The digitization of the brick-and-mortar: Innovation fueling new shopping experiences

Despite a massive surge in popularity in the past five to 10 years, e-commerce is virtually still in its infancy stage, at least compared with brick-and-mortar, which has existed for thousands of years. As such, it may be premature to suggest that online shopping is going to not only win out, but completely eradicate the need for physical shops in the near future. We may be trending that way, but the brick-and-mortar is not going down without a fight. It simply needs to adjust to keep up with the changing times. 

The increasing digitization of the brick-and-mortars has paved the way for innovation in the retail sector. While traditional e-commerce provides shoppers with the convenience of buying products from the comfort of their own home, consumers can further enhance their shopping experience in person with the right tools and technology. Mobility is playing a major role in this effort, as customers who bring their smartphones to the mall or department store can price-check, read reviews and shop around at competitors with each physical item they come into contact with. It's essentially combining the in-person with the e-commerce experience.

Retailers are embracing new technologies in their stores as well. The use of mobility, big data management, cloud tools and other innovations has transformed the customer experience model. Product design is being reshaped by innovative retail experiences as businesses are able to adjust their manufacturing accordingly based on consumer behavior.

Business mogul Richard Branson discussed this at 30/30 Vision: an event hosted by Virgin Media designed to facilitate discussions surrounding the future of business.

"The last 30 years have seen dramatic developments in how businesses operate and interact with their customers, not least the enormous possibilities generated by the internet and digital technology," Branson said. He spoke about innovations ranging from 3D-printed fashion accessories to theft-proof backpacks that linked to an owner's digital code, among other new products, and shared his vision for a future where products like this are the norm. 

"Consumers are setting the pace, they are very engaged and pick up on things quicker," added Alison Lancaster, interim marketing director at McArthurGlen, who managed the retail debate at the event. "These small companies are important because as technology evolves it's hard for big companies to be agile and fluid – which is why we are seeing a lot of retailers setting up tech incubators."

Innovation is also paving the way for safer, more efficient payment operations. New payment processing software isn't just keeping customer information more secure — although that's certainly a key advantage in the wake of the Target breach that rocked the retail world last holiday season — it's also capturing data and transforming it into a valuable tool that can enhance the checkout process.

Ultimately, innovation is not going to slow down in the retail sector and your traditional brick-and-mortar experience is going to look alarmingly different in the coming years. As a retail owner it's important to stay ahead of the market to reduce the risk of falling behind the competition. Working with a payment processing software provider can ensure this doesn't happen. 

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