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Consumers have brought on the "hourfication" of retail: to achieve satisifaction, we need it immediately. This disruption is causing a complete undoing of old retail models, and ushing in a new era, declared retail industry futurist Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet, during his keynote address at the Category Management Association's 2015 annual conference in Orlando, Fla.
With the rampant rise of emerging technologies, including predictive shopping, tactile computer interfaces and 3D printers, traditional grocery must shift from "what" it sells to "how" it sells. "Start with experience," said Stephens, author of "The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism" (Wiley 2013). Direct-to-consumer is growing rapidly, but even pureplay retailers such as Google and Amazon are building stores because they recognize the value in creating a personal, customized, co-creative experience with shoppers.
While the good news is that physical stores aren't dead, how shoppers get to stores is anything but predictive, according to Stephens. The new path to purchase isn't linear, he continued, but rather circuitous. It can begin anywhere and end just about anywhere. "We no longer control the path to purchase," says Stephens. Tech research firm Gartner projects that by 2017, 50 percent of all retail will be influenced or directly impacted by mobile devices. Increasingly, the store is everywhere, with buy buttons associated with many digitial platforms, from Pinterest to Facebook.
So what's the role of the physical store? The store becomes the "media," says Stephens. Media is exceptional at what stores used to do, including telling the brand story and creating interest. Now, stores must take on that role, replacing clerks with brand ambassadors who can enrich the shopper experience, tell the brand story, and cinch the sale.