Venky Shankar, Coleman Chair Professor in Marketing and Director of Research, Center for Retail Studies (CRS), was recently invited as a Thought Leader at the Thought Leadership Conference hosted by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He worked with an expert team of academics and practitioners and made a presentation entitled “How Technology is Changing Retail.”

The presentation started with a typology, or classification, of technologies that are impacting retailing.  Shankar presented different theoretical frameworks for a better understanding of the role of technology in retail. He covered technology adoption by shoppers and retailers, and presented some interesting future scenarios and concluded with research questions for scholars to pursue.

Shankar covered a gamut of technologies starting with 5G telecommunication, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, drones, robots, and 3D printing with many powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and how they are changing shopper experience and retailer business model. He discussed different organizations of technologies by stakeholder type (customer-facing, employee-facing, and supplier-facing), information technology (IT) versus non-IT, incremental versus radical, facilitating versus disruptive, and commoditizing versus value-adding. Among the drivers of retail technology adoption, his team identified advancement in core technology, consumer push, competitor innovation, and regulation as the main factors. His presentation highlighted customer and partner adoption, customer outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, purchase), supplier outcomes (e.g., on-time delivery) and financial outcomes (e.g., revenues, profits, shareholder value) as the key consequences of retail technology adoption.

From a retailer standpoint, Shankar discussed the “what, when and how” of technology adoption, management of technologies, and strategic versus tactical elements of technology. He presented different theories, including innovation adoption, technology acceptance, technology management, and option value theories.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the presentation was the articulation of possible future scenarios. Shankar presented his team’s ideas under four areas: retailer disintermediation, hybrid bundles, sharing economy, and retailer types. He speculated a scenario in which all consumables such as laundry for washers are replenished by AI in the machines directly ordering with the manufacturer and retailer becoming more of a repair agent—a possibility being tested by Proctor and Gamble. Another scenario he depicted involved consumers sharing or renting almost everything including, housing, clothing, and transportation. He discussed the near future possibility of, in addition to pervasive omnichannel retailing, smaller format stores for quick replenishment and instant gratification, stores that exclusively demonstrate new products, pop-up stores, repair stores, large experience stores, and community retail outlets, will start to dominate the landscape.

An article based on his presentation is being prepared and will be featured in a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Retailing.