What Is The Future Of Retail Stores – The business of the future is a concept that is debated year after year. Meanwhile, it is increasingly difficult to accurately predict what the consumer will be like tomorrow, let alone a few years from now. 2020 has made things more complicated. Widespread store closures due to the pandemic and increasing reliance on online shopping have forced retailers to rethink everything. Against this background, the idea of the trade of the future does not hold up so well. The store of the future isn’t really a store at all. Speaking at RetailSpaces (almost) Live, Lee Peterson, executive vice president of Thought Leadership at WD Partners, outlined several possible futures for the physical retail format “We’re not going back to the way things were,” he said. “This is an opportunity to start over, rethink what we thought before and embrace new thinking.” With that in mind, Peterson highlighted a number of ways that new consumer shopping habits will affect how retailers approach today’s “store of the future.” The new reality of today’s online world As stores across the country were forced to close their doors during the pandemic, consumers turned their attention to online shopping. “Digital sales growth was stronger than expected,” Peterson said of online sales last quarter. “If you didn’t set up eComm really well, you had a really big problem. In fact, stores like Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bath & Body Works, and Target saw triple-digit percentage sales increases during that time. “People are definitely shopping online, that’s definitely a key part of it all,” Peterson said. These online sales aren’t just for home delivery. Peterson points out that there has been a significant increase in BOPIS, or online-pick-up-in-store shopping. Peterson noted that consumer sentiment about online shopping, or BOPIS, has also changed during the pandemic in ways that will shape the future. When respondents were asked in a survey last year how they preferred to shop, only 25 percent said they were not in a store and preferred to either shop online with home delivery or pick up in store. In June 2020, 52 percent answered the same question, with consumers preferring not to set foot in a retailer’s physical locations. “This is one of those things where we had a catastrophic event, but it really affected the way consumers think and the way they shop,” Peterson said. “If you think we’re getting back to normal, think again. You basically have to rethink what physical stores are all about.” Moving Forward To meet the new expectations customers have about shopping, marketers must reconfigure their portfolio strategy. For example, when WD Partners asked consumers to rate dark stores, approval ratings were as high as 35 to 50 percent. These types of consumer responses, he said, are beginning to paint a picture of how retail should evolve. “Is this the future of retail? It pulls you into the space, there are electric vehicles and drones… is this the future of retail?” Peterson asked. “Our answer now is partly yes. This is the future of retail.” If consumers say they want three or four different ways to shop, retailers need to have them all. Otherwise, Peterson hits a home run, they go elsewhere. Going Dark Given consumers’ desire to spend less time in-store, along with the approval ratings they’re seeing, Peterson notes that dark stores are an important piece of the puzzle. Dark warehouses are retail locations, such as distribution centers, that are used only for online ordering and pickup transactions. Consumers never enter the space. “Some people call it dark warehouses, but fulfillment centers travel a lot,” Peterson said. “In that case, swipe right and someone will take your order.” The interior resembles a warehouse where all orders are filled electronically and there are no pickers running around customers, Peterson said. In urban areas, the locker concept could be used for dark store collection. “As we know, everyone likes BOPIS, so it’s a great choice,” he said. A hybrid approach “Hybrids will also be very important,” he said. “You pull up, you have groceries stored in your car in the back of the store, but you can still shop in the store.” Peterson showed an example of this concept, where customers could purchase groceries on the left side of the building while a full-service center is located on the right side, allowing the customer to pull out and store groceries in a trunk. The concept, Peterson said, had an 80 percent consumer acceptance rate in the survey. Big box stores and even malls could undergo such a transformation. In one example, Peterson noted, the front of the building will be dedicated to in-store shopping, while the back will have an online fulfillment center. The collection of these orders could be concentrated on one side of the building, while the other is available to customers who park in the store. “Target is doing something like that now. They fulfill 80 percent of their online orders behind the scenes,” he said. The hybrid model could also be used in a restaurant format, where customers could enter a lane or expressway. A complete restaurant would be featured in the back of the building. Concepts Specialized Experiences For specialized sellers who can only ship to home or who are currently in eCommerce, they need to experiment much more with what is possible in-store. Storefronts, Peterson said, are a concept that has worked well with consumers and a strategy these retailers can afford to try. “You can try something on and have it shipped, then have something like a cafe, a game room, that becomes a pure experience,” he said. This could also work for flagship stores, such as Nike, where customers can touch products, try them on and chat with experts. Redesigning for the customer Redesigning retail to adapt to customer demands means that some companies will create a mix of dark shops, hybrid stores and experiential showrooms in the future. “If you have existing warehouses now … some of the warehouses you have may have been converted or opened as dark warehouses,” Peterson said. Then a smaller number of locations could open as a hybrid model that fulfills orders in the back and offers in-store experiences in the front. A smaller number of stores in the area could be dedicated to experiences or showrooms for customers who prefer quiet shopping. “This type of organization is what customers are looking for,” Peterson said. “This is based on what the customer wants, they want BOPIS, showroom stores. You have to go back to the customer. Let’s look at the way forward.”
Ashlee Kieler is a veteran multimedia journalist based in Iowa. She is passionate about telling stories about health, education, retail and many other topics.
What Is The Future Of Retail Stores
Physical store reimagined. RetailSpaces is a community for store developers and design innovators. 24-26 March 2024 | Austin, TX Learn More! Along with tourism and the events industry, retail is one of the sectors most affected by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Retailers were already dealing with the decline of brick-and-mortar stores before 2020, and the pandemic has brought new challenges such as store closings, layoffs and a sharp drop in consumer spending. However, despite the sudden blow, we expect the retail sector to recover and refocus on experience design and human connection.
Where Digital And Physical Meet: The Future Of Retail
Pandemic or not, the shift to online and omnichannel shopping was already underway in the retail sector. The mass closures only accelerated the transition, with the industry quickly adapting to pandemic conditions and adopting new security measures such as contactless payments and outdoor pickup.
Although the shift to online shopping has not always been enough to compensate for the loss of in-store sales and there have been a number of setbacks in the sector, not all retailers have been adversely affected. Previously under-penetrated industries, especially basic retail such as grocery and pharmacy, have seen a huge jump in online sales.
According to KPMG US, daily food sales rose 110% in April 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Accenture also reports that the rate of online purchases from occasional e-commerce users, those who use online channels for less than 25% of their purchases, has increased by 343% since the fire.
As consumers across age groups and income levels have embraced online shopping in droves, the pandemic has also spurred new shopping behaviors.
The Future Of Retail In The Post Covid Era — Futures Platform
Livestream shopping and social e-commerce have become very popular, especially among younger generations. Other behaviors, such as impulse and panic buying, also offer shoppers the sense of control and escape they crave amid the stress and uncertainty associated with blocking.
While consumers are maintaining some of the behaviors they have adopted, other changes in consumer behavior brought about by the pandemic, such as hoarding and a growing interest in
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