The future of brick-and-mortar retailing

“Faced with the threat of online retailing and other pressures, retailers globally are seeking to win back market share by making the customer’s shopping ‘experience’ more theatrical, with emphasis placed on the sensuous elements of an in-store shopping trip,” according to market-research firm Datamonitor.

“The next step in the battle to retain customers is to streamline the buying experience, bringing it more in line with Internet shopping in terms of ease and speed of transaction,” the firm says.

Datamonitor analyst Alex Kwiatkowski says that retailers, given difficult market conditions and rising energy costs, will turn to the following technologies (sprinkled with my own cautionary comments):

Digital signage: Though expensive, it’s the fastest-growing advertising medium. The ads can be tailored to the audience, and proximity sensors can determine when someone is nearby and boost the sound level until the person leaves. (Comment: But it adds to the number of advertisements bombarding us throughout the day.)

Near field communication (NFC): A form of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology used for ‘contactless’ payments. It’s fast, and tends to increase “average spend per transaction.” Kwiatkowski says: “Major retailers who do not implement the technology face being left behind as customers demand ever-faster transactions, a trend exacerbated by the ease and speed of online retailing.” (Comment: But there are security and privacy concerns.)

Self-service checkout: It cuts costs, queue times and shrinkage, while providing a solution to employee shortages. “The technology is popular due to its ability to cut checkout time with one attendant capable of overseeing up to six checkout terminals….” (Comment: For this reason, it’s not popular with labor unions.)

Rising gasoline prices may boost online shopping
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