Turning the focus towards online retail, convenience matters now more than ever. Online retail pioneers and forward-thinking industry retailers are raising the bar for the rest of the industry. It is 2020, and time to explore convenience, what it means today, and how retailers can position themselves to take on the challenge in the year ahead.



We are at the cross-section of cutting edge digitally native brands experimenting with voice commerce, to testing augmented reality-enabled online-to-offline (O2O) experiences. It is time for headless commerce and progressive web applications (PWA) where the world is becoming a storefront while the brands enable commerce via smart mirrors, video games, and live streams.

Even in the offline retail industry, the  second and third tier shopping malls are being resuscitated as experiential destinations with theme parks, ski hills, and water slides. Even legacy manufacturers and CPG companies are reinventing themselves by selling direct-to-consumer (DTC) to boost growth.

How does the horizon look?

Consider the return on assets or ROA, which is a common view of profitability and efficiency of retailers, and it will showcase a unique pattern that stands out which began in 2012. At the time when economy was in boom, the retailers saw major reductions in their return on assets. Even now when you check the statistics, median ROA in retail is at a point lower than the dips that took place during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.


What is the reason for this change?

If you look closely at some of the most prominent mainline retailers, the ROA decline showcases a merger of competitive factors which puts considerable pressure on their profit model. Today, retail is at an all-time high in total sales. But this comes with a blow. It costs more to execute and deliver today than it has in the past.

Major factors challenging the existing paradigm are:

  • Today many digitally native businesses are offering advanced product features which are more expensive to develop for some
  • Readily available online-only retailers and marketplaces who offer advanced and more consumer-friendly fulfillment options
  • New players offering cut-throat discounts and off-price companies with vastly different business models that allow for market-leading prices
  • New business models emerging which are not as profitable from retail operations perspective alone but are supported by further ancillary services, subscriptions, memberships, and external funding

Return On Assets is on the down-hill because profitability is being suppressed across the entire value chain, since many retailers try to figure out how to win battles on multiple fronts.

However, considering the silver lines across the horizon, the future of online and offline retail looks bright. Here are some of the trends that will shape the future of shopping for customers:

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