retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Cool story in USA Today about how "the convergence of smartphone technology, social media data and futuristic technology such as 3-D printers is changing the face of retail in a way that experts across the industry say will upend the bricks-and-mortar model in a matter of a few years ... Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable, says Kevin Sterneckert, a Gartner analyst who follows retail technology. Big-box stores such as Office Depot, Old Navy and Best Buy will shrink to become test centers for online purchases. Retail stores will be there for a 'touch and feel' experience only, with no actual sales. Stores won't stock any merchandise; it'll be shipped to you. This will help them stay competitive with online-only retailers, Sterneckert says."

The story goes on:

"Branding strategist Adam Hanft says this all might sound futuristic, but much of it is rooted in reality. He says satellite stores will open in apartment buildings and office centers. FedEx and UPS will delve deeper into refrigerated home delivery. Google trucks will deliver local services. Clothing — even pharmaceuticals — will be produced in the home via affordable 3-D printers."

And there's more:

"Technology advances won't just change the physical appearance of stores for consumers, but should transform the retail workforce into more of a customer-friendly field, too. Retailers who don't adapt quickly and successfully risk losing out, Sterneckert says.

"What might this evolution mean for the nation's malls and shopping centers and people whose paychecks depend on today's retail model? Experts aren't predicting the end of the in-store experience, but it stands to reason that as with other industries, technology might improve efficiency while setting retailers on a path toward a leaner workforce."

The whole story is worth reading here.
KC's View:
Maybe it is a lack of imagination on my part, but I have trouble with the whole using 3-D printers at home to make pharmaceuticals. I accept the possibility, but I can't quite wrap my head around it... (Is it like making hot tea on "Star Trek" using energy replicators?)

Doesn't matter. The simple fact is that these kinds of technological advances are going to change consumer expectations, change the ways in which stores operate and interact with shoppers, and, as the story says, "upend the bricks-and-mortar model in a matter of a few years." Any smart retailer, no matter what it sells, needs to be thinking about this revolution now.

And don't think it is impossible. Because, as Jean-Luc Picard said (and we are fond of quoting around here), "Everything is impossible...until it is not."