What Will Retail Look Like in the Next Two Years?


What does retail look like in 2021 and 2022? Are the Black Friday crowds a thing of the past? Well, with retail these questions are not simply “yes or no” or “better or worse.” Simply, different and, as always, surprisingly resilient.

For the big box and established chains, some were able to deal with the changes that came with each province’s health restrictions. Some took it as an opportunity to introduce technologies or procedures to accommodate the restrictions. Some really didn’t change anything. All of them were focused on one thing: How to get people back into their stores to move products.

We have been talking about curbside pickup, omnichannel retail, store tracking and heatmaps for a long time and didn’t always have the ability or justification to go there. In 2021, most of the large retailers now have a standard curbside pickup solution and complete process to get products without entering into the stores. As restrictions are loosening up and consumers are becoming more comfortable going into stores,  coveted parking spots for curbside pickup are starting to be moved further from the store entrance.

What is the new normal for retail?

So here we are in the 2021/2022 retail seasons, and we ask the question, “What is next, and is this the new norm?” Some retailers needed to enhance technologies around their mobile networks, which then drove the need for stronger, more advanced wireless technologies in their stores and parking lots. Now, priorities include supporting more devices for employee pickers and proximity alerts for the parking lot.

Increased security and video surveillance were also a large investment to extend cameras out to the curbside environments. And, on top of the restrictions, retailers also have felt the crunch on demand of certain products, and have had to deal with those rushes and focus on their inventory procedures.

Other changes that will most likely stick are controls and solutions to assist in line management and cleaning. Heat mapping solutions and line tracking are not new technologies, but a push to standardize on new video and wireless solutions give better insights to retailers to make better decisions on store layout. Self-checkout and zero-checkout solutions are surely going to be here to stay and further investments will likely be made here.

Key technologies for the future of retail

Like most companies during the pandemic, IT staff scrambled early on to enable remote workers, and in retail they scrambled to update mobile apps, in-store Wi-Fi and curbside solutions. In some cases, these were quick band-aid solutions that were needed to ensure essential stores were able to remain open.

Core to all of these solutions are their strong network and wireless technologies. As more and more pieces were added, the network needed to be able to support and integrate with other systems. IT teams generally don’t enjoy adding in new products and new management tools, so it is crucial to find solutions that can give you a single view into your systems and allow for you to add on and upgrade without downtime.

Working with a partner like CDW will give you the experience and access to the best technologies out there to deliver a resilient, intelligent and innovative solution to support retail today and in the future. When building out your network, ExtremeCloud IQ helps organizations automate end-to-end, edge-to-DC network operations, unlock new analytics, scale faster, secure and optimize the end user and application experience. Contact your CDW rep for more info.