Technology continues to change every aspect of our lives and the retail industry is no different. The ways in which shopping malls are constructed and managed has evolved significantly over the past few years and will continue to change into the future.

Menlyn Park in Pretoria, for example, has dedicated charging stations for electric vehicles, license-plate recognition and a head count system, as opposed to foot counts, that tags individuals with a number to prevent double counting. The V & A Waterfront in the Western Cape has recently embarked on a project that involves voice guided location screens, which are supplemented by a mobile app. This voice guides customers to where they wish to go in the mall in real time. In October 2016, Bedford Centre in Bedfordview launched a virtual reality arcade.

Dion Chang and Sue Morris from Flux Trends say that technology is paving the way to a retail future that we haven’t even begun to imagine. According to Dion, who is a seasoned trend analyst, editor and master innovator, 2017 is the year of the drone among other things. He explained that retailers and brands need to be among the ones that have evolved, adapted and been elevated into the technological sphere and the booming eCommerce realm or they may find themselves on the back foot. Here are some of the predicted trends in retail:

1. Drones
“This year, drone technology is going flat-out and will be rolled out more intensively. In Rwanda for example, blood samples are delivered to hospitals via drone technology. With the rough terrain and inaccessibility, this is the only answer and the samples are dropped via parachute at the location. Drone commerce is happening,” said Chang.

2. Ecommerce
Head of the Retail Laboratory at Flux Trends, Sue Morris, says eCommerce is going to be one of the biggest disrupters in SA.

“Shoppers are looking at convenience and cost. eCommerce gives people up-to-date trends and fashion at their fingertips, allowing them to purchase an item when they see it. In India for example, eCommerce is taken even further with the poorest of the poor receiving eCommerce deliveries directly to their cell phone location. This means that you don’t need to have a physical address or a structured residential area to use eCommerce,” says Sue.

3. Omnichannel
Omnichannel, the cross-channel business model that companies use to increase customer experience, flourished last year. Bridging the gap between physical shopping and online is a huge trend. With Google Local Inventory Ads to show online shoppers product availability in nearby physical stores, it’s clear that retailers are now finding new ways to link their bricks-and-mortar stores with their ecommerce offerings.

For more information, contact the South African Council of Shopping Centres on +27 (10) 003 0228 or via www.sacsc.org.za.