For a glimpse at the future of retail, U.S. retailers and e-commerce companies should take a look at China.
China is already a big test lab for the future of retail.
The retail industry is in a state of flux. American retail stores are shutting at a record pace. In contrast, Amazon.com is experimenting with new formats for brick-and-mortar stores and its $13.7 billion deal for Whole Foods Market. This is a sign of accelerating change.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies have been busy weaving together the online and offline worlds. They are trying for an ever more seamless fit. Convenience stores that have no sales assistants or cashiers are popping up in big cities. E-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding and its rival JD.com have poured money into department stores and grocery chains.
To do this, companies are creating efficiencies by integrating payment systems and streamlining inventory and delivery. More important, it is the gathering of data on consumer habits that is crucial. This #future of retail means that there are opportunities for retailers to cater to customer needs and leverage sales online and offline.