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The Future of Retail

RM Editor’s Note: Everyone in our industry is always looking for insight into the future of retail. We all know that the industry has seen many disruptive changes in the past decade, and the change trend is expected to continue. As luck would have it, Sean Mulroy from Ingram Micro Mobility and Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing both had some thoughts to share with us on the future of retail. This blog post and infographic came to us separately, but we think each has an interesting take on retail’s future. Read on to take a look at both.

Buying Mobile Devices: Predictions for the Future Experience and What All Retailers Can Learn
Guest Blog by Sean Mulroy, Ingram Micro Mobility. Infographic supplied by Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing.

The successful mobile store of the future will embrace the concept that phones are rapidly being replaced by handheld computers. Therefore, they will focus far less on “traditional” phone accessories and far more on the connectivity enabled by the computers in our hands.

Here are four ways I envision the mobile retail store of the future – and there are lessons learned here for retailers of all types:

How about a little mood music?
Prior to the introduction of the iPhone, the idea of an Apple phone was driven almost exclusively by the idea that phones would act as music players. While the overall mobility landscape has changed dramatically since 2007, music is still a key component for consumers. Embracing that role is vital to the mobile retailer – pull the high-end Bluetooth music speakers off the shelf and put them on the show floor to flaunt the level of audio quality that is now available for connected devices. Headsets designed for audio, such as those devised for use while exercising, should also be featured. Ask yourself this: do you get the same audio experience using a pack of earbuds that you do by cranking up the volume on the Bluetooth music controlled from the palm of your hand?

Consumers want to walk into a store and have the entire mobile experience at their fingertips. And this is true for any retailer. Regardless of the product you’re selling, retail stores of the future will make sure the consumer has hands-on interactions with the product from the moment they walk in the store.

Maxing out mobile device capabilities
You name it, and it’s guaranteed that consumers are buying it with their mobile devices: apps, content, the latest top 20 song, a pair of shoes, or concert tickets. As mobile retailers become the curators of all things mobile, we need to extend the device-purchasing conversation further into how consumers are using devices.

Options like offering app-store gift cards and direct-to-account billing help position the retailer as the guide in unlocking more of the device’s potential. Another example is to offer a subscription to a TV or video service to allow consumers to flex the ability of devices by serving as a content host for videos.  Retailers other than those focused on mobile devices also need to be creative by tapping all of the device’s capabilities

Using connectivity as a selling point
Connectivity is a mobile buzzword we hear daily. Aligning with that is only natural and a near-requirement for retailers of the future. How this connectivity will develop is already apparent: network-connected home security systems, smart thermostats and home appliances, Wi-Fi-enabled scales, and quantified-self health trackers all rely on the current generation of handsets as their brains expand the device’s capabilities exponentially. My imagined mobile retailer showcases these capabilities in an interactive way that allows shoppers to better visualize how the functionality is applicable to their own experiences (i.e. in the home, for work, or just for entertainment), as well as gives a taste of how easy it is to manage multiple tasks from a device. You don’t necessarily need to be in the technology industry to provide a connected experience.

Smart people, smart products
Lastly, the overall mobile retail experience needs to be tied together by a knowledgeable, engaged sales team who take care of customers’ needs, while demonstrating how connected products work. Some of us may talk about connected products ad nauseam, but there is still much consumer education to be had. From a technology standpoint, these teams will utilize mobile point of sale systems designed to make the purchasing process as painless as possible. All of the connected technology from the future – or now – will fall on deaf ears if the assisted sales portion of the experience is neglected.

In the competitive retail landscape, brands are fighting to unlock the formula for greater customer loyalty and success. If retailers consider some of the ways that the consumer imagines my future retail experience, they might stand a greater chance of pulling ahead of the herd.

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