According to Mark Alvarez, here’s how technology will change the average store in the next 15-20 years.
1. The cash register will cease to be an organizing principle. You’ll be able to pay from anywhere in the store. Right now, the current is working in both directions — tablet apps that allow salespeople to complete sales from anywhere in the store, and phone-based apps that let the customer scan a bar code and buy.
2. Corporate stores will resemble local venues. They’ll all have your data, tablet-equipped salespeople will have access to your entire history with the store. Yeah, a lot of us don’t like talking to salespeople, but they could come in handy if they know our purchase history.
3. Stores will be able to better predict and control traffic flow. Everyone by now knows about geo-fencing and location-based services. But stores will soon have geo-fencing within them, making any area that a customer is in more interactive but also, more interestingly, giving more control over where people circulate and when. Got a bunch of grumpy customers in a customer-service line? Flash sale, aisle five.
Other technologies will allow retailers to better predict traffic flow. Space is at a premium, so retailers will need to maximize its effectiveness.
4. New sales spaces. Right now, brands that are using smart-display tech are mainly doing so for marketing. Nordstrom set up a Kinect-powered virtual window that allows customers to “write” on store windows. That’s fascinating — and the possibilities are infinite. But the big idea is to use digital technology to create a store in previously inaccessible space. Tesco’s subway virtual store is the most well-known example of this, and it’s brilliant — you’re basically setting up another retail location, without any of the overhead.
5. 24 hour access. The other thing that surface-display technology will lead to is the 24-hour store. Smart windows will allow passersby to look at and purchase store inventory from smart posters attached to their windows or walls. Yes, this is already done, and yes, even more people are designing for it. Especially in areas with high levels of night-life traffic, allowing passers-by to immediately purchase that coat displayed in the window. The ultimate impulse buy.
6. And that will make holiday displays awesome. Not that anything can really beat toy trains or a window full of kittens, though.
Keep in mind that not all of this is 100% tech dependent, so it’s going to take architects and designers getting into the act — and from what I’m seeing, they’re coming up with some huge ideas in integrating physical and internet architectures. But, like in fashion, this is a new generation, and a lot of these people are still in school.