Roughly every 50 years, the retail industry faces a major upset as a paradigm shift occurs. Over a century ago, the advent of the railroad fueled the rise of big cities, and suburban living locations. Specialised retail stalls saw their dawn as retailers sought to make shopping more personal and convenient. Fast-forward to 100 years later; big retail chains are now the norm, offering one-stop shop shopping solutions at discounted prices.
The post-millennium era is proving to be another milestone period for shopping as rapid advancement in technology and the power of information steadily overhauls how people shop. It is estimated that digital information somehow influences as much as 50% of all purchases, and this percentage is set to rise. According to one expert, it is just a matter of time before the old brick and mortar method of purely buying goods by visiting outlet stores becomes obsolete.
The rise of online shopping
In line with being more customer oriented and increasing the ease and convenience of shopping, online retail stores continue to grow in leaps and bounds. Online shopping already accounts for over 9% of retail sales; it is further estimated that online shopping is fast approaching the $200 billion mark. The masses are simply in love with the benefits of convenience, 24-hour shopping, information access, and a peaceful shopping process where one can deliberate without the pressures of a sales representative.
Where online shopping and in-store shopping meet
The interesting observation is that in-store shopping still holds a special place in the shopping process for many. As much as the convenience of shopping online remains desirable, many people still need and crave the physicality of in-store shopping to validate and ascertain their shopping decisions.
Take a shoe for instance: though one may purchase a shoe online and request delivery to a nearby outlet, going to the outlet and physically checking out the shoe provides a more satisfying shopping experience. It depends on what is being purchased, and that is the beauty of it. For instance, shoes, dresses, or jacket may require physical presence to confirm suitability before purchase. But food items, laundry soaps, and the like can simply be ordered online and delivered to one’s doorstep.
What the future holds
As information technology becomes more prevalent, the role of sales persons in the shopping process gradually becomes more threatened. The avid shopper will simply be visiting an outlet to pick specific predetermined items, or to collect items ordered online. Cashiers and check out points will change completely as the purchase will evolve into a matter of simply scanning item barcodes, and checking them out using a smartphone.
The evolution has already begun
Some retailers have successfully tried and managed to put in place systems that achieve a seamless online to an in-store shopping experience. Apple has succeeded in successfully marrying the assurance and security of in-store shopping with the desirable convenience of paying for goods electronically. The receipt is sent via e-mail, and an iPhone owner can easily conclude the process via the Apple store application. Walmart with its Scan&Go’ and other major retailers have not been left behind.
Embracing the future
The future of shopping is simply about seamlessly combining the benefits of online e-commerce with the security and assurance of in-store shopping. Various small retailers have jumped onto the bandwagon by using various affordable platforms that integrate online shopping with various in-store functions.
The role of predicting future consumer purchasing patterns
Retailers and stores that are interested in securing their future success have no option but to strategically align themselves with predicted changes in consumer purchasing patterns. 3D printing offers a good example to point this out. It is highly likely that in near future, buying some common items may be replaced with 3D printing. Access to some items may boil down to purchasing and downloading item patterns and simply printing them out. The store which takes such insight into account is surely going to be well placed to succeed in the future.
As consumers increasingly continue to utilise e-commerce, retail chains that fail to embrace the dawn of omnichannel interaction with customers will crash and burn. The bright side is that the paradigm shopping shift we are in is moderately paced, which avails enough time for any retailer to catch up.