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Paul Hudson
Paul Hudson CEO of Intersperience
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The Shop of the Future

This week we learnt about the latest casualty on the high street, Republic, so I felt compelled to get my crystal ball out and predict the shop of the future! Ambitious? Perhaps, but my aim is to give you an insight into the long term implications of consumer behaviour.

All retailers need to get their minds around the fact that the shop of the future will not have the transactional focus that it has traditionally had. The word ‘showroom’ has been used many times in connection with the trend for consumers to compare prices on mobiles whilst in store. But really, we need to think beyond this and imagine a future where the shop’s main role is, in fact, to be a showroom.

Traditionally, a shop’s purpose has been to sell things – a transactional place. But in the shop of the future, transaction will be a supplementary role, not its central purpose. So what is its role in the future?

  1. Showroom: With products being available online, the revenue taken by shops will fall. Its role will be to display the products and provide a place for customers to compare, try and evaluate. The assistant becomes a sales person, in the truest sense – not just an assistant who can take cash and answer basic questions.
  2. Collection point: We saw the success of ‘click and collect’ services at Christmas. The shop of the future will be a pick up point, adding convenience for busy customers.
  3. After sales care: The shop won’t just be a collection point but also a place for returning or exchanging goods or asking for help. 
  4. Advice centre: The shop of the future will also need to be a full-blown customer service point. As part of a research project we asked teenagers to design their future needs of customer service and they created high-street ‘drop in centres’ for technical advice and enquiry handling. 
  5. Transaction and price negotiation: But we will still buy things in the shop of the future – especially if the highly trained sales people do their job well. But to enable sales in the future, pricing will be dynamic, with prices compared online and locally to remain competitive. 

There is one big barrier that will stop retailers achieving this and that is their structure and accounting. Currently it is common for each channel to be responsible for its own P&L, but as long as they measure success solely in terms of revenue and profit for each channel, then the channels will compete and the shop will cease to exist (because its sales and profit will fall below other channels) – which isn’t actually what customers or the local high street actually want!

The shop of the future is one that is targeted not just on the value of its sales, but on its wider role in customer support. For all channels to work together they need to report under one P&L and other measures of success must be found.  

In my next retail blog, I will explore the environment and technology within the shop of the future – what will it look like? Here is a little inspiration.

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