From apparel to home furnishings, footwear, and fragrances, the retail industry forms a major sector of the global economy. Retail locations in shopping centers and standalone stores serve millions of consumers daily, but technological advancements and evolving shopper habits greatly impact retail trends. In fact, the future of retail might look very different than the shopping experience customers know today.
It is impossible to consider the future of retail without examining the impact e-commerce has on traditional retail stores. Consumers increasingly rely on Internet destinations to browse products, compare prices and research options. Many retailers now participate in e-commerce activities themselves, with fully fledged websites that allow customers to make purchases, track buying history and discover new products.
E-commerce's long-term impact on the future of retail is all but certain. While many retail groups attempt to harness online sales, others struggle to compete with online retailers with lower price points. Furthermore, those retailers who experience success in the online space must determine how to balance a physical presence with online purchasing options. As online sales competition becomes tighter, established brands might fold under the pressure.
Experts believe digital retail trends are by far the largest factor in determining what the future of retail looks like. While many traditional retailers have stagnant sales numbers and low foot traffic, online buying represents the only retail sector that is still growing. This does not spell an end to traditional stores, however. Instead, retailers are likely to begin incorporating technological tools in their physical locations.
For example, many retailers already provide discounts and promotional offers to shoppers who either buy products in-store or check in to the store on social media networks. Shoppers can expect to see more of this trend, along with a plethora of options to buy products online and pick up in a local retail location. In order to keep costs low across the board, retailers may continue closing stores with low traffic, instead opting to market to consumers in these areas exclusively online.
Mobile shopping options are also on the rise, with retailers catering to customers using smartphones and tablets to make purchases. The future of retail is certain to incorporate this segment of the population, making it possible for buyers to shop on the go. Retailers may need to partner with shipping companies to keep freight costs to a minimum or use an assortment of company locations and third-party partners for pickup solutions.
As retail undergoes one of the largest shifts in its history, there is no way to precisely pinpoint how the industry plans to deal with the challenges it faces. Nevertheless, the future of retail is bound to incorporate technology in innovative ways that provide customers with more shopping options than ever before. While the local shopping center may be on its way out, retailers are only getting started in the digital space.
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