The future of retail, today

  • Opinion
  • December 9, 2015
  • Greg Doone
The future of retail, today

Over the next several years, some very big forces will hit the retail industry. New payment types and variable store footprints will change how and where goods are stored and sold. Data analytics tools like predictive modelling, simple, staff-based stock tracking apps, sensors and ‘always on’ digital technology will make it possible for consumers to interact with retailers in new ways. Retailers’ ability to adapt to these forces will affect customers’ perceptions of their brand for years to come.

So, where is the retail experience headed? Technologies that connect the back of the store to the front, in real time, as well as the analytics techniques that continue to learn from shopping experiences, already exist. They have implications on everything retailers can do or offer.

Inventory management

This really is where the back of store meets the front. It’s the ability to use sophisticated displays, sensors and mobile devices to allow customers to access the full range of sizes, colours, and features for any product, regardless of location.

As retailers develop their capacity to manage distributed inventory, the lines between stores and warehouses will continue to blur. This will allow them to carry far less inventory and have a more accurate ability to trace this inventory all the while offering more stock options to the customer, such as, “I’m sorry, we don’t have that right now, but please take this to the till and it will be delivered to your house tomorrow.”

Loyalty programmes

Customers will expect rewards that reflect their unique value better.

As retailers learn more about customer behaviour and preferences, they’ll move beyond discount or points clubs to benefits that recognise what a particular shopper values most, with an offer that is relevant at the time of delivery. Some companies in New Zealand are already doing this and loyalty programmes are expanding to incorporate non-purchase interactions, such as online engagement or in-store visits. Some retailers are introducing gamification, which is applying game-design thinking to things like online marketing, to appeal to customers’ sense of progression, status and competition.


Retailers will use technology to help their staff recognise and develop a relationship with each shopper.

By giving staff meaningful information like customer purchase histories, retailers enable them to have more helpful interactions with shoppers. This can create a shopping experience that is different from and more valuable than a faceless online transaction. Just make it simple, and helpful. Test and learn… don’t be creepy.

Space planning

Merchandising models will reflect a changing navigation process.

Today’s planograms, or diagrams that shows how and where specific retail products should be placed in a shop to increase customer purchase, are based on a variety of assumptions about how consumers walk through a physical store. But by using tools to understand what attracts shoppers’ attention - like where they move quickly through and where they linger - retailers will be able to make dynamic decisions about promotions and traffic flow. The subtle use of sensors and apps to understand the consumer is likely to be where the winners emerge.

Location and personalised pricing models

Customised couponing is changing attitudes toward dynamic pricing in the offline retail environment.

Retailers will be able to target specific customers locally with discounts and incentives. This will create opportunities to generate more foot traffic, deepen customer engagement and manage inventory more effectively. When linked with loyalty programmes and improved service options through mobile devices, this can create a genuine reason for the consumer to download and regularly engage with a retailer’s app.

Added-value services

Physical stores recognise that they have become virtual showrooms for online sales channels and they are developing more effective responses to keep the sale.

Omnichannel retailers can define the unique shopping experience of the future. Some stores will focus on in-store amenities and sophisticated algorithms can identify meaningful relationships to shape this approach. Others will bolster online tools that allow a seamless transition from in-store research to purchase and fulfilment.

Social marketing

Expectations are moving quickly and retailers will be expected to lead, not follow.

Many brands are leading, facilitating and participating in online discussions. But the power of social networking goes far beyond sharing information. Increasingly, social media helps shape customers’ decisions and even tastes. Retailers will try to enable purchases as soon as a potential customer shows interest with ‘one click’ transactions to convert browsers to shoppers straight from social platforms. Social listening tools can make more accurate demand forecasts and analytical insights about market segmentation.

Staff utilisation

The role of a shop assistant is changing. This has significant implications for training techniques, competency models for hiring and even compensation.

By giving salespeople more information about their customers’ interests and histories, retailers will enable the consultative selling approach most customers prefer. To be effective in this new environment, just having product knowledge won’t be good enough. Even in mass-market stores, tomorrow’s sales assistants will need to be researchers and diplomats, adept at using technology and making connections with customers.

Checkout lanes

The checkout process is changing with the evolution of payment preferences and the rise of cash alternatives.

For some retailers, checkout lanes could actually disappear. Mobile technology will enable any shop assistant to take payment to complete a sale and it may expand the use of self-checkout tools. This will allow assistants to engage in higher value, consultative activities, rather than waiting to process a shopper at the end of their visit.

Loss prevention, privacy and cyber security

Vulnerabilities in any one channel represents a threat to all of them.

By creating ever larger and richer data stores of information about customer interests and behaviours and providing store staff real-time access to that information, retailers are also exposed to new security risks and privacy concerns. Self-checkout models challenge existing loss prevention schemes, too. Retailers need to anticipate and guard against new vulnerabilities across multiple channels.

It’s a long list of considerations for any retailer and reflects the underlying theme of digital opportunity we’re seeing across all industries. Customer change, digital technology and data combine to deliver fundamental business change. We’re moving beyond the stage where a digital strategy governs decisions about how to best leverage this change. In retail, you need a business strategy for the digital age; one that starts with the customer and considers your business from source to consumption.

This copy originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 740 October / November 2015.

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

The $200 million-plus direct sales economy contains many lessons retailers can use. As part of a wider look at this thriving corner of retail, we created a quick explainer showing how this business model typically works.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the upliners

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the upliners

We profiled different participants in the direct sales industry to find out what retailers can learn from them. Meet Isagenix distributors Adam Nesbitt and Bianca Bathurst.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the business builder

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the business builder

As part of a wider story looking at what retailers can learn from the direct sales industry, we profiled Isagenix distributor Ben Frost.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Leveling up: Exploring multi-level marketing in New Zealand

Is the $200 million-plus direct sales economy retail by another name or something different? Regardless, what can we learn from it?


A spectrum of retailers

  • Opinion
  • April 18, 2019
  • David Farrell
A spectrum of retailers

In recognition of April being Autism Awareness Month, retail commentator Dave Farrell considers the role of those on the spectrum in retail.

Read more

How on-trend is your retail business?

  • Sponsored Content
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sponsored content
How on-trend is your retail business?

New insights from Visa highlight five evolving trends emerging from savvy retailers around the world. We’ve taken these global trends and looked at how they are playing out with merchants in New Zealand, and we’d now like to hear what you think of them.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit