What will retail shopping look like in 2020

by | Oct 22, 2014 | Omnichannel, Partners, Retailers, Suppliers

In the year 2020, we’ll all strap on our jetpacks or hop into our family saucers, and zip to the store to do our retail shopping. No, that’s not right. We’ll have unmanned drones fly our daily purchases, such as groceries and daily consumer goods, to our homes. No, that’s not right either. We’ll have food replicators like on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

No, none of those is right.

If you want a good idea of what retail shopping in the future, at least six years into the future, is going to look like, check out the Retail 2020: Reinventing Retailing — Once Again white paper by IBM.

A joint project between IBM and New York University’s Stern School of Business, the paper gives a fascinating look at how the retail shopping segment is reinventing itself to keep up with the growing changes by the shopping public.

After big box stores and online retailers have changed the retail shopping landscape over the last 20 – 30 years, we’re seeing new developments happen because of mobile technology, e-commerce, and emerging markets like Brazil and China further change the way retailers and vendors do business with each other and with consumers. Here are a few key takeaways we found.

All retail strategies become obsolete; keep up by watching industry shifts

You only have to be an amateur student of 20th century consumer history to see how much the retail segment has changed. Department stores were all the rage for 100 years, only to be killed by malls, which were cut out by discount retailers, which now have to move online to keep up with the online-only discount retailers.

Large clothing retailers are opening showrooms, rather than regular stores, where you can try on clothes, buy them in the store and have them shipped to you. This cuts down on inventory issues, space concerns and shipping costs for retailers, and it allows consumers the flexibility of online purchases with try-before-you-buy convenience.

Consumers are calling the shots today

In the early 1900s, it was the manufacturers who called the shots. If a retailer wanted to sell a company’s products, they had to do whatever the manufacturer wanted. Starting in the 1970s, it was the big box stores. If you wanted your products in their stores, you have to follow their lead. But now we’re seeing the trend change again because of consumer behavior.

They want free shipping and/or their products immediately. They want to know when a store has a product in stock — they can check online — and if they can’t get it there, they don’t want to be charged for shipping. Online retailers are offering things like free and fast shipping, because consumers are demanding it, and it’s even changing the way big box stores operate.

Technology is changing, thanks to Millennials

Not only do the Millennials (ages 17 – 27) outnumber the Baby Boomers, they’re the ones leading the charge to change. Their reliance on mobile technology means they want to incorporate it into every part of their lives, including gathering information, reading product reviews, buying the product, and even troubleshooting and learning how to use the product.

If you’ve been staying on top of the retail market for a while, you’ve seen these trends, and hopefully already started implementing some of these changes in your operation. If not, let the paper serve as a wakeup call — the way of doing business today will not be the way of doing business in 2020. You only have to look at the major retail brands that have gone out of business in the last five years to know that a failure to keep up with the times will only consign you to the dustbin of retail history.

Maybe by 2030, we’ll finally get jetpacks.

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SPS Commerce Blog Team

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