Over the course of the next decade, technology will change the retail industry and, in turn, will change and improve the consumer shopping experience. That’s the view from a report by the World Economic Forum and Accenture, called ‘Shaping The Future of Retail for Consumer Industries’.

I was involved in this in-depth piece of research as a member of the World Economic Forum steering committee. The report explains some of the technological trends that could change the face of retail and also the steps retailers should take in order to stay competitive.

Consumers are already driving the change in the retail landscape with their rapid adoption of technology. As the proportion of online shopping grows, traditional bricks and mortar stores will evolve to become more experiential and technology led and the skills required from the workforce will change.

In the future, shops will be staffed by sales associates which could be both people and robots, who will help to bring the in-store experience to life. They will have extensive knowledge of their own and competitor products and will provide a personalised service for each and every consumer. It will also be critical that they are tech-savvy and well versed in the latest technology to navigate in-store tools and systems effectively.

The combination of the increasing availability of technology and service models such as Amazon and Deliveroo, means consumers are becoming accustomed to, and expect, a rapid and seamless service and as technology develops, customers will also experience this in store. The checkout process will be automated using the Internet of Things, while stock visibility will be tracked in real time to ensure correct availability, and data will be used to predict consumer purchase patterns.

There are four technologies that are predicted to transform the retail and CPG industries in the medium term:

  • The Internet of Things: will gather valuable consumer data to create personalised experiences in connected stores while also driving efficiencies in the supply chain.
  • Autonomous vehicles and drones: will help to increase the speed of delivery, both to store and to the end consumer and will provide savings on labour costs.
  • AI and machine learning: will enable businesses to gather and analyse much more consumer data to help understand their purchase behaviour and buying patterns which in turn, will help retailers improve trend and volume forecasting.
  • Robotics: will impact the retail sector via manufacturing, picking and packing in-store and through some in-store jobs such as shelf-stacking and also free up staff to focus on consumers.

These new and disruptive technologies will impact and improve the retail industry to ultimately benefit both the business and the consumer. However, the introduction of technology does present some challenges. The investment in technology could be expensive and businesses will need to be realistic with their investments as well as ensuring that they have a motivated and skilled workforce who are trained to use the new tools and systems that will be introduced.

This report presents some exciting developments within the industry and retailers must begin considering the strategic and logistical changes they need to make in a fast-changing landscape.

To read the report, click here.