The future of retail: towards experience, technology and sustainability

Over the past few years, the retail industry has experienced unprecedented changes. At one point, the impact of the new crown epidemic caused retail logistics to be hampered, resulting in merchandise shortages; today, shifts in consumer demand amid ongoing inflation have led to excess inventory at retailers.

In recent months, CNBC has spoken in-depth with more than a dozen top retail executives and leaders, including the CEO of Sam's Club and Walmart's U.S. chief e-commerce officer. They shared their insights on where retail is headed in the next five years, how AI technology is reshaping the customer experience, and which emerging standards will lead the way for new retail trends in the future.


Here are the key insights from the interview:

The evolution of the store

Retailers anticipate that the store of the future will be smaller, more efficient, and omnichannel, with stores opening where consumers want to see them. The role of the brick-and-mortar store is expected to become more experiential, catering to the appeal of more and higher shopping goals for consumers and providing an immersive retail entertainment experience.

Disruptive forces in retail

Technology, data, machine learning and artificial intelligence are seen as powerful disruptive forces in the retail industry, shaping operations, customer experience and the overall future landscape. Conversational commerce and social media (e.g., Instagram, TikTok) are also seen as influential factors.


Transformation through technology

Artificial intelligence will and automation is expected to revolutionize all aspects of retail, including predictive analytics for demand forecasting, personalized product recommendations, improved operational efficiencies, and enhanced consumer experience.

Convergence of online and offline shopping

Online and offline shopping is a balance between channels based on consumers' lifestyles and ages, with each focusing on and complementing the other, resulting in a more seamless and complete shopping experience that meets consumers' evolving expectations.


Key Players and Risks

The dominant retailers are expected to be those that keep up with the trends, embrace new technologies and meet evolving consumer expectations. Traditional mid-range retailers may face some challenges, while luxury/premium brands are expected to continue to thrive.

New retail standards for the future

Retailers' predictions include standardization of inclusive sizing, increased personalization through artificial intelligence, transformation of stores into experience centers and increased focus on customer service, energy resource use, sustainable operational development and thinking.