What will the online retailer of the future look like? Source: Shutterstock

How are online retailers transforming themselves?

THE face of retail is changing. And as a new report highlights, this transformation is not just happening on the high street, but for e-commerce as well.

A new report, The Online Store of the Future: How to Prepare Your Business and Win, by IGD and The Consumer Goods Forum, speaks to industry experts to reveal what the digital store of the future might look like five years from now.

It highlights five specific areas ripe for transformation.


Consumers are already used to personalized adverts and 77 percent of the report’s survey respondents think almost all digital communication to consumers will be personal in the future.

In particular, AI will ‘unlock personalization’ and allow retailers to anticipate demand.

For example, if a shopper is looking for food for a specific meal, a special occasion or just for that evening, the homepage will display relevant solutions and products.

Case-in-point: Spoon Guru and Tesco are working together to make it easier for shoppers to search for products based on their personal lifestyle and dietary needs.

The technology works by using AI and nutritional expertise to analyze products’ ingredients to curate food preferences.

Other personalized experiences shoppers will come to expect include tailored promotions, website style and font size – large font for the hard of sight, for example – and voice control.

Stores will act as ‘personal assistants’

Seventy-one percent of respondents think retailers will provide a service that uses data from connected devices to provide personalized recommendations.

For instance, shoppers will be able to subscribe to get certain products regularly delivered. Amazon already offers this service.

Similarly, Platejoy asks shoppers to complete a lifestyle quiz to better understand tastes, preferences and health goals, from which it provides personalized recipes and custom eating plans.

Extending on this idea, the study even suggests that retailers might offer services such as home cleaning and laundry in urbanized areas.

Experiences will be more efficient

Eighty-two percent of survey respondents think grocery service levels will be significantly better than today.

This will be largely due to developments in robotics, such as the picking of products, drones, and autonomous vehicles, meaning an online store can provide more convenient and efficient fulfillment, according to the report.

UK retailer Ocado is one of the most successful online grocery stores. It has achieved this accolade by using robotics, AI and only a few maintenance staff to more efficiently run its warehouses.

Other examples include Amazon Key, which enables unattended home deliveries. And  7FRESH which delivers food within a 5km radius within 30 minutes.

The gap between on and offline will be bridged

Online and offline grocery shopping are merging, and an online store will be increasingly vital to complement the physical store, according to the report.

This could include, it says, checking real-time availability of products in store before visiting.

Then benefiting from personalized offers when the customer arrives.

And online apps that can help a customer find and pay for products without cash. The Alibaba Hema Supermarket already offers this service.

Kroger has tried to integrate its on and offline presence, allowing customers to shop online and then pick up the goods in-store.

However, according to the report, fifty-three percent of respondents have only just started integrating their online and offline teams.

Online shopping will become ‘invisible’

Maybe in the future, consumers won’t even need to visit an online store to shop. Instead, most of the digital content viewed online will be purchasable, the report suggests.

Fifty-percent of respondents say they are prioritizing development of omnichannel marketing solutions throughout the shopper journey.

US-based Mik Mak, for example, allows users to buy from video content.

The future

Retail is evolving fast and with increasingly smart and interconnected devices, shoppers will inevitably want to shop easier, more conveniently and wherever they are.

However, it is worth noting that the digital world changes quicker than the physical world.

Therefore, as the report states, new generations of shoppers will be more adaptable and more likely to view online ordering as the norm. So, expect transformation to happen, and quickly.