The Future of Retail in 2021: The Smart Store

Brian Gallagher

I have to be honest. I am going to completely change my game plan for 2021. I have spent the past several years arbitrating conversations between investing in digital transformation, balancing budgets, and enhancing brand image. While every organization agreed all three points needed to be considered, the reality was only one truly ever won: the budget. I think the entire retail world is finally aligned—and I could not be more excited. It feels great, but I’m going to need a whole new set of talking points. This year, we will finally experience the new vision of retail—Digital First Retailing.

Here Comes the Smart Store

The first technology investment every retailer should consider is the smart store. Just as the world has developed an affinity for the smart home, a smart store is the business version. Why not let the physical store and technology eliminate monotonous tasks and provide new information and experiences? Given what we have learned about safety, employee satisfaction, and customer experience, it only makes sense to have the store do more of the work. Edge computing can enhance employee and customer experiences in real time. IoT devices can eliminate mundane chores and increase safety. Camera systems can guide engagement while also increasing safety. The possibilities are unlimited. Make sure the physical store is supporting your digital efforts for the overall benefit of your customers and employees.

Related: Enable Smarter and More-Connected Retail Operations

A Clear Case for Mobility

The second investment must be in mobile first everything. As retailers, we love to think about the end results—but here it is crucial to start at the beginning. Only a sound, securely managed foundation and smart network can deliver the experience that is right for your brand. As customers and employees alike now expect a great mobile experience, aligning your business is the only way to win. A mix of mobile devices and internal and external applications will only succeed if the infrastructure is solid before reaching for a ton of new applications.


Investing in a smarter store and infrastructure will provide the ideal roadmap for launching everything from internal applications to immersive experiential applications like autonomous shopping. Customers have aligned their expectations. Retailers need to sprint out of the gates in 2021 as the time to invest is now. I am thrilled to switch up my conversation to make retail better for everyone. Welcome to 2021.

Brian is the Retail Strategy & Business Development Director at Connection. Brian joined Connection in 2016 as the Retail subject matter expert (SME) after leading National Store Operations teams for more than 20 years. Brian has a deep understanding of today’s Store Experience and Customer Engagement solutions requirements and works collaboratively with customers and partners to create complete business solutions to drive customer engagement and revenues. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling with his wife and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.