What will shopping look like in the future?

Elina Saarenmaa

Wendy's shopping with a digital device

Today’s retailers have never had so many opportunities (or pressure) to reach their customers in new and exciting ways. Retailers know that physical and digital activities are in fact working in tandem to drive the next phase of the retailer’s evolution. Brick-and-mortar retailers can’t just sell things. They are selling the experience of buying things.

A digital customer is very demanding and we can only imagine what the future brings. The digital experience needs to be smooth and entertaining. The technology is there, but which are the retailers who will adopt it first and benefit the most? Successful retailers can’t just ignore the transformation in the digital landscape and be dropped out of the moving train.

Be prepared for the disruptive generation 

Whether retailers are ready or not, the most disruptive shoppers are digital natives. Forget about the millennials (generation X) – the next big retail segment is generation Z. They are born in 1996-2010, with a smartphone in their hand. This generation of diginatives can’t remember a life without social media, and they have become hooked on the real-time personalised world of the modern digital landscape. 

So what will happen in future stores?

Let’s draw an imaginary shopping scenario – and let’s meet Wendy. 

Wendy talking with her colleague 
Wendy is 28 years old, and after her degree in Engineering, she has got an interesting job in an impactful startup. On Friday night, after her hectic week at work, Wendy has been asked out on a date. 

Wendy is planning to meet her date straight after work at a trendy restaurant. At the end of the day, she happens to spill coffee on her favourite shirt while she is talking with her colleague about her weekend plans. She is cursing in her mind because she doesn’t have the time to swing by her apartment and get changed. 

Wendy browsing her mobile

Customers’ online activity and years of past purchase data will generate personal suggestions

Luckily Wendy has time to go via her favourite shopping centre in the city. Wendy browses through the shirt selection in the app of the shopping centre. She chats online with her personal shopping A.I assistant about what she needs.

The app already knows Wendy’s shopping history and her social profile. It suggests visiting the same store from where she has bought the skirt that she is currently wearing. 

The personal assistant in the store gathers three alternative shirts with her size for her to try on when she arrives. The shirts match with Wendy’s white skirt and her natural colour.  

Wendy entering the store

Sensors and digital devices will create a personal customer experience 

Before Wendy enters the store, she receives a push notification on her phone delivered by smart beacons. The message welcomes her to the store and sends her a voucher with which she can get -20% off from every item that she is purchasing today.   

Wendy likes to be acknowledged and treated personally. When she enters the store there’s a screen by the door that recognises her, welcomes her back, and the other screen guides her to the fitting rooms via the counter where they serve her a glass of champagne. (Just because it’s Friday, and there’s always time for a glass of bubbles.) 

Trying items without touching them physically

Wendy goes straight to the fitting room with her glass of champagne and finds three shirts waiting for her to try them on. In the fitting room, there’s also a smart screen that allows Wendy to try on multiple sets of clothes without needing to change. She can also browse the other alternatives in the store from the screen.  

Wendy likes two shirts, and she wants to buy them both. She asks to get the other one home-delivered because she doesn’t want to carry that with her tonight. 

Wendy is trying new shirts in a fitting room

(You still need a second opinion) 

She can’t decide which one, light blue or striped, she is wearing tonight.

A recent study showed 82% of smartphone users consult their phones in the store while deciding what to buy. Wendy is asking help from her shopping assistant and snapping to a friend about which one to wear. 

Both the shopping assistant and Wendy’s friend tell her to wear the striped one. 

Wendy paying with her mobile

No more queuing or scanning – pay as you go

Wendy pays for the shirts via mobile, sips the champagne and hurries to meet her date at the restaurant – only 7 minutes late, like a classy lady. 


The moment they meet, Wendy's date compliments her about her beautiful outfit that she is wearing. That makes Wendy smile.



Walkbase provides a retail analytics solution for improving the impact of marketing on physical stores and personalising in-store shopping experience.