Few would argue that retail has undergone significant transformation the last couple of decades.

Few would argue that retail has undergone significant transformation the last couple of decades.

A third of UK consumers regularly shop using the internet and technological advances have generally shifted power towards the consumer and away from retailers, particularly from those who are unprepared for it. The retail landscape - as evidenced in any high street or internet connection - has rapidly changed.

This is just the start however, and change is likely to accelerate as the distinction between online and physical retail starts to blur.

Retail is shifting from an activity that takes place in physical stores or online to an exchange of value that can occur anywhere, anytime through any medium.

Through our smartphones, retailers are already able to push personalised offers based on our location and customise our shopping experiences.

Avatars and augmented reality that enable us to virtually see how we would look in a new shirt or dress will proliferate as wearable technology becomes more accepted. 3D printing will enable customisation on a whole new level as retailers become accustomed to the economy of one.

Mass personalisation is the future for those prepared to invest in it, and for those deemed trustworthy enough to handle the significant amounts of data generated.

Indeed, in the wave of technologies that have the potential to revolutionise retail, perhaps the most important revolves around data security.

Tomorrow’s technology, and retailers that use it, will know what we want before we know we want it ourselves. Predictive analytics - building on store loyalty cards - will develop and become prescriptive, offering the best retailing scenarios to meet your lifestyle.

Automated thought-driven devices are no longer the preserve of science fiction.

Next generation brain-to-computer interfaces that enable us to control devices with our thoughts are forecast to be scientifically viable by 2020 and commercially viable before 2027. If your fridge of 2017 can directly communicate its status and contents via the internet, why not a humans’ shopping wants and needs by 2027?

Delivery will be similarly instant, with drones, expanded home delivery options and an enlarged logistical footprint (think pick-up centres at the corner shop) all part of the landscape and payment ever more virtual. Some sort of centralised virtual currency clearing house could well appear where airline miles, accrued bank loyalty scheme points and the like are traded in order to purchase goods and services online.

With all the possibilities opened by technology, wider social trends must also be considered. Greener and more sustainable business models favoured by the Millenials and built around the circular economy are already appearing.

Patagonia has even tied its improved sales to its green initiative that actually sought to sell less by encouraging around 25,000 people to recycle and re-sell old garments. Those that appreciate the shift in balance of power between consumer and retailer will thrive with a more social approach; crowdsourcing, co-creation and even co-production will all be explored more fully in the coming decade as the boundaries of the retail organisation start to blur.

Indeed it will become increasingly difficult to tell consumer from employee, and the virtual from physical.

David Smith, Global Futures and Foresight chief executive

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