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Future of Commerce

Reinventing the Oldest Industry In the World

Karl Siebrecht, Co-founder & CEO, FLEXE

It’s clear that technology has transformed the way we shop, and even bigger, better changes are yet to come.

If you still enjoy going to the store, you’re not alone. People love to shop. But most of us don’t like fighting crowds or getting in the car to go pick up paper towels. Today, we can use the Internet to widen our product search and add a little convenience to our busy lives by avoiding the store when we don’t want to go.

eCommerce is breathing new life into retail—and when done well, bringing the soul back to retail. It's forcing retailers to take a look at what their customers want and then how to deliver on those promises. As a result, more retailers are breaking barriers and identifying new, underserved demographics and discovering how to best serve their needs.

Physical stores won’t completely disappear. But there will be fewer of them and they are going to look different and do more than they’ve done in the past. The best retailers are reimagining and creating new in-store experiences that use technology to entertain and cater to our individual needs. Others are in the process and using technology to add a little magic in the customer experience.

The way we shop has changed, and will continue to evolve. Technology is the enabler, and it has fundamentally changed our buying behaviors forever. Technology is changing fast, and transforming the retail experience by lowering the barriers to entry for small and mid-sized businesses who are dreaming up innovative, new service models every day.

For retailers, goods will only continue to move more seamlessly from A to B; the supply chain will become smarter and more efficient. We’ll get to know more about our customers and be able to offer more intuitive experiences across every channel.

Wherever we end up, customers are the big winners. Personalized services, omnichannel fulfillment, 24x7 connections, and fast, cheap delivery and returns, are increasingly standard business practices. Brands that want to stay in business know they have to embrace their customers if they want their customers to embrace them. Loyalty must be earned.

For those retailers that aren’t willing to pull out all the stops and make themselves indispensable to customers, there is a Plan B: failure. Sadly, many older, respected stores and brands have succumbed to that fate. But there’s no end of newcomers ready to fill the void.

As more and more retailers enter the fray, we’ll continue to optimize for sustainability—discovering new ways to move goods and decrease our environmental footprint. To support the world we live in, we’ll see advancements in reverse logistics, transportation, and the technology that supports the evolution of the retail and supply chain industries.

Every contributor in this volume made similar remarks about where retail is headed. It isn’t about one channel eating the other; it’s more complex than that. The future of commerce is about diversity and structural flexibility. It’s about creating exceptional customer experiences, from convenience to personalization, and having the right tools in place to stay relevant and in sync with your customers. Because they're out there waiting (and expecting!) to be delighted.