By Aimee Chanthadavong

Omnichannel, multichannel, path to purchase are all buzz words that retailers are familiar with. But apparently that conversation was over five years ago.

Speaking at the Online Retail Expo 2013, Doug Stephens, author and founder of The Retail Prophet, said the future of the retail store is not necessarily about where consumers are going to purchase from retailers but when.

“We have come to the end of a 50-year-old era,” he said.

“The purpose of a store previously had everything to do with the distribution of products because manufacturers needed retailers to distribute their products.  But now distributors are going directly to customers. So where does that leave retailers?

“We need to wipe out the notion of path to purchase because there is no more. Retail is now an individualised experience for whatever the consumer wants it to be.

“So the goal is so as long as the customer buys with you and not your competitors. It’s because the store is everywhere now.

“Retailers needs to start thinking not about the channel of communication or distribution but moments of events and instances in a consumer’s life of when they will need to sell products to consumers and bring those opportunities to customers to buy them.”

This shift for the need to bring convenience to shopping is being driven by the increasing adoption of mobile devices, which has resulted in the role of the store changing.

“It means consumers no longer have to wait for retailers because they can purchase products whenever and wherever they like,” he said.

“As a business and technology providers, think context and not channel. The store is now a media where it has become a distributor of experiences not products. So it’s become less about a place where people go buy something – of course it won’t go away entirely – but it’s more about a place where co-creation and ‘consumerfacturing’ occurs.”

One extreme example where this is occurring is Hointer, a denim store based in Seattle, US. The store operates on a robotic system where shoppers use their smartphones to scan the jeans they like and the robotics delivers the items to their dressing room. To make a purchase, shoppers slide their credit cards through a machine and leave without speaking to a salesperson.