The “death of retail” myth has fooled a lot of doomsayers. What’s actually happening is retail is transforming and it’s no longer in-store vs. online. Here are the facts you need to know about this steady growth and what type of retail solutions are fueling this shift.
Evidence Retail Keeps Growing
With more than a million retail stores in America, the retail industry has grown about 4 percent each year since 2010. The misconception that brick and mortar stores are getting overrun by the internet simply isn’t true. Most of the top 50 online retailers, for example, also operate physical stores. Furthermore, only 10 percent of all retail sales take place online while 2,000 new stores emerged in 2018.
Even the number of retail jobs has grown this decade despite economic uncertainties for the middle class. As far as sales, the National Retail Federation has forecasted retail sales will grow 3.8 to 4.4 percent for 2019, rising to $3.8 trillion.
Digital Transformation Trends
Retail’s digital transformation is improving customer service through the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Some of the key retail solutions that are reshaping the shopping experience are:
- Cognitive Computing
- Smart Beacons
- Cashless/Cardless Checkouts
Cognitive computing, which utilizes AI-chatbots that provide customer service, is growing quickly in 2019. It’s expected to be a game-changer for companies brave enough to embrace robots designed to answer consumer questions.
Beacon technology, which facilitates in-store marketing based on a consumer’s location, is becoming more popular in retail. Beacons are small transmitters that send signals over a short distance to target prospects within a proximity of a matter of feet. Retailers can use beacons to communicate directly with store visitors and let them know about your deals.
Cashless/cardless checkouts are a futuristic way to pay for something without a physical wallet or card. Payment is made from your smartphone using a digital wallet. Due to the environmental concerns of plastic causing too much waste in landfills and oceans, this solution is gaining favor with people who care about becoming greener. The process will likely become even more seamless the more it integrates with IoT technology.
Where Retail Is Heading
Digital technology is the driving force behind the current retail transformation that’s providing greater convenience for consumers. It will certainly lead to more personalization, which increases brand loyalty. But this sea change still needs help from retailers themselves to be fully realized. The labor market for retail is getting more competitive, so store owners will need to invest more in staff pay and training.
Retailers also will need to stay on top of big data, machine learning and virtual assistants to gain a competitive edge. Smaller versions of department stores will become more common while big box stores may have to transform into something else to be profitable. Ultimately, retailers must take a more creative approach to enhance the customer experience.
The future of retail solutions is rapidly moving in a digital direction. Planning for it with modern technology that connects with smartphone users will be a big factor in retail survival.