Shopping has traditionally been a one size fits all experience but a peek into the near future indicates a different reality. While real estate has largely shaped how we navigate physical shopping environments, the future promises a more personalized and exciting experience.

In a recent podcast interview, we sat down with the VP of Product Management for Vericast, Hans Fischmann, as he describes what’s coming for the store experience and what will be required to get us there. In that conversation, we look at the connection between retail media networks and modern stores by exploring:

  • The future of the grocery store
  • The emergence of “headless retail”
  • The big picture of privacy regulation in the US

The future of the grocery store

When we think of throwing on sweatpants and heading out for our weekly grocery shopping, “personalized” is not the first word that comes to mind.

Grocery stores for the most part have stayed the same since the 1950s. The same parallel aisles, shopping carts and harsh overhead lights welcome every shopper that comes in through the doors to the universal experience that is grocery shopping. The layout of the store is even intentionally planned out so every shopper walks the aisles in a certain way.

While this approach has proven to work for decades, Hans says the personalization of the shopping experience is up next.

“The experience within stores will begin to be personalized. Information will be fed to us in ways that are appropriate and contextually relevant to what we’re doing.”

This could be strategies as simple as letting shoppers know when something they need is in store and where it is, with this information shifting throughout the day based on audience, time and other information gathered from shoppers.

The emergence of “headless retail”

Hans recalls a unique shopping experience he had while in Charlotte where he was introduced to the new concept of “headless retail”.

Upon arrival, he “checked in” using his credit card. There were no checkers and no workers at the registers. Whenever he would grab an item from the shelf, it would be added to his cart both literally and digitally. If he changed his mind about an item, putting it back on the shelf would remove it from his total cost.

He was then charged for all the items he kept as soon as he walked out of the store.

This type of store set-up has endless possibilities for personalizing a customer’s shopping experience and learning more about your audience and how to both target and cater to them.

“Their systems might know that I prefer this brand of soda over that other or that I actually like to eat yogurt in the morning and maybe start presenting yogurt to me in a more interesting fashion. If I were a member of the loyalty program, maybe the price will change dynamically as I walk around,” explains Hans.

With this technology, the store filters to the customer’s profile and caters to their shopping patterns instead of them wandering around the store sifting through thousands of products that may not be something that they need.

When you look at the big picture, there are a few steps that need to be taken before we get there but there are glimpses of this future already out in the real world. Sensors that can detect when items are being taken off the shelf, self-identification technology for when shoppers enter the store and security systems are just a few of the advancements needed before stores make this concept a reality.

The big picture of privacy regulation in the US

A major roadblock in the headless retail concept is privacy.

Because personalization requires identifying factors from the individual, privacy concerns are guaranteed to arise. But Hans suggests that identification in headless retail can be as private as one prefers.

“The idea is there’s a blob, that blob is standing in front of the bread aisle and will probably want peanut butter and jelly to go with that, right? As we see the incorporation of all these technologies come together and synthesize that information into a cohesive picture, that’s how we get to that personalization in a way that doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy,” says Hans.

Currently, 30% of the US GDP is covered by some form of privacy regulation or legislation with more and more states soon to follow. These regulations are put in place to protect consumers and allow them to choose what they want to share or not share with businesses from a marketing standpoint.

While this may seem like an issue for marketing teams, there will still be insights to be taken away from consumers and having control over their privacy will grant them a greater sense of trust and comfort with your business.

Want to learn more about the future of the shopping experience, what headless retail looks like and what that means for consumer privacy? Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts.