Unfortunately, there’s no magical crystal ball that can provide a glimpse into the future of retail.
Considering all of the new technologies, changing consumer behaviors and innovation taking place across the retail sector, we have no way of knowing exactly what’s coming next.
However, a new white paper from Synchrony Financial highlights some of the biggest themes that may take the retail world by storm over the next decade. Florin Arghirescu, SVP of business relationship and innovation at Synchrony Financial, said these insights and influences are important to take note of if retailers want to ensure they are ready for whatever opportunities and challenges may come their way.
The Industry Speaks
Arghirescu had the opportunity to attend this year’s ShopTalk retailer and commerce event, where he said discussions about the future of retail were in full force.
“From a retail perspective, it is very clear that although everyone is at a different point in the journey, everyone is pushing for innovation. Now more so than ever, it’s actually crucial,” he explained.
He also noted that it was impressive to witness the growing conversations around some of the most significant impacts to the retail space, including the new technology being introduced, how data is being leveraged, innovation at the point of sale (POS) and the amount of investment companies are making to drive transformation across the sector.
The biggest opportunity for retailers, Arghirescu said, is the ongoing journey toward fulfilling the vision around the omnichannel strategy, ensuring that the in-store and out-of-store experiences can converge efficiently and seamlessly.
But with that vision come some ever-present challenges.
These include the ability for retailers to maintain a consistent measure of inventory across channels and ensuring that the last mile of the procurement process is happening in an efficient manner, which includes working on deliveries and enabling convenient returns.
Seeing Retail Differently
There’s no question that retail will look dramatically different by the year 2030.
“Retail is and will continue to be vastly accelerated by the pace of new technology as well as the changing consumer patterns,” Arghirescu said.
Synchrony Financial discusses this within its white paper, titled The Future Of Retail.
The retail revolution will come in the form of advanced customer expectations and the pressure for retailers to continue to reach and keep consumers as they aim to fulfill the demand for innovative experiences.
The white paper outlines six key themes that will impact the future of retail: the evolution of self-service via do-it-yourself retail, the automation nation, brick-and-mortar relying on delivering entertainment and engagement, the streamlining of brands, retail on demand and bridging the gap between home and store.
Of those themes, Arghirescu explained that automation nation, or the use of smart data to provide customization, stands to be the most influential. In the future of retail, consumers will expect retailers to tap into the personal information they willingly provide to deliver better customized products and offers.
“The personalized touch is what retailers and their customers are looking for — this enhances the overall shopping experience, which helps customers feel a stronger sense of loyalty,” Arghirescu said. “Using smart data is going to revolutionize the shopping experience — the bottom line is that knowing the customer and what they want is crucial for retailers.”
As the future of retail unfolds, it will ultimately become more about the experience retailers are able to provide their customers.
With that, Arghirescu said it’s expected that the traditional checkout process will change and retailers will eventually begin to rethink the way stores operate today with the intention to change some of the rules that have been out there for quite some time.
Some of the non-value-add steps that are in place today, such as the checkout process itself and waiting in long lines at the POS, may eventually be removed.
“When you think about some of the themes that ShopTalk was getting at around digital technology and the merging of the online and offline world, we see the future of retail around technology-driven, personalized shopping experiences that really provide unique experiences to consumers so that they can continue to be fully engaged,” Arghirescu explained.
Synchrony Financial recently announced the acquisition of its strategic partner GPShopper, a creator of native mobile apps for retailers and consumers.
About six months ago, Synchrony Financial and GPShopper worked together to introduce the Synchrony Plug-in or SyPi for Synchrony’s retail partners. SyPi is a fully integrated credit feature embedded in a retailer's mobile application that offers shoppers the ability to service their accounts, access loyalty rewards and pay the balance on their account with their mobile phone.
Since launch, SyPi has had more than 4 million logins and over $60 million in account payments to date. SyPi is currently live in the mobile apps of a number of Synchrony Financial retail partners, including Lowe’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Chevron and JCPenney.
The plug-in enables Synchrony’s retail partners to take advantage of the seamless experience on the front end and still have the ability to process transactions through its network, Arghirescu pointed out. It also allows a retailer’s customer to view their account balance and purchase activity, make a payment and check their available credit for quick and easy purchasing decisions — all within the retailer’s app on their mobile devices. In some instances, SyPi also allows cardholders to receive push notifications and special offers, including access to rewards for convenient redemption in-store or online.
“Extending that partnership and having GPShopper become part of the Synchrony Financial family just made a lot of sense,” Arghirescu added, noting that the two companies have many synergies, specifically around aiming to capture the tremendous opportunity around the roles of retailer native apps.
Arghirescu also spoke about one of the groups within Synchrony’s innovation strategy and framework, the Innovation Stations. These in-house, cross-functional teams each focus on unique missions and shared goals related to innovation, including mobile and emerging technology in payments, the digital experience for small to mid-size retailers and data and analytics.
“They use agile methodology to test new ideas, explore new technologies and look at improving speed to market,” he added. “To a certain extent, you can look at technology as being a commodity across the board, so it really becomes a very important competitive advantage on speed to market and how quickly you can actually deploy those ideas.”