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The Future of Retail

Tali H Bezalel


February 9, 2022

The Future of Retail


As we reflect on the predictions made about the future of retail just a few years ago, it’s fascinating to see how our reality has shifted, especially post-COVID-19. I recently revisited an article written by Lin Grossman about four years ago, and it provided a captivating snapshot of how the future of retail looked before the pandemic when our reality was more akin to a science fiction saga.


Ultra-Fast Delivery: The New Norm

In the pre-pandemic world, two-day delivery was the gold standard for online shopping. Fast forward to today, and consumer expectations have evolved dramatically. According to a study, 25% of consumers would abandon their cart if a one-day delivery option wasn’t available. But this is just the beginning. The future of retail promises even faster delivery times, with two-hour drone delivery on the horizon.

  • Manna: This innovative Irish company is already running live autonomous drone deliveries in Galway, Ireland. With licences to expand across the European Union, Manna is poised to revolutionise delivery services globally.
  • Amazon: The e-commerce giant has been at the forefront of this technological shift, discussing 30-minute drone deliveries that could redefine our shopping experiences.

For more on this, check out Manna’s drone delivery trials.


The Automated Kitchen: A Reality Check

While Amazon’s “Dash Button” made reordering essentials simpler, the future of retail promises even more innovation. Imagine a kitchen where your pantry automatically orders products for you. One stealth startup, WePlenish, is launching a line of IoT-powered smart containers that promise to revolutionise the modern kitchen. No more waking up to an empty coffee stash or making emergency trips to buy pet food—your smart containers will sense inventory levels and reorder items as needed.

Discover more about WePlenish’s smart containers.


Real-Time Inventory Checks: Never Miss Out Again

Have you ever gone to a shop, only to find the product you wanted was out of stock? Google’s latest feature for Google Home addresses this problem. Now, you can ask your Google Assistant to find in-stock products at nearby shops.

For example: “Google, where can I find the Nintendo Switch console?” The Assistant will tell you which shops have it in stock and how close they are. Although this feature isn’t available everywhere yet, it points towards a future where such conveniences become the norm.

Explore Google Home’s inventory feature.


The End of Juggling Shopping Bags

One of the major hassles of shopping is carrying your purchases. The Bonobos model offers a glimpse into a future of retail where this might no longer be necessary. In this model, shops don’t carry in-store inventory. Instead, you try out items and pay upfront, and your purchases are sent to your home. Imagine a world where your purchases arrive before you leave the shop, thanks to ultra-fast delivery services.


Digital Dressing Rooms and Curated Experiences

The future of retail is evolving into something far more immersive and personalised. High-end retailer Rebecca Minkoff has tripled sales by integrating interactive touchscreens in dressing rooms. Shoppers can choose items to be sent to them, view different colours, sizes, and styles directly from the dressing room mirror.

Additionally, apps like Sephora’s allow customers to try on new makeup colours virtually using their phone’s camera. Dressing rooms as we know them may soon become obsolete, replaced by accurate 3D versions of ourselves to try out items and receive personalised style recommendations.


Robot Customer Service: The Future is Now

Today’s consumers prefer solving problems on their own. A significant 67% say they prefer self-service options. Retailers are meeting this demand with cutting-edge technology. For instance:

  • Lowe’s: Testing the LoweBot, a multilingual robot that helps customers find and learn about items.
  • Best Buy: Implementing robotic checkout arms.
  • Shopping Centres: Employing robot security guards.


A Day in the Life of a Future Consumer

So, what will a typical shopping day look like in the future of retail?

Imagine planning to virtually try out new looks at a local shop with friends. You might whip up a party in minutes with drone-delivered items or find the perfect birthday gift last-minute, delivered straight to your doorstep with just a few clicks. Shopping bags and crowded shopping centres will be relics of the past.

Retailers and brands will know more about our preferences through surveys, contests, and interactive apps, enabling them to roll out more effective, personalised, and interactive marketing campaigns. This means constantly evolving, innovating, and unifying their omnichannel efforts to make shopping as frictionless as possible.


The Road Ahead

The future of retail is all about convenience, experience, and options. As we move forward, the line between online and offline shopping will blur, creating a seamless and enriched consumer experience. It’s an exciting time for both retailers and consumers, as technology continues to transform the way we shop.

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