The postal service is hosting a gathering Wednesday at a local retailer with the clear intent to gain some business from online deliveries. The Correos de Costa Rica invitation for Arenas Skate & Surf is another tiny step into the future of retailing.
No one can predict the future, even Walmart CEO Doug McMillon who concludes this month that the only certainty is that shopping will be very different in 10 years than it is today.
“Ten years ago most customers were reading about the original iPhone, and wondering whether it would be useful,” he said on the firm’s website. “Now they expect to order something on their mobiles, have it delivered or pick it up in store – often on the same day, in a few hours, or even in a few minutes.”
He also called upon retailers to adapt to these changes and in some areas even lead the way. Otherwise, he warned, they’ll fall behind and disappear.
The World Economic Forum, in a new report, says that over the next decade, the line between online and offline
will continue to blur.
This can be seen in Costa Rica. One clue is the growth of imports. The Dirección General de Aduanas reported Monday that it collected nearly 2 billion colons, some $3.5 million, on imported goods after audits. The Ministerio de Hacienda agency is on the front lines of imports and has said that thousands of packages have been frozen due to disputes over import duties. That shows the scope of the current online market for foreign products, the bulk from China.
The downtown of the capital of San José seems to have survived until now the pressure from a ring of shopping malls that have been constructed around it. In some First World countries, the malls and even Walmart stores spell doom to the downtown retailers. Costa Ricans are more traditional and perhaps not as mobile as shoppers in other countries, and the municipality takes steps to promote downtown events.
Tourists, too, are more interested in a location like the Mercado Central than a mall, which probably is no different than the ones back home.
But change is inevitable, and it may be those glitzy shopping malls that suffer the most when customers increase their internet purchases. Local supermarkets already will shop for e-commerce customers and make home deliveries of groceries.
Even Walmart will accept internet purchases and hold them for pickup.
Amazon, of course, is experimenting with drone delivery elsewhere.
The World Economic Forum report is called “Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries.” It sees what it calls eight disruptive technologies that will shape the future. Included are drones, but also other types of robots, 3D printing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The forum said it expected the physical store to survive but:
“In the future, e-commerce penetration is projected to grow from approximately 10 percent today to greater than 40 percent in 2026. Averages, however, can be deceiving, and some product categories are likely to register penetration rates of 50 percent or more, while others may not grow beyond 20 percent.”
Examples might be seen in the travel industry, music and book businesses where online outlets have captured the market to the detriment of the local travel agency, book and record stores.
Walmart’s McMillon seems to agree. He says: “The historic trade-off between price and service has been altered by technology and customers expect to save time and enjoy the experience while saving money. They’ll fulfill their everyday needs – items like laundry detergent, paper, light bulbs, grocery staples and shampoo – in the easiest way possible through a combination of stores, e-commerce, pick-up, delivery and supported by artificial intelligence. Customer desires – think emerging fashion, fresh produce, and items they’ve never seen before – will still be fun to explore in stores as well as with technology (think virtual reality).”
The World Economics Forum report warns: “Industry participants will only succeed if they have a relentless focus on using technology to increase the value added to consumers.”
This is the cover photo of the World Economic forum report