Can Retail Survive? Part II

Some commentators argue that retail, as we know it, is dead and that the future of shopping is online. They suggest physical shops will continue to lose out to online competition. Others argue the future of retail is not so bleak and that it will consist of physical shops complemented by online.

Even if we accept physical shops will continue to be attractive given the basic desire of people to mix with others and socialise as part of the shopping experience, there is little doubt the traditional shop will have to change.

The basic argument about whether retail will be physical or online falls into the traditional ‘either’, ‘or’ approach with one side winning and the other side losing.

The new argument about the future of retail falls into the ‘and’ dimension where it is most likely there will continue to be physical ‘and’ online shopping but the physical shop and shopping experience will have to be different.

Given the efficiency of online retailers such as Amazon, the physical shop will have to be more of an ‘experience’ that entertains and engages the customer.

Shops will have to be attractive to visit and provide added value to the customer in the form of specialised advice, personalised services or specific expertise.

Retail shops will need to develop specialised staff training to improve customer service and use technology to build relationships to ensure customers are motivated to return.

Technology will continue to replace people in the front line, as shops, particularly those that compete on cost will become more automated to compete with online sellers.

Retail shops of the future will continue to need staff but the emphasis will be on staff that engage customers and add real value to the sales process.

Customers will have less time and little interest in volunteering personal information for capture on databases to benefit the retailer unless they receive benefits from the exchange.

Rapid change will continue and the high street, shopping centres and retail parks will need to be more flexible and creative to accommodate greater and more regular churn of retail tenants.

The physical retail market will continue to be squeezed which will force average and poor performers out of business and reward those who provide exceptional value, service and customer experience.

So, physical retail has a future but it will be different and retailers will have to work hard to understand what ‘different’ means for them.

What do you think? Can retail survive? Get in touch, we would love to hear your views contact Nick on 028 8224 9494 or via Twitter @nick_oec.