The Amazing Future of Retail Conference

Advances in technology have had a major impact on the way consumers shop. But even with all the retail websites and apps at shoppers' fingertips today, physical stores remain at the center of the retail experience.

That was one of the major take-home messages from last week's Global Retailing Conference, which focused on the theme of retail being "everywhere at once."

The two-day conference, hosted by the University of Arizona's Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, drew more than 100 UA students and about 300 industry professionals to the Westin la Paloma Resort and Spa to discuss where the retail industry is headed.

Many presenters, including UA alumnus Lundgren — chairman, president and CEO of Macy's — talked about the future of retail as a "digical" experience, a blend of the digital and physical.

In his opening presentation, "Stores Are the New Black," Lundgren said Macy's has invested heavily in technology in the past five years to meet the changing needs of consumers. He emphasized that retailers must stay in tune with their evolving customers to be successful.

"We don't know what will happen in the next five years, but we know things won't be the same," he said.

But despite the multitude of shopping websites and apps out there today, physical stores remain at the core of the shopping experience, Lundgren said.

In fact, 93 percent of retail transactions still go through stores, said conference presenter Margo Georgiadis, president of the Americas for Google.

Yet many in-person shoppers are arriving at the store knowing exactly what they want because they’ve already researched it online.

With people routinely hopping on their computers or mobile devices to search for products, read reviews and comparison shop, it's becoming increasingly important for retailers to reach shoppers before they ever set foot in a store, Georgiadis emphasized in her presentation, "The War for Traffic."

Read More

Institutes and Centers

The University of Arizona