- Thanks to advancements in in-store technology, physical retail stores are evolving at a rapid pace to include features like automation, robotics, and drones that assist with inventory.
- A new report from CB Insights visualizes what the store of the future may look like by 2030. It named nine main things to expect in every store by the end of the next decade.
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As retailers find they have an ever-expanding arsenal of technology options at their fingertips, it can be hard to envision what the average store might look like even a few years from now, let alone a decade.
A new report from data analytics firm CB Insights visualizes what a store may look like in the year 2030, taking into consideration the evolution of technologies like automation, robotics, and mobile sales. The findings span across retail sectors – including apparel, grocery, and consumer goods – and consider projected advancements from emerging areas like 5G connectivity and urbanisation.
Ultimately the analysts settled on nine main concepts to expect in stores by 2030, including experiential community spaces, drone and camera inventory-tracking capabilities, robotic warehouses, and driverless delivery cars, among others.
“With new tech-enabled features, the store of the future will be able to provide a frictionless, personalised, and proactive customer experience,” analysts said in the report.
Multipurpose experiential community spaces
In an effort to bring more shoppers into stores, companies are developing community spaces to host events and build brand affinity. Activewear companies like Lululemon and Athleta have been early adopters, adding on-site fitness studios, but major retailers like Nordstrom are dabbling, too. Nordstrom opened a small-format space in Los Angeles in 2017 – which it uses for periodic pop-ups and events -and plans to open more in 2019.
“In-store experiences can include educational courses on product adjacent topics (such as a culinary course at a home goods store), product evaluation seminars, brand-sponsored community events, entertainment, and more,” the analysts wrote in the report.
In-store third-party returns
As consumers flock to direct-to-consumer and online-only companies in droves, brick-and-mortar brands are looking to cash in on shoppers that need help with returns. CB Insights hypothesizes we’ll see more efforts like the Kohl’s and Amazon partnership that allows shoppers to return Amazon purchases at Kohl’s locations.
At the same time, analysts said to expect to see a rise in startups like Happy Returns, which allows online retailers like Everlane to give consumers the option to drop off items at “return bar” kiosks.
Indoor drone and camera vision technology
Analysts said to expect to see the use of indoor drone and camera vision technology, which allow retailers to better track inventory in real time. Companies like Kohl’s, Walmart, and Brooks Brothers are already using these programs to improve efficiency.
“Inventory management is critical as retailers optimise across channels,” the analysts wrote. “Stores need accurate, real-time inventory data in order to serve customers quickly.”
A significant number of apparel companies have already added interactive screens to their physical stores, but CB Insights analysts said to anticipate this to be the new normal. These displays, whether in the form of augmented-reality dressing rooms or mere screens for browsing products, are essential in collecting consumer data.
As mobile technology becomes more advanced and interactive, thanks in part to the rise of 5G cellular capabilities, consumers will continue to see more mobile integrations in stores, like QR-tagged mannequins and mobile pay.
“In-store mobile engagement is becoming a useful tool for both customers and sales associates,” the analysts wrote in the report. “Retailers are leveraging customers’ mobile phones as a way to interact with a physical store.”
Customised manufacturing and in-store personalisation
While only a select few retailers like Adidas and Nike have mastered the art of in-store custom 3D printing, analysts said this will be commonplace by 2030.
“If executed successfully at scale, customised goods could garner a level of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty that most retailers have yet to realise,” the analysts wrote in the report.
After Amazon Go demonstrated the ability to operate a store entirely on automated checkout – thanks to a mix of camera vision, shelf sensors, and RFID technology – there has been a rise in shops replicating this grab-and-go concept.
“Automated checkout technology is a way to reduce friction by cutting out the hassle of long lines at the register,” the analysts said. “As tech giants like Amazon introduce this technology to the masses, smaller retailers will need a way to compete. Automated checkout startups may be one way to do that.”
Micro-fulfillment and robotic warehouses
CB Insights said to expect a rise of micro-fulfillment centres, or “tiny, urban warehouses that autonomously fulfil online orders via robotic technology” in major cities. The analysts said these centres will play an integral role as a growing segment of the population moves to cities, citing a United Nations report that found that more than two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050.
“By squeezing warehouses into dense urban areas and cutting down the distance to customers, retailers can reduce the cost of last-mile delivery,” the report reads.
Driverless vehicles and autonomous delivery drones
While Alphabet’s Waymo has already made significant progress with its self-driving cars, other startups like Nuro, Starship Technologies, and Udelv have cropped up to provide fulfillment options for retailers. Though these vehicles still have to pass extensive regulatory protocols, the analysts said they will likely be an option to help both companies and consumers cut down on delivery costs.
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