The retail sector has been experiencing a genuine revolution in recent years, both for neighbourhood shops and chain stores. The upsurge in online shopping and the growing use of technology is changing the rules of the game and forcing traders to adapt to this new landscape in order to remain in business. In stark contrast to the apocalyptic messages about the demise of traditional shopping, it seems to be enjoying something of a boom. In Spain today, the percentage of people who do some shopping at least once a week has risen from 40% to 48% in the last four years. This has happened at the same time as online sales have continued to grow from 19% to 30% in the last two years. The situation confirms that the symbiosis of offline and online shopping is here to stay.

Let’s take a look at some of the main trends apparent in this new commercial paradigm.

1. – Integration of online and offline channels: the coexistence of the two spheres is a fact and is set to become more pronounced in the future. The trend is not for competition between channels but the realisation that the purchasing experience is transversal. You can go to a brick-and-mortar store to try on a sweater but end up buying it online. Or vice-versa, you can check it out online and buy it at your regular local shop.

2. Experience shopping: the outlet has one great advantage over e-commerce, which is the experience it offers. Customers want a singular purchasing experience that an online store is still unable to offer. The proof of this is the proliferation of stores offering alternative services to enhance the purchasing experience: learning sessions at Apple stores, restaurants and cafés inside the shops…

3. Connected retail: the use of technology in shops with specific devices and software turns them into more advanced, connected versions of themselves. There are dozens of examples, such as cameras that monitor the flow of shoppers in the store, virtual changing rooms, interactive catalogues and virtual itineraries, among other features.

4. Mobile retail: the use of smart phones is a great opportunity for shops. Proximity campaigns are being run at present, with offers being sent to nearby devices detected through beacons and sensors. Loyalty campaigns running on apps such as that of H&M are proving successful, with the use of digital labels that can be scanned with the phone to reveal additional information. Brick-and-mortar shops are discovering that you don’t need to set up an Amazon-style operation to take advantage of technology.

5. Smaller shops: Major retailers will continue to open physical shops, but in smaller formats and in more specialised environments. The formula to compete with giants like Amazon or Alibaba is not to have shops crammed with everything, but to have specialist stores for niches that the huge online platforms can’t cover. Recent inaugurations of Ikea, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin stores are examples of this trend. They are smaller establishments that focus on a specific subject and located in the centre of the city.

Retail under discussion

From 27 to 29 May, the Gran Via site will be the epicentre of the retail sector with the hosting of the Retail and Brand Experience World Congress. This event, organized by Fira de Barcelona, will attract around a hundred speakers from companies like Alibaba, British Airways, Carrefour, El Corte Inglés, Glovo, Pernord Ricard or Puig, who will debate the digital transformation that is changing shops as we know them. Besides the activities of the congress, the fair will also have an exhibition area where 120 companies will take part, including startups and companies with a strong technological factor, and a space for workshops and talks on a range of topics.

ALBERT SAS