takeaway: Successful retailers in the future will need to anticipate and provide an amazing customer experience across all channels, physical, digital and beyond.

Check out how CoreMedia can help merge your in store and digital experiences, so you can provide the customer experience your customers expect HERE.

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