Future Stores 2018: Upgrading bricks and mortar

At this year’s Future Stores conference (16 – 17 May, Hilton London Tower Bridge), the central theme is ‘reimagining retail’. Future-gazing is a must for today’s established retailers, who are vulnerable to fast-changing consumer tastes and competition from digital disruptors, so this gathering of retail professionals from across Europe promises to be hugely enlightening. The speaker line-up is offering a constructive mix of retailer insight and tech know-how, which should help cement delegates’ thinking as they plan long-term strategy.

What next for the bricks and mortar model?

In the lead-up to the show, Future Stores surveyed 103 Heads of Digital and In-Store Development from some of the world’s top retail companies, to temperature-check the industry’s stance on incoming store technology. The findings, in the Upgrading Bricks and Mortar report, show how companies are already taking advantage of technology to empower store associates and create captivating in-store experiences. It also reveals views on where the next wave of progress is likely to come from.

Retailers budgeting for big changes

What’s clear from the report is that brands are increasing the budget for omnichannel advancements, and in-store tech, with a big focus on how to integrate digital offers into the store to provide a more streamlined customer experience.

The vast majority of respondents (85%) will allocate upwards of a fifth of their budget to new digital technologies in the coming year, the survey found.

Alongside customer experience, insight is becoming a retailer obsession too. “Our survey shows that retailers are actively looking to build a more comprehensive understanding of their customers’ shopping habits so they can tailor the shopping experience to meet their needs,” says Lucy Bradley, Conference Director at Future Stores. “Many retailers are moving towards designing their stores to connect with their customers on an emotive and psychological level.”

Is Amazon Go a goer?

Other big questions about the future of physical stores are tackled in the report. Do retailers think Amazon Go will prove to be a success and a model for the future? What is considered to be the biggest business advantage of leveraging mobile technology in-store? What hopes do retailers have for AR and VR transforming the instore experience?

It’s fascinating to learn that while fewer than a quarter of retailers questioned (22%) have rolled out augmented or virtual reality tools, 72% are at least considering trialling, if not already likely to roll out VR in the coming year. Clearly the search is on for retail tech that will capture the minds, hearts and purses of today’s consumers.

Future stores become relevant and personal

“As they develop, in-store digital technologies will be used to create more relevant and personal experiences for shoppers,” says Bradley. “They’ll also provide valuable feedback to the retailer, who can harvest the wealth of available information to better understand and engage with their customers as individuals.”

At the two-day conference, these and many more issues facing the sector will be discussed and debated. Retail Connections looks forward to this valuable forum on the future of stores and the re-shaping of shopping as we know it.

Find the full Future Stores report here: Upgrading Bricks and Mortar report

Future Stores is now in its fourth year of bringing together the leading minds in retail innovation, as well as other influential speakers and business leaders from all over the world. 


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