Last night I attended a Portland Design Week panel discussion on the future of retail. It wasn’t quite what I expected, as the discussion skewed more towards what retailers could do to increase value for their consumers through services and technology, rather than the more design-oriented aspect of the retail experience (space, visuals, product display, in-store communications), but it did raise some interesting food for thought. Panelists from Nordstorm Innovation Lab, REI and Ziba discussed everything from the rise of e-commerce, Amazon and dreaded OMNICHANNEL, to technological innovation, their biggest successes and inspirations and what they hope for the future.
The take-home message was that retailers, innovators and designers need to continue to think of new ways to stay competitive by adding more value to the consumer experience. Does that mean that you provide personal stylists that will consult with you via text as you put together your outfit for the evening, a la Nordstorm? Find a way to eliminate check-out lines as the REI panelist suggested, while uncovering new ways to get local influencers to hang out in your store? Do you scramble to implement the latest technology advances that will put you just ahead of the curve? Or do you hunker down, eschew the push to look like the next big thing and create a special community through a really great space, quality products and personalized, friendly service?
I don’t know. But it did make me think about the ways that all businesses, retail or not, should really be thinking about the services and value they provide, the ways that customers experience and interact with their business and how and whether they’re using technology to provide those services. With the lightning fast turnover of trends and ever-increasing technology options, I think there’s real opportunity to be deliberate about what you’re doing, choose your path with conviction, and stick to what’s most important to your business. I’m excited to see what the future of retail will look like, and for that matter, everything else.