The end of retail as we know it is near. A quick Google search on “retail apocalypse”is all it takes to convince the average consumer that his or her shopping experience is being cannibalized by retailers' online platforms, and our joyous weekend trips to the mall will soon consist of clicks, not bricks.
Or is this the beginning of an entirely new retail world – one that, across the globe, is turning increasingly virtual? According to Amitaabh Malhotra of Onmyway, international retailers who are prepared to not just survive, but succeed in the industry's future are those who are ready to get techy.
Bankrupt retailer Circuit City plans to relaunch a new website on Feb 15.
As augmented reality usage expands throughout the world, retailers are also looking to embrace virtual aisles as a way to maximize current physical store space. Grocery and convenience store retailers can make efficient use of shelf space by leveraging shoppers' mobile devices as platforms to display related products and expanded selection, simply by pointing one's smartphone at a desired item.
From an entertainment standpoint, AR has a promising future as a tool to draw in consumers to spend more time at shopping centers, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. VR startup Dreamscape Immersive recently collaborated with Westfield Century City to launch a pop-up VR theater called Alien Zoo, which uses body-mapping technology to deliver a unique virtual experience on a space ship.
Watch a trailer for Alien Zoo below:
The “gamification” of technology in stores doesn't end there. Banking on the rise of shopping trips with a twist, retailers are researching methods that would allow mobile devices to sync with a store's digital interface, leading consumers on treasure hunts that reward them in loyalty points, discount pricing or areas of product interest.
Since consumers are primarily occupied by the reality on their phones even when shopping in store, retailers are also prepared to offer a commerce experience which would transform mobile devices into concierges, assisting shoppers with everything from product recommendations to question resolution to seamless self-checkout.
Eventually, international retail will be an industry driven by the technology of the future. But fear not, proponents of physical space – all of those virtual and digital demonstrations have to be displayed somehow. And when they are, the brick-and-mortar champions of the past will remain standing tall, bringing the past and the future together in true retail renaissance.
“Brick and mortar will never go away because brick and mortar is the essence of retail,” Microsoft head of global retailing Greg Jones stated during January's National Retail Federation conference. “But what does need to change is the fabric, or certainly the model….It's not just a destination to buy, it becomes more of a showroom.”