Fast Forward: Highlights from our series on the future of retail

32-202207″ target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>10 years’ time as part of our Fast Forward series on the future of retail. 

Through conversations with industry experts and futurists, we’ve identified the technologies and trends that are still in their infancy today, but have the capacity to dramatically alter the landscape in the years ahead. And we’ve learned how businesses can prepare for these changes now. 

While the series has come to an end, we’ve compiled some of the common themes and biggest takeaways from the interviews below. You can also watch all three episodes on-demand here

  1. Up-and-coming categories

Luxury wellness is going to become a much bigger category in the next year or so, according to Danny Lattouf, partner and chief strategy officer at The General Store. Businesses like Remedy Place and FaceGym in Los Angeles and The Well in New York City are good examples of this emerging trend. 

“The thing that I found really interesting about the luxury wellness market [in the US] is that it’s integrated into lifestyle in a big way,” Matt Newell, partner and CEO of The General Store, added. 

“They’ve consolidated it around a place, so you can work there, there are bars so you can socialise there, you can then do your yoga class there, you can do your gym there, there’s food there […] I think that’s the big shift.”

Other categories that are on the rise include artisan retailers, such as Showfields, Wolf & Badger, Neighborhood Goods, and pre-loved fashion platforms, such as The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective. One category that didn’t make the cut? Department stores.

“On [previous trips to the US], we would always make the department stores a really big ticket item on the trip agenda, but we don’t anymore because we’re not seeing enough innovation from them,” Lattouf said.

  1. Emerging store concepts

The customer experience in stores is going to become increasingly “exceptional” in the next few years, our experts said. 

“Retailers are recognising that they’re working really hard to pull customers into stores,” Newell said. 

But while some brands will step up their bricks-and-mortar game with beautifully designed spaces, others will focus on checkout-free concepts like Amazon Go that offer convenience. 

“We talk about the dramatic experiential side of retail, but at the other end, you’ve got Amazon dominating the convenience side and using tech to empower that. And we think both of those extremes are really interesting to explore,” Newell said.

Tully Walter, futures strategist at Soon Future Studies, pointed to The Uncommon Store in South Korea as another leader in this space. 

“It’s mapped out like a classic convenience store, and you simply pick up what you want and then you leave. It’s all digitised, no need for transaction in terms of tapping or scanning anything,” she said. 

  1. What will happen in e-commerce

In the future, more people will be shopping online, but what will that look like exactly? Petah Marian, founder of Future Narrative, believes that e-commerce will become much more inspirational and immersive. 

“The way we experience digital websites is very much transaction-orientated. Everything has been A/B-tested to the nth degree to try to take friction out of the sales process,” she noted. 

“How do we start to take all of those lovely experiential retail elements that we’ve been experiencing in physical stores and start to bring them into digital landscapes? That’s really what the consumer is going to want.” 

While the phrase “omnichannel retail” has been around for many years already, Marian believes the future will see even deeper integration between physical and digital retail, including around the products themselves. 

She described a future in which people wear mixed reality glasses that allow them to see others in digital clothes and accessories, rather than what they’re actually wearing.  

  1. What to expect in logistics

The rise of on-demand delivery, through the likes of Uber and Uber Eats, has transformed the online retail landscape in recent years, and will continue to drive change in the years ahead. 

Walter calls this trend “quick commerce”. But it’s not all about cars and bikes. She pointed to an exciting startup in the US called Pipedream Lab that is raising capital off the back of its vision to build networks of pipes underneath cities to ship online orders. 

“Just as a city is piped for sewage, they’re pioneering to pipe cities for delivery,” she said. 

Other retailers, such as Walmart, are experimenting with drone delivery. 

  1. Consumer trends to keep an eye on

One of the biggest questions retailers have about the future is what the customer will be like. In 10 years’ time, the oldest individuals in Generation Alpha will be 17 years old, and their expectations and behaviours are likely to be very different from previous generations. 

“The key thing to think about is how they’ve come through the last couple of years and what that means for them in terms of their longer expectations and views about the world,” Marian said. 

“They’re experiencing the climate crisis first-hand, they know that their future isn’t certain and isn’t likely to be good unless we make changes.”

Sustainability will become an even more important topic in the retail industry in the years ahead. 

“They also spent all this time at home with their parents not necessarily developing social skills in the way that other generations would have. So all that introversion when it comes to customer behaviour is likely to be even stronger,” Marian added. 

“How do we create self-service models? How do we create conversational models that allow people to interact with a brand that doesn’t necessarily require face-to-face or voice communication because that can be a little awkward. They’re totally comfortable with digital worlds, probably more immersive worlds as well, so the expectations around metaverse are likely to be even stronger.”

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