Consumers share their vision of retail in 2041: Think AI, AR and cashless stores

Consumers share their vision of retail in 2041: Think AI, AR and cashless stores
Eighteen years may seem a way off, but consumers are already envisioning a retail environment that is very different from what they are experiencing today.

According to a five-country survey of more than 5,000 consumers for Klarna, a global payments and shopping service company, the majority of consumers (81%) expect augmented reality (AR) to enhance their in-store shopping experience, with more than one-third (37%) seeing this technology as a retailing standard.

Personalization is also high on shoppers’ wish list for the future, with 65% saying they’d want a more personal experience and 36% expecting that will be case, both in store and online. Among the personal experiences desired by Gen Z and Millennials are personal shopping assistants (43%) and personal finance aides (49%).

In 2041, Gen Z — some of which will be 40 — will be the dominant shopping group, along with their older Millennial counterparts. When looking at where retailing is heading, half of the Gen Z/Millennial group said their preference will be to shop in virtual reality more than in physical stores vs. 33% of a combined Gen X/Boomer cohort. One-fifth of Gen Z/Millennials also believe there will only be robots and artificial intelligence (AI) at work in physical stores, and 26% think robots and AI will handle most of the shopping chores. Nearly half would even be comfortable having a robot gather information to personalize their in-store shopping experience.

Not surprising, the Gen X/Boomer group were less enamored of these options, with just 8% expecting a robot/AI takeover of stores. About one-fourth, however, would be OK with a robot collecting personal info.

More than half of respondents (57%) expect stores to be cash-free by 2041. That number rises to 64% when looking solely at Gen Zers and Millennials. And a third of Gen Z/Millennial respondents believe cashless retailing could happen as soon as five years from now. Gen X and Boomers are more hesitant to see that as the future, with only 11% envisioning a cash-free retail setup within five years.

Are brick-and-mortar stores headed for extinction?
Not by 2041, according to those who participated in the survey. The results showed 69% of all consumers would still choose a physical store over a virtual one today, although that number drops to 58% when looking ahead 18 years.

But shoppers do want to see a more circular economy, with expectations for buyback programs (33%) and rental options (32%) in place by 2041.

Klarna’s survey was conducted by research agency Dynata in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Sweden among a minimum of 1,000 respondents in each country. In total, 5,055 individuals participated in the study.
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