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Future of Retail 2042

Celebrating over ten years of impact, PSFK’s flagship annual report, The Future of Retail, takes a provocative approach in this edition and provides a multifaceted vision of the trends and themes informing what the retail industry might look like in the year 2042.

PSFK’s research lab has found that today’s rapidly evolving contemporary landscape can provide holistic insights and weak signals that will shape and define the future experience of shoppers, retailers, and brands decades from now. It is critical for all stakeholders, from brand owners and ecommerce companies to technology providers, to be aware of, and properly activate against, the emerging forces shaping tomorrow’s shopping habits and behaviors.

The global economy is undergoing an unprecedented transformation driven by technological advances, demographic shifts, and changing customer preferences. In response, many leading players in the retail sector are embracing disruptive business models, and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are finding it necessary to integrate next-generation innovations into their business operations. The emergence of virtual spaces and other explorable, immersive digital worlds is creating new possibilities and opportunities for retailers to integrate themselves into the lives of their future consumers, and the widespread adoption of digital technologies is increasingly changing the way those future consumers will look, live, and behave within the ever-evolving retail ecosystem.

These emergent industry paradigms contain tremendous promise. As customers become more empowered through mobile devices and social media channels, they demand greater choice, convenience, and personalization across multiple touchpoints. The future “omniconsumer” expects a seamless experience between online and offline environments, and wants to interact directly with brands, their peers, and members of their online communities via social networks and other forms of direct engagement. The rise of the Meta-Mall and On-Demand brands will provide a breadth of future landscapes across which consumers and retailers can engage in new and exciting ways. Real-time insights will lead to personalized, real-time brand and product availability; while the layering of digital landscapes atop physical ones, and the building of entirely new, standalone virtual worlds, will create fully immersive and vertically comprehensive experiences for shoppers.

As these changes take hold, we expect to see significant disruption throughout all aspects of the retail landscape—from how shoppers access products and services, to what stores look like, to where they operate, and even who owns them. The PSFK research lab anticipates that the pace of change will accelerate significantly over the coming years, as pivotal new technologies become ubiquitous and in turn give rise to and support the next and future advances in consumer behavior and commerce solutions.

In this report, the PSFK Research team examines the future truths driving the evolution of retail, exploring the nascent implications, scenarios, trends, and technologies that we see becoming pervasive over the next twenty years. PSFK has identified 16 key trends across 3 2042 Commerce Scenarios that paint a provocative picture of our collective retail futures.