By Brian Walker
CEO & Founder, Retail Doctor Group
It is perhaps ironic that the future of technology dictates the future of retail, the future of shopping, and the future of mixed-reality experiences. Buying – the actual physical act of paying for an item or a service – is not part of these processes.
If you think about the whole point of retail, you come to realise that it exists not only to generate revenue from sales, but rather, to generate an interest in items on display so that the consumer may consider making a purchase. Shopping centres therefore exist to bring people to one central place where everything is conveniently located so they can spend their money on what they deem are necessities or perhaps a luxury,
Luxury for the sake of owning luxury is not really part of this process. Retail is a one-stop experience, whereas luxury is a search-and-find experience. People save to own luxury, and they compare every possible option they have access to when making this kind of long-term decision.
Strangely enough, online shopping and retail shopping are still considered two different things in consumers’ minds. There is this huge chasm, a divide or separation, between online shopping and retail shopping, when actually, they are just two sides of the same whole. Let’s take a look:
- Online shopping is where the consumer reaches for a smart device to find an item. The process is managed online and relies heavily on technology to complete the transaction. Enough choices must be available for any one item, so the consumer feels they have made an informed decision and are comfortable making a purchase because of this. Nowadays, most luxury shopping begins here because of the comparative nature of browsing.
- Physical shopping can also require that the consumer use a smart device to navigate their way to a central point (the mall). Once in the mall, the consumer uses either their smart device or smart info centres located within the mall to find their way around. Once they enter a shop, the consumer can again use smart devices to access augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), immersive reality (IR), or a combination of these that create a mixed reality (MR) experience so they can choose a product that fits their needs. Finally, they use technology to pay for the product or service they chose. Here, they buy only what they can see and touch and compare visually.
From a technological point of view, you can see here that online shopping and physical shopping are pretty similar when you compare apples to apples. And no matter what shape or form the technology you use takes on, the future of it and how it will be used remains firmly dictating the future of retail.
Speaking of Apples…
The Future of the iPhone
It is evidenced that we’re spending, on average, 4-5 hours per day on our phones. For those that reckon the iPhone has a sell-by date, and that we’re going to be wearing our connections in the not-too-distant future, how does this usage translate to the end of the mobile device?
Let’s look at this logically…
- Have we not had a semi-conductor shortage? Yes, which indicates a supply issue.
- Was there not a raging pandemic all around us for the better part of two years? Yes, and that meant people reassessed their values and needs in that period.
- Are we not in the middle of an economic recession and people are paying many more dollars out of their pockets for fuel and foods? Yes, and this delays them getting the latest model of the iPhone.
So, if we’re going to wear all the data that we need in the future, and it’s going to integrate and immerse us in all sorts of mixed reality environments, how will that align with mobile technology?
Apple was, of course, years and years ahead of everyone else on Wi-Fi. They lowered the price so they could fit it into the laptop. Any analyst worth their salt would know that first and fourth quarters perform much better than second and third quarters do. The trend lines tell us that on just about every product out there, and Apple is no different.
Back in 2008 (when the Apple App Store launched), Apple faced a similar scenario – and similar rumours. And yet, looking at Apple’s progress since then, you can clearly see steady growth. However, Apple certainly didn’t predict that they would have a revenue machine like the brand has been, not like this, all these years later.
Apple knows that the iPhone in its current form has a shelf life because technology is getting smaller and smaller by the day. But the best-selling watch in the world is not a Swatch or one of their in-house brands. It’s an Apple watch, and it’s not even the best-selling smart watch; it’s just a watch.
They’ve been perfecting their watch designs for decades and made it so you could access all your apps in one little dial.
The Future of Wearable Technology
What if you could access your apps in your glasses? Or if you could access this kind of interface through your clothing?
Well, that’s a real thing right now. The Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) is held in Las Vegas every year in January and showcases new products and technologies in the consumer electronics industry.
The show began as a radio show, then a TV show, then a video and technology show. Now, of course, it’s about digital health, augmented reality, drones, virtual reality, and content. When Netflix decided to go live in over 200 countries, guess where they launched? Right, at CES.
The yearly digital fashion show at CES has been running since 2008. The biggest revolution in the clothing area has definitely been conductive, flexible connectors that you can wash without damaging when you wash your clothing.
Now, this had been a huge issue that many brands tried to solve. Take Nike, for example, who ended up selling their smart range because the wet issue was too big a problem to solve back then. One thousand executives later, Nike threw in the towel, citing the technological advance as “not in their core DNA”.
So, Apple came along and hired those thousand executives, placing them in the middle of their digital health business. You see, Apple sees themselves as experts on the subject of digital health, so much so that my GP actually recommends apps on the Apple watch rather than pills to make me feel better!
But what differentiates Apple’s products and makes them successful is the intersection of beautiful, elegant design with technology.
Classic wearable tech has the downside of being unfashionable, but we know that Apple would never do that. Their designs would be elegant and would fit beautifully and well. Thinking again about the Apple watch, it’s a luxury fashion statement not a piece of technology.
Once we solve the unfashionable aspects of wearable technology, the waterproofing aspects of it, too, can we safely say that the iPhone as we know it today will not be the iPhone of the future by 2030?
Technology is always getting smaller, and wearable tech like this is no exception. The bulky Rayban kind of look and feel is a temporary thing until the technology has shrunk to fit the frame around it. That is, after all, how technology is upgraded, ironically enough: the frame gets smaller, the brain gets smarter, and the price gets cheaper.
This blog post forms part of a podcast series on The Future of Retail, this episode was recorded with guest, and Futurist, Craig Rispin. Listen to the original podcast here and be sure to subscribe for more in-depth views and information on all things retail.
Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consultancy group and the Australian elected partner member of the global retail expert’s alliance Ebeltoft Group. As an Internationally renowned retail expert and experienced retail speaker, Brian understands what makes retailers and brands successful. Want to learn more about the future of retail? Contact us on +61 2 9460 2882 or email@example.com.