We’ve all heard the experts and read the forecasts; brick-and-mortar retail is experiencing a major decline. This is a fact now firmly cemented into the minds of consumers and business owners alike. But, how does that shift impact society as a whole? How will both sides need to change in order to live and shop in this new digital world?
Studies show that the combined global storefront has been losing ground to its digital twin since the dawn of the internet; the writing has been on the wall for years. On top of that, consider developing digital sales channels like social shopping, AR, AI, VR, and it becomes clear; the computers are going to win. It’s not a matter of if, but, when, and that time may come sooner than we expected.
Some retailers, especially those with the financial basis to do so, are smartly investing in their own online facelift, reorganizing their corporate structures and strategies to better fit stores hosted online rather than on land. One big example is Walmart, who’ve adopted a full-throttle digital shift in order to compete, now and in the future, with e-commerce overlord, Amazon.
We’ve seen multiple major retailers go under in the recent years, many taking their workforce down without severance. Toys R Us, Hhgregg, Payless, and a score of other recognizable names have tumbled in the storm winds. Even more have pared down their storefronts considerably.
Others, namely, small businesses, are adapting only as they know how, or can afford. Owners and operators must now be proficient social media managers, content creators, and networkers, on top of mastering their own craft; providing a twisted new entrepreneurial challenge in our hyper-capitalist society.
All this in the name of convenience, really. Stores came to be so that we didn’t have to make goods with our bare hands, at home. Now, stores will disappear in favor of versions that don’t require us to leave home at all. It’s an erie progression, one that offers intrigue for the future and mourns the past that got us here.
The physical act of walking into a business, interacting with its staff, purchasing an item, and taking it home, is as elementary a sequence as people can undertake; and one that is universal the whole world round. It’s like riding a bike, but easier. The jobs that stores, shops, markets, have provided over generations, the families and legacies they’ve created and nurtured, all of this will soon be a footnote in the progression of humanity.
These digital markets must diversify quickly enough to open clear paths of employment, enough so that the huge percentages of workers nearing the end of their loyal careers behind cash registers can provide for themselves and their families without the middle class economy bottoming-out even further.
Their are many complicated questions to be answered in the years to come. One thing is certain; the winds of change aren’t done blowing yet. In fact, the storm is just making landfall.