Futurist Sees an Already Fast Industry Getting Faster

The COVID-19 pandemic put the personal and professional lives of everyone in limbo for the most part, and Jim Carroll is no exception.

P2PX Keynote

The Future of Engagement in the Era of Post-Pandemic Disruption

Keynote Speaker: Jim Carroll, Futurist & Innovation Trends Expert

When: 12:45 p.m., EST, Nov. 10

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The futurist, trends and transformation expert was scheduled to present a keynote at the Path to Purchase Institute’s i3 conference in May about the reinvention and future of retail, but the quarantine lockdown postponed that event. Now on the agenda for the upcoming Path to Purchase Digital Expo, Carroll finds that many of his previously planned topics are still relevant – and they might be even be more significant now when viewed in the context of the lessons learned over the past few months.

His presentation, “The Future of Engagement in the Era of Post-Pandemic Disruption,” will cover changing retail trends like reduced consumer attention spans and elevated shopper expectations. He will also highlight the new habits retailers and consumers have adopted out of necessity, and identify which ones are likely to remain in place for the long term.

A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that 75% of shoppers who have tried a new behavior or channel (such as digital or online) are likely to continue the practice when the pandemic subsides, he notes. “Many people who might never have previously tried it now really like it, especially for commodity purchases,” Carroll says.

Meanwhile, retailers have all learned something new about innovation, speed, agility and flexibility and, as a result, “we’re never going back to slow, cumbersome operations,” he predicts.

“We had such a massive virtualization literally overnight,” he says. “The typical rate of five to 10 years for behavioral change to occur was compressed into three months.”

Carroll often speaks about how companies such as Amazon continually set a “rising bar of expectations” among consumers, and if brands don’t meet them, they’ll be seen as “somebody from the olden days.”

In light of the pandemic, that bar is now even higher across the end-to-end online experience, from customer interaction to back-end order processing. That shift, plus the fact that many people are already “Zoomed out” from working online all day, has made consumers prioritize ease and experience when shopping online.

“They’re looking for an experience that minimizes frustration,” he says, adding that consumers may choose an online grocer based on freshness and quality but also the likelihood of getting their shopping done easily and their order delivered correctly.

“Retailers need to ask themselves how well they are doing with the online experience, but also how well they are doing with the back-end experience,” he says.

Consumer attention spans, already stretched and hard to capture pre-pandemic, “have collapsed even more,” Carroll says, which forces brands to work even harder to keep their messaging, branding and perception relevant and in front of the customer.

“On an e-commerce site, you literally have seconds to grab consumer attention,” he says. Similarly, “In stores, they’re scanning some 12 feet of shelf space per second. If they can’t find what they want right away, they’re gone.”

Carroll also envisions the industry making logistical accommodations to support these behavioral changes, such as repurposing existing retail space into last-mile delivery centers.

“We were already talking about drones flying to homes as last-mile delivery robots,” he says. “Now, there has been a lot of acceleration of that potential.”

A similar example is drive-by or curbside pickup. “Retailers were already talking about it and then everybody had to do it,” he says. “They didn’t have a choice.”

Through all this change, retailers are wrestling with questions like: What’s different? What does it mean? What have we and our competitors learned? What do we need to do about it? According to Carroll, the answers need to be worked out quickly.

“I’ve always talked about speed but everything has just gotten faster,” he says. “The future is coming even way faster than it was before.”