Are we heading towards a retail apocalypse? Yes! What does that mean? Not what you're thinking. It does not necessarily mean the death of retail, however, it is leaning towards a big change in how brick-and-mortar stores operate.
The traditional physical store model, which is how most of everyone today defines physical retail and measures its sales, has been crumbling for the last few years. Retailers were focused on the physical, in real life attribute it has to offer, while completely missing the plot on the digital world.
Let's back up to where this all started: Amazon. It took this behemoth of an e-commerce giant 12 years to get to where it is today. When Amazon started in 1994, it only sold books, and almost everybody was still shopping at physical stores. The world wasn't ready for the internet, and more than half didn't have access to it. Yet, forward-looking innovators, of course, knew the digital world would continue to grow and improve, and that it was only a matter of time before more people would have access to broadband at home and on their own mobile phones that could connect to the internet. Amazon is now the leading e-commerce player.
What can be taken away from the Amazon success tale? That Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was Amazon, and physical stores won't die over night. Retailers are now facing an uphill climb similar to the one Amazon and other e-tailers did 20 years ago. However, with one difference; the digital trend lines are moving in the same direction they did then, only with a bigger force. Retailers will have to adapt, or they might die.
The good news for retailers are: innovation and technology is drastically changing retail. The bad news for retailers are: innovation and technology is drastically changing retail...
In the future, retail stores will solely focus on customer experience. One thing is still true - no AI or bot has been able to simulate customer service successfully. Retail stores will have to focus on the five senses and hone in on making the experience worthwhile for the customer. While virtual reality fitting rooms have been in the talk for years now, most people still prefer to try something on before spending hundreds on a clothing item.
It is not the death of retailers - it's the reconstruction of retailers. Focus will shift to the click and collect, ship from store, easy returns, customer service standards. The reconstructed retailer will be more of a hybrid between physical store and digital experience, providing the customer with omnichannel shopping.