Many predict a world where shopping will be completely automated. Others believe the computer internet will be used for everything from scheduling appointments and checking stock. Still, others believe we will see the end of retail stores, as brick and mortar businesses die off due to lack of business or because they have been taken over by big franchisees. The most optimistic of these theories, however, believe that artificial intelligence will someday be able to completely replace human retail staff, thanks to all the money computers can be programmed to process in order to make better decisions.
According to current shopping trends, the future may indeed be the end of shopping as we know it. The biggest, loudest predictions about the future of shopping tend to be the most outlandish, predicting that in 10 year’s time, robots will hover over shoppers, dispensing e-commerce recommendations based on their individual preferences, all while gathering data to hopefully (hopefully) make a profit. However, even the most pessimistic of this prediction do realize that human interaction will still be necessary in the future. After all, even the self-driving car was invented because humans need to interact with the car to make sure it doesn’t get into an accident. Therefore, while artificial intelligence will most likely replace humans in the retail industry, it will still be necessary for customers to interact with and act upon, retail stores.
Another prediction is that retail will experience a long decline in its revenues. This prediction is more of an old wives’ tale than anything else. Although there has been a great deal of investment in e-commerce programs such as Amazon and eBay, both of which have tremendous influence on the retail industry, consumers are still buying in physical stores despite tough competition from the internet. Additionally, the recent bankruptcy of Borders Books is a clear example of the power of physical stores to hold down consumer spending. Although the loss of chain stores such as Blockbuster and Best Buy have helped fuel the panic that retail stores are facing, there are still a number of large retail chains remaining in business.
Another prediction is that the in-store experience will undergo a complete transformation. In the last decade, many consumers have come to expect robotic assistance during their shopping experience, and not to mention, speedy and efficient customer service representatives. Although this appears to be a harbinger of doom, the reality is that today’s technology allows for an endless amount of creativity when it comes to in-store interactions. Many consumers are also becoming accustomed to shopping in-store, which is increasing store traffic and creating an increased opportunity for consumers to interact with staff members.
A final prediction is that consumers will become polarized between traditional, branded brands and emerging, niche brands. This does not mean that shoppers will abandon one type of brand over another. On the contrary, it is predicted that more consumers will purchase a variety of brands that are less well-known to the average consumer. The increasing variety of brands will allow retailers to provide an unparalleled shopping experience while simultaneously attracting consumers who are looking for something different.
The above predictions provide an interesting glimpse into the future of shopping. One can only imagine the changes that will occur as shoppers begin to shop for products using the Internet. Online shopping will enable more consumers to browse through a wider selection of brands and styles and will allow more retailers to expand their geographical territory by offering products to consumers further outside of their local area. However, even as the trend toward frequent online shopping grows, retailers must remain diligent in their efforts to attract new customers, as those shoppers will undoubtedly be one of the biggest drivers of future retail growth. By taking steps to ensure that shoppers can find the products they need at reasonable prices, retailers stand to benefit from their investment in bricks and mortar storefronts.