Innovations to Capture the 21st Century Consumer

We’re 11 years into the 21st century and it’s high time retailers caught up with consumers’ constantly evolving shopping habits. As news of mobile payments, digital receipts and online shopping continues to make headlines, it’s astounding that so many brick and mortar retailers are still stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to integrating technology into their marketing strategies.

According to a recent report released by Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services firm, nearly one third of retail space will be potentially obsolete in its current form by 2020. Additionally, more than 50 percent of all non-food transactions will be influenced by the internet and up to 15 percent of shopping centers could be unsellable. The number one takeaway from the report: “Approach technology as a mindset, not merely a tool. Retailers…need to stop seeing the internet as an external competitor and instead incorporate it into their make-up and adjust their business models accordingly.”

The demise of retail giants Borders was a perfect example of a company that simply couldn’t compete with the demand for online media – at least, not the way the business was structured at the time of its fall. As consumers continue to take their business online, traditional retailers will be forced to introduce innovative ways to coerce the increasingly on-the-go, smartphone-toting, tech-savvy consumer away from their computer screens and into their stores, or else.

Some, such as Macy’s, have mapped out new strategies to address the needs of the 21st century shopper and close the chasm between online and offline shopping. The department store chain will roll out a series of initiatives including digital receipts, free Wi-Fi and the integration of mobile tablets in an effort to upgrade to Shopping 2.0.

Like Macy’s, one obvious way retailers are upgrading their customers’ experience is by providing digital receipts. As reported in the New York Times, more and more shoppers are leaving their favorite brick and mortar stores without the paper receipt they’re so used to stuffing into their wallet or purse before heading to the door.

“To the rubbish pile that the Internet is creating, alongside the road maps, newspapers and music CDs, add one more artifact of consumer life, the paper receipt,” writes NYT retail reporter Stephanie Clifford.

As retailers that have been around for more than a century continue to find new ways to meet the needs of the modern consumer, it will be interesting to see which stores choose to embrace technology and usher their customers into the digital age, and which will be forced to shutter their doors permanently.

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