Clear the path to retail’s future

It wasn’t all that long ago when the future of retail was clear. That’s because analysts, executives, academics, and everyone else had grown enchanted by two intriguing ideas about millennials:

  • these young adults had a far stronger desire for convenience when shopping than did older adults. This, obviously, helped explain the surge in ecommerce.
  • millennials also demonstrated a stronger interest in “experiences” than in “things.” This, predictably, led to the embrace of “experiential retail” by companies eager to get young people to spend more time in stores.

As recently as March of this year, most everyone in the retail world believed the future involved somehow combining ecommerce’s convenience with wacky concept stores for the youngs.

Then the coronavirus arrived.

Suddenly ecommerce wasn’t just more convenient than going to the store, it was infinitely safer. Suddenly the idea of having fun in an indoor mall with thousands of other people wasn’t an experience to be had, it was a nightmare to be avoided.

The future of retail. Version 2

So it’s back to the drawing board for retail prognosticators. But it shouldn’t be hard for them to see what the near- and intermediate-future will look like. Initial data from the coronavirus era suggests that millennials will continue to embrace ecommerce and that even older, less-tech-enamoured generation have learned to love shopping by screen.

Meanwhile, the journalists at the Business Reporter unit of The Telegraph newspaper have embarked on a global study of the future of retail. They asked some of the leading thinkers in the industry to weigh in. Last week, they published a special report full of articles predicting what happens next. The entire report is worth a read. But we’re partial to the piece our CEO, Richard Harris, contributed.

In that article, Richard argues that retailers should prepare for the future by dedicating themselves to mastering two key concepts in e-commerce: understanding intention and clearing the path. If you work in the retail space, either online or omnichannel, we’d urge you to read the article.