As a child of the 80‘s it’s fascinating to me how defining that decade was for modern culture, not just because of the great movies, music and dubious fashion - but also the iconic moments that shape the way the way we live our lives today, including how we shop.
The 1980’s were dubbed ‘the age of conspicuous consumerism’; credit card and loyalty programs were celebrated freely across America’s shiny new malls, while the rest of the world looked on with envy. The inevitable economic bust of the late 80’s and early ‘90s then set the stage for a new way of thinking, leading to the internet boom of the late ‘90s . Dot-coms became the darlings of Wall Street, and online shopping became a new reality. Fast forward a decade or so and e-commerce has become a powerful tool for consumers and in some cases an alternative to brick and mortar retail. Yet, e-commerce still only accounts for a surprisingly small portion of total retail sales (a modest 5.8% according to the U.S. Department of Commerce).
So why the nostalgic gaze into the past?
Because like those other milestones in retail innovation which spurred major changes in consumer behavior, we are now experiencing the beginnings of another great shift. Retailers across much of the developed world are rapidly introducing new technology into stores, blurring the lines between digital and physical, and changing the way we shop forever.
Retailers are focusing less on where we shop and placing more emphasis on how we shop. Learning and engagement are at the core of the new retail strategy. We’re seeing new innovations in the Point of Sale ecosystem, feeding data into sophisticated customer databases and integrating with in-store retail experiences. Retailers can merge this data with online shopping habits to identify specific customer preferences and deliver individualized offers to consumers in-store and online.
The connected store, with wifi and strategically positioned sensors is becoming a showroom for driving cross-channel sales. Consumers are demanding more information, more choice and more personal attention. In turn, retailers are acknowledging the power of mobile and providing ways for consumers to receive location based offers, interact with informational displays, launch digital content related to products and even use their own personal devices to complete in-store purchases. Shopping is becoming more purpose-driven and yet more playful at the same time -- as consumers we’ve never been more value-conscious, but as a culture our service expectations have never been greater. Retailers are racing to rise to the challenge of the digital consumer and it’s never been more a more exciting time to buy.