Retail, Shopping, Changing … for good?

Retail, Shopping, Changing … for good? August 9, 2012

More than one bookstore has closed; more that one bookstore owner has expressed sorrow over the shifting tides of how folks buy books. I still like to browse through bookstores, but I admit openly and candidly that I buy books through the internet and not very often from a bookstore.

The same will happen with clothing, but this new 3D technology may change the face of shopping beyond recognition and it may not only lead to internet shopping but also tailored in-store purchasing:

The Intel scientist has designed a high-tech mirror that shows how clothes look on a consumer who simply stands in front of an LCD monitor. Parametric technology simulates body type and how fabrics fit — based on weight, height and measurements.

Think of it as a digital fitting room. The concept is three to five years from fruition but could open the door for Intel in the retail market.

The convergence of smartphone technology, social-media data and futuristic technology such as 3-D printers is changing the face of retail in a way that experts across the industry say will upend the bricks-and-mortar model in a matter of a few years.

“The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years,” says Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick, a location-based shopping app available at Macy’s, Target and other top retailers.

Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable, says Kevin Sterneckert, a Gartner analyst who follows retail technology. Big-box stores such as Office DepotOld Navy and Best Buy will shrink to become test centers for online purchases. Retail stores will be there for a “touch and feel” experience only, with no actual sales. Stores won’t stock any merchandise; it’ll be shipped to you. This will help them stay competitive with online-only retailers, Sterneckert says.

Branding strategist Adam Hanft says this all might sound futuristic, but much of it is rooted in reality. He says satellite stores will open in apartment buildings and office centers. FedEx and UPS will delve deeper into refrigerated home delivery. Google trucks will deliver local services. Clothing — even pharmaceuticals — will be produced in the home via affordable 3-D printers.

But this sentence is the heart of the strategy:

“Every waking moment is a shopping moment,” says Steve Yankovich, head of eBay’s mobile business, which expects to handle $10 billion in transactions this year. “Anytime, anywhere.”

And stores are getting in on the action:

Just as online retailers led a revolution in retail shopping in the 1990s, bricks-and-mortar retailers are ready to use technology to fight back.

By the time you walk into a store in the near future, the employees there will probably know what you want to buy, based on information on your trusty phone or tablet. Merchants will know your gender, age, race and income, analyst Sterneckert and others say.

Once you’re inside, imagine waving your smartphone over products and seeing what’s inside. Holding the phone over a DVD’s bar code might activate a movie trailer on the phone’s screen, for example.


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