In recent years, physical retail stores have fallen behind eCommerce as the digital economy bellwethers such as Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Tencent have defined the direction of retail and driven consumer expectations. Online and offline commerce now converge into one integrated commerce experience.

Beyond gloomy reports of store closures, retail stores are evolving to become more focused on providing better experiences. Shoppers increasingly expect stores to deliver a personalised experience similar to the online model. Stores are catching up and are also being enhanced to be more experiential and immersive.

Real-time personalisation of communication, offers and prices will gradually find its way into physical retail environments. Retail stands out as a setting to understand how people interact with new technology that pervades all areas of our lives, and many stores are becoming experimental ‘living labs.’

The roles of stores in the future will include the building of brand awareness and engagement, the generation of customer data/insight, and the functioning as fulfillment centres and pick-up points. New performance measures will need to reflect the new goals, such as brand value creation rather than the traditional focus on revenue/sales.

Stationary/mobile self-checkout and checkout-free retail are increasingly becoming part of the mix of options that offer increased convenience and friction reduction to shoppers. Good technology deployment will be outcome-driven and adapted to its setting. This research service primarily looks at trends surrounding, and inspiration that can be obtained from, innovative concept and flagship stores. It does not speculate about the business implications of the significant impact of the coronavirus outbreak that prevails at the time of writing this study.

Stores are becoming an ever-more critical part of the customer journey, but their main contribution is no longer the generation of sales. The value of stores lies in attracting interest, as a brand-building vehicle, a marketing channel, a showcase for the latest products, and providing the best customer experience. This study provides examples of 11 stores across New York, London, and Toronto that are changing the way consumers interact with physical stores – with experience becoming just, if not more, important than transactions.

Key Issues Addressed
  • What are recent developments, current operating conditions, and role of physical retail stores?
  • What are the key trends shaping the future of physical retail stores?
  • What are some of the most innovative retail stores in the world?
  • How are retailers embracing and co-defining the future of physical retail?