The future of retail

Tuesday, 23 April 2013
The retail industry is in the midst of a customer revolution. The collision of the virtual and physical worlds is fundamentally changing consumers' purchasing behaviours, says new research by Deloitte. Consumers are seeking an integrated shopping experience across all channels, and expect retailers to deliver this experience. Failure to deliver puts retailers at risk of becoming irrelevant.

Mobile devices are key drivers for retailers

The key drivers of this customer revolution are the rapid adoption of mobile devices, digital media and tablets equipped with shopping apps.

In fact, the number of smartphone users in the United States will rise to 159 million by 2015 from just 82 million in 2010.

Traditional retailers must find opportunities to seamlessly embed the virtual world into their retail strategy by developing in-store and online technologies that allow them to create and maintain meaningful and sincere connections with customers across all channels.

The retail paradigm has shifted from a single physical connection point with customers to a multi-pronged approach that crosses both physical and digital channels. The traditional bricks-and-mortar retail store is no longer the dominant medium for purchasing goods. Instead it serves as one of the many potential connection points between customers and a retailer's brand.

As one industry observer has noted: "while physical stores may have once enjoyed the advantage of crafting cool shopping experiences, the aesthetics of the iPad and all the social sharing surrounding online shopping today are now shifting that advantage to online retailers."

Retailers' technology can be disparate and fragmented, according to the research, and multiple store locations can drive an unsustainable cost structure that is not flexible and often underperforms. As a result, many retailers are falling behind in the race to offer a unique and comprehensive experience with their brand that keeps pace with customers' ever-evolving attitudes and expectations.

Image: iPad fashion