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The Future of Retail Stores

The way we shop and work is rapidly changing. At the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival, Jason Abbruzzese, a business reporter at Mashable, talked the future of physical places, shopping, and branding with Jesse Middleton, co-founder of Wework, and Alana Branston, co-founder & CEO of Bulletin. Here are their top three predictions for the future of retail spaces.

Personalization and Direct-to-Consumer Domination

As people continue to turn to online shopping, and mega-retailer Amazon continues to “eat everyone” as Jason Abbruzzese put it, the future of traditional retail stores will shift dramatically from what we know today.  Long gone will be big department stores, catering to everyone and no one. Instead, start-ups that deliver specialized products and services directly to the consumer  will dominate the retail landscape and online consumer shopping will continue to boom as a result. 

Why this big swing to direct-to-consumer sales? Direct-to-consumer selling is a boon to consumers because it offers means increased personalization and specialization. Plus, many direct-to-consumer companies focus on a single type of product or product line (i.e. just toothbrushes, just eyeglasses, only organic food), which cuts down on decision fatigue for consumers, creates a sense of value, and decreases overall shopping time. And, since many direct-to-consumer businesses are online, the ease and simplicity of doing the actually shopping is also simplified for the consumer.

The future of retail is direct-to-consumer and online. Generalization for shopping will be out. Personalization will be in.

Bigger Will Not Be Better

“When we started WeWork, what we really thought about a workspace was that where you go to work isn’t about your cubicle space. It’s about the overall environment and experience for the total group,” said Jesse Middleton. “It’s not about the square footage.”

Just as physical workspaces have traditionally signalled the culture, community, and vibe of a company to employees, retail spaces have also signalled the overall brand of a business to a consumer upon entering a store. But, the future of retail spaces won’t necessarily be about the square footage of a space, especially when brick-and-mortar retail costs continue to soar. Instead, retail spaces will be most focused on using their space – however big or small – to appeal to a specific demographic and audience.

Just as online advertising has become increasingly targeted and personalized (think: Facebook ads, Google remarketing campaigns, and online shopping cart suggestions), start-ups and new companies will also continue to zone in on how to influence specific, targeted buyers.

“In the future I’m not going to buy square foot for my retail space,” Jesse said. “I’m going to buy impressions.”

Build the Experience, Build the Community

To succeed as a retail brand in the future, creating an experience and feeling will be the utmost important thing a business can do to drive success in their physical location

“I find a lot of new products on Instagram, and I think stores should look more like that,” Alana said. “In the future, stores will need to focus on giving people a reason to keep going there, instead of giving the same experience in every store.”

When entering a store, what unique experiences can a consumer have that they can’t get online? Or, how could a chain of stores offer a specific, cultivated experience in each different location? The brands who can answer these questions will found a way to connect personally with consumers and offer them something special for getting off the couch, out of the house, and into their retail space.

Watch highlights from Jason, Jesse, and Alana's talk at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:

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