With Amazon determined to airlift your shopping to you by drone in the near future, and the death-knell of the conventional mall sounding widely, it’s tempting to think retail branding of the future will be all about online. Not so. The future of retail is going to be a curious hybrid of bricks-and-mortar and cyber-space.
Retailers like Apple have been totally rethinking their physical spaces, using clever technology to make the act of shopping into a whole new experience. Sure, many of the traditional malls now standing empty will be converted into local fulfillment centers for super-rapid delivery of orders made online. It makes sense—they’re huge, warehouse-like buildings equipped with loading docks, and close to dense populations. But, in many cases, the fronts of those malls, along with heavily-trafficked urban stores, will become cool hangout spaces where the products are presented like never before.
People still like to both see and feel the product they’re bringing into their homes, so smart retailers will offer them a truly modern, engaging, in-store experience while they choose their items, then ship it to them asap. The cool showroom-plus model has worked with computers and furniture for two decades; now a huge proportion of consumer goods will take that idea right into the gleaming, connected, future. Consumers will be getting free ice cream, or shooting some hoops, or customizing their purchases while deciding where their hard-earned dollars go, aided by tablet-wielding sales associates focused on overall UX rather than sales commissions.
It’s already happening at high-end, luxury retailers such as Hermes and Audemars Piguet. But some experts go so far as to predict a trend of “debranding,” in the sense that consumers will focus on experiences rather than products. Whether it’s virtual reality head-sets showing your product in motion, or facial recognition of customers, technology is bound to play a crucial part in the future of the physical space in retail.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the future of retail branding is virtual only; it’s time to review how you’ll use the latest technology to build a place people will come for an amazing in-person experience of shopping for your goods.