The Future of Retail

In a new blog post, Conlego's Carlos Castelan discusses the future of retail.


What’s the future of retail?  Retail, like many other industries, is undergoing a profound transformation as digitization and the pace of change accelerates.  Retail may change—or look different—over the coming years but at its core retail is about providing product and services to customers.  Technology will enable that to happen in many different ways while leaving retailers behind that aren’t able to adapt to the new world.

What is the future of brick and mortar?  Brick and mortar stores will need to identify how to create superior experiences for customers to continue walking through their doors.  Formerly, brick and mortar retailers were focused on providing convenience for customers by simply being within a couple miles of their customer’s homes.  In a world, though, where orders can show up on a customer’s doorstep within days, or sometimes hours, stores will need to focus on how to bring customers through their doors by fundamentally changing how they engage with them.

What about the jobs themselves?  In order to provide improved in-store experiences, in-store jobs will need to be more customer-centric.  How can employees help educate customers about the products? Or how can they elevate the shopping experience?  

What are some challenges and opportunities present in the industry?  One of the biggest challenges today for retailers is fundamentally shifting how they serve customers.  It’s somewhat existential: why do customers shop at the retailer?  And how can the retailer double down on this brand promise through either elevating convenience or experience for their customers?  It seems simple but a lot of these decisions are easily dismissed because they may cannibalize an existing business unit or may not have a favorable ROI.  By identifying how a retailer adds value for the customer, though, it becomes easier to find a solution and then think creatively about how it can be executed or what other services/products can be layered on to improve the outcome.  

What should retailers do to survive and thrive in this brave new world?  If you think about retailing as being both an art and science, where retailers will really survive and thrive in the new world is by bringing both sides together.  Traditionally, ecommerce firms have been more data-driven while traditional retailers have been led by highly successful merchandising organizations.  Retailers will succeed where they can bring both sides together and use data to better serve customers and help merchants make better decisions.  The transition of power centers within organizations will be difficult, and require a lot of internal changes, but is necessary for retailers that want to succeed in the long-run.

Carlos Castelán