Brick and mortar stores have been at odds with e-commerce for a decade or more but recent technological advances could change the retail sector.
That’s not to say that the pain for major retail stores will end. The evolution could be painful for many as the new reality sets in, but retail will survive. New jobs will be created, and new types of stores will be built as consumers take the industry in new directions.
Rami Odeh, digital commerce director for TPN, explained his vision for the future of retail Monday at the Retail Innovation Lounge event at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center.
THE EVOLUTION OF RETAIL IS TIED TO TECHNOLOGY
“The line that was drawn between online and the store, mobile and social, and everything else for that matter is slowly being erased,” Odeh said.
E-commerce is a force to be reckoned with as online sales top $340 billion a year in the United States.
Retailers have had to adapt.
Now, traditional retailers all have their own app. Customers can see a product in the store and then go to a kiosk and order it in a custom color or size, and have it delivered either to the store or their home.
This is called the endless aisle where a store doesn’t have to have every single version of every single product in stock. Taken a step further, a new generation of retailers could open without any stock on hand because they are just showrooms.
“They used to be really scared of the show rooming. Now, you have businesses opening brick and mortar stores for the purpose of show rooming.”
“Showrooming used to be a bad thing,” Odeh said. “They used to be really scared of the show rooming. Now, you have businesses opening brick and mortar stores for the purpose of showrooming.”
Another phenomenon that’s coming would do away with shopping for routine items that periodically run out. By tapping the Internet of Things, printers could automatically order more ink before it runs out and have it delivered to the home. The customer wouldn’t do anything.
This would be a subscription or replenishment model where products are programmed to make purchases at a certain time.
“Brita has a new water filter that calculates how many gallons of water were pushed through the filter and then it automatically places the order,” Odeh said.
Groceries could end up the same way, as food and drinks are removed from a smart refrigerator.
VIRTUAL REALITY COULD REINVIGORATE COMMERCE
Tim Hayden, president and co-managing partner of Brain+Trust Partners, sees virtual reality as the key to reinvigorating commerce.
As Dallas-based AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and other companies move toward 5G networks, which will be necessary to pipe VR data to mobile phones, VR could completely change the automobile industry, for example.
Tesla Motors already allows shoppers to use a touchscreen to custom design their vehicle. That’s fine for a startup, but if a large automaker used that business model it would completely change the industry, Hayden said.
Today’s car dealerships sit on millions of dollars worth of real estate and millions of dollars worth of inventory. Allowing people to custom-build their car eliminates the need for all that.
“If you don’t think virtual reality is going to be here — and I would agree with anyone who says not in its current state — this is one of those technologies right now where the plausible is not really here yet, but the possible has been here for a while,” Hayden said. “We’re training consumers through things like 360-degree images and video on Facebook for what they will come to expect anytime they see video.”
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