How Technology Has Changed Retail in the Last 5 Years

John Krautzel
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Over the last 5 years, technological advances have led to major changes in the way retail companies promote, sell, and even manufacture and warehouse products. Some of these retail changes have been essential to the survival of these companies. But the smarter retail executives are trying to stay ahead of the curve and foresee what experts say will be even greater changes to the retail business in the coming decade.

To be able to foresee some of these retail changes and be ready for them, retail executives would be wise to look at the major shifts in the last five years. Although Internet shopping has been possible for almost two decades, it is only in the last five years that consumers have truly taken to it and put the existence of brick-and-mortar stores into question. Below are some of the major retail changes brought about by recent technological advancements.

1. Targeted Advertising

Before the advent of mobile technology, retail advertising was like casting a net over a wide sea. Retailers brought in whatever was lured into that net, not exactly sure if the potential customers had any real interest in the specific product or service. Today, mobile technology has not only made it possible to track customers' interests by their purchase histories but to pinpoint a customers' whereabouts and fine-tune ads not only according to interest but to location.

2. Adjust or Perish

While large department stores continue to thrive in the recovering economy, technological advances have forced the large retail stores to keep pace with consumer knowledge and habits or pay a heavy price. This has been the fate of some companies such as Radio Shack, which was once seen as a technology industry leader but could not adjust to the changing demands of consumers and the realities of the marketplace. Today, even its name seems quaint and outdated.

3. Quality and Pricing

In the current market, savvy consumers equipped with smartphones and ready access to reams of information and reviews online know much more about the quality and pricing of products and services than they did five years ago. Such access to information and knowledge continues to increase. This is why some executives have asserted that retail competition today is not only local but also national. The quality and pricing of a product or service are competing not only with the retailer down the block but also with any retailer the consumer can access online or through mobile technology.

4. Customer Service

One old-fashioned virtue that companies can rely on despite all the other retail changes is the strength and quality of their customer service departments. In fact, because of the increased access brought about by new technology, fulfilling customers needs efficiently and in a timely fashion is more important in today's retail world than it has ever been.

Although retail changes may need to be as drastic as the rapid pace of technological advancements, retailers can take some comfort in knowing that the goal is still the same as it has always been: a happy and satisfied customer who develops loyalty to a brand. The challenge is keeping up with the growing power of such customers and implementing retail changes that will keep them happy and satisfied in a radically shifting industry.

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