The future is fluid. Each act, each decision, and each development creates new possibilities and eliminates others. The future is ours to direct.

Jacque Fresco

Retail is evolving into a fast and more convergent yet divergent confluence of branded integrated existence. The 4th industrial revolution will enable a society that seeks retail shopping as a myriad of entertainment, fulfillment, etc. This shopping experience can be in any shape, form, and speed. It can be delivered as the customer chooses, coupled with AI that will increasingly dominate the impulses of consumerism. Through the co-joint of technology, media, and retail, we will see the extinction of the siloed, customer-channel-centric lens by which our world of retail is currently viewed and managed.

As Carrie Ask, EVP, President of Global Retail at Levi Strauss & Co. states:

“We take mobile technology everywhere we go these days, so it’s no surprise that many consumers today use their mobile devices to inform purchase decisions while in a store, for everything from reading product reviews to browsing their favourite influencer’s Instagram posts. Mobile technology has triggered an undeniable seismic shift in the shopping experience, quite literally putting the power directly into the hands of consumers.”

Today we are witnessing the accelerating emergence of the trios (technology, media, and retail). This is only the beginning.

Fast forward to 5-10 years, customers will see only brands and expect relevant brand experiences through a lens that will be entirely seamless. Reality will be at the consumers’ discretion from physical, virtual to augmented. This reality is also entirely based on the customer’s mood, timing, and choice. The branded channels we speak of now are in their infancy and are migrating to an integrated platform, hence the term “omnichannel”.

The first steps of an integrated flow are underpinned with system architecture (talking in a relatively clunky manner), bounded by apps, interfaces, and working solutions. The aim is to enable communication and transparency between channels on- and off-line, with customer and product data as the central ingredients. These activities will soon become more enabled, faster, real-time, and move quickly to the “retail ecosystem”.

This process implies that there is no real centre or boundaries within this pool of activities per se. Instead, they are fast-sprint-like activities between the variables. In our world, these variables are all the inputs and outputs of time, speed, data, product, physical and digital experience interposed between multiple communication channels. This brand communications span across the kaleidoscope of media touchpoints, locations, and at any time customers interact with the brands.

All of this gives us the genesis of a truly “fluid” retail landscape – “a substance that has no fixed shape and can flow easily”. During the next period, we will investigate the dynamics of preparing for “fluid retail” – the transformational levers for success: 

  • The rise of brand and emotion 
  • Organisation structures and silos 
  • Integrated IT architecture and platforms 
  • The skill sets that we will need as retailers in the future 
  • Culture and the way we do things around here
  • The new measures of success 
  • The emerging realities 
  • From personalisation to prediction 
  • And as a CEO – the ‘How to” implement?   

It’s time to build a strategy and deployment “roadmap” that sweeps up this evolution. Stay curious and enquiring.

Welcome to “Fluid Retail”!

For more insightful discussions into the future of various retail aspects from technology to consumer behaviours with industry leaders and experts, listen to our Future of Retail podcast series on Spotify, iTunes and Android.