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Retailing Update…

Besides Promotion and of course social media, I might argue that retail has seen the most dramatic changes. And that change continues to come. First it was Amazon and online retail. But the innovation coming out of retail in the last few years is unprecedented. We covered a lot of those changes in the most recent edition of Essentials of Marketing. That said, we wrote about that almost two years ago — and more change is coming. This short blog post shares links to articles covering some updates in retail.


The first article, “What is Temu, and should you let your parents order from it” (NPR, February 14, 2024) describes this fast growing online retailer from China. Retailers have struggled to move into international markets, but Temu seems to have the patience and capital to bear the losses. You may have learned of Temu because you are on Instagram (that is where I discovered it, as it advertises heavily there) or even on the Super Bowl where it also placed several ads. Temu’s strategy of offering low prices and a direct-to-consumer model has allowed it to quickly become a significant player in the U.S. e-commerce landscape. However, the company faces challenges regarding product quality, regulatory compliance, and consumer trust as it continues to expand.

The Temu article is worth a read, as your students may already be familiar with the retailer. Further, the case study provides interesting insights useful when you cover the macroenvironment (legal – as a quirk in the laws has helped the brand) and competition (watch out Amazon?) as well as retail.

The Future of Retail

We have always been fascinated by the future of retail. Essentials of Marketing stays on top of retail trends and projects where it is going. That said, forecasting the future of retail has never been more challenging. Fortunately, CNBC interviewed some retail experts and shared their words in “What will retail look like in five years? Top industry executives share their predictions.” The article had a lot to it, so I asked ChatGPT to provide a summary (I always want to be transparent when I use AI for help and I should also mention that ChatGPT and DALL-E also created the image) and, with some minor edits, here is its summary:

Post-Pandemic Transformation: Retail has undergone significant change due to COVID-19, from supply chain issues to changing consumer behaviors and inflation. These challenges have sped up shifts in the industry, including the rise of curbside pickup and mobile shopping.

Retail Leaders’ Perspectives: CNBC talked with several top executives in retail to gauge the future landscape.

Key Predictions for Retail’s Future:

  1. Smaller, Efficient Stores:
    • Stores will become smaller, focused on efficiency, and located based on customer demand.
    • The physical experience will be more intimate and tailored to consumer behaviors.
  2. Experiential Retail:
    • Stores will transform into experiential spaces, offering multisensory experiences that blend shopping with entertainment.
    • The back-end operations of stores will become crucial, with stores acting as mini distribution centers.
  3. Importance of Prime Locations:
    • Prime locations will gain even more importance, while secondary locations may struggle without offering unique experiences.
  4. Technological Disruption:
    • AI, machine learning, and data analytics will drive operational efficiency and customer service.
    • Social media and influencers continue to play a significant role in retail marketing and sales.
  5. Online and In-store Shopping Blend:
    • The line between digital and physical shopping will blur, with a focus on integrated retail experiences.
    • Personalized shopping experiences will become standard, aided by AI and technology.
  6. Consumer Behavior Driving Change:
    • Customer demand will remain the most disruptive force, with technology adapting to meet these needs.
  7. Future Retail Tech:
    • Conversational commerce and advanced AI will transform retail, making search engines obsolete.
    • Technology will enhance the shopping experience, from product fit to personalized recommendations.
  8. Online vs. In-store Shopping:
    • Both online and in-store shopping will coexist, with each serving specific consumer needs.
    • The consumer journey will often start online, even if the transaction concludes in-store.
    • Future Retail Leaders and Challenges:
    • Brands offering unique value or experiences will dominate, while mid-priced retailers may struggle.
    • Luxury and niche brands will continue to thrive by maintaining their distinct value propositions.
  9. Emerging Retail Standards:
    • Personalized customer service and seamless transaction processes will become the norm.
    • Customization and just-in-time inventory will cater to individual preferences and efficient supply chain management.

Conclusion: The future of retail is poised for further evolution, driven by technological advancements, changing consumer expectations, and the blending of digital and physical shopping experiences. Retailers that adapt to these changes by enhancing customer experiences, integrating technology, and optimizing operations are likely to thrive.

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