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Retail experts believe that the current retail environment will change dramatically in the next 5-10  years. With the “convergence of smartphone technology, social-media data, and futuristic technology,” the current bricks-and-mortar format will be upended.

According to retail analysts, consumers and retailers can expect to see some of the following changes in the very near future:

• Big-box stores such as Best Buy, Old Navy, and Office Depot, will shrink in size

and place more emphasis on becoming test centers for online purchases. Satellite stores for big-box and other retailers will begin opening in office and apartment buildings.

• FedEx and UPS will expand home delivery services and offer more options for refrigerated home delivery. Google will offer shipping services that deliver products from local businesses.

• 3-D printers will allow customers to produce their own products like towels and clothing.

• No one will use cash, rather products will be paid for via smart phones.

• Experts believe that the in-store experience will not be extinct, but will change dramatically. For example, sales associates will probably know consumers’ interest before the consumer even walks in the store. This information will be gathered from the consumers’ smartphone or tablet. Consumers can use their phone to learn more about products. For example, consumers will be able to wave their phone over the bar code of a DVD and see a movie trailer on their phones.

Smartphones, the continued use of cash, augmented reality, and social media are all driving these dramatic shifts in the retail environment.

Online retailing began as a way to make customers more aware of retailers’ brands. Now, retailers are using technology to determine customers’ shopping habits as well as customers’ future purchases. For consumers, there is a tradeoff between privacy and convenience and many customers don’t recognize how much privacy they are giving up.

Source: Jon Swartz, “Why Shopping Will Never Be the Same,” USA Today, August 8, 2012