Rethinking Retail: The Role of the Physical Store

Online sales are increasing, including in Belgium. The retailers are aware brick-and-mortar stores are in decline but not dead yet. It will need to evolve, but how?

PwC, together with Gondola and the Retail Academy surveyed 84 retailers and 186 manufacturers in Belgium about the evolution of the physical store. Through a qualitative survey and our combined expertise we give a view on the short and long term evolutions that are shaping the Belgian retail landscape.

Retailers are preparing their stores for the future, while manufacturers are building Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) channels

Brands are not waiting for retailers to finish optimising their store, as they are building their own DTC channels. Indeed, for every product sold, no margin is lost to the retailers. More importantly, these channels enable brands to collect data on their customers, which allows them to engage with their brand in a personalised relationship, driving brand attraction and customer loyalty.

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What technologies are essential to the future stores?

According to the survey, both brands and retailers look at optimising the checkout process from stores, with mobile payment being their number one concern, self-scan cash registers being also a priority.

Logically brands favour digital signage and smart tags, as both technologies enable extra focus and insight on the products they offer.

Tablets are also considered as it can serve multiple purposes: personnel can use them to better serve clients, for ex. to give personalised advices based on customer data and it makes the link between off-line and on-line.

Ongoing Evolutions and the Role of the Physical Store

PwC & The Retail Academy defined 6 key evolutions that are transforming the stores today

  1. Store features
  2. Shopping behaviour
  3. Brand behaviour
  4. Technology
  5. Channel blurring
  6. The human role evolutions

The physical store will not disappear as it still is an important part of the customer experience, but its role is changing.

The Roles of the Physical Store



Through the stores, consumers should get an immediate impression of the values that a brand represents

brand connector

Brand connector

The store is a place where consumers can see, feel and try products. And with try, we really mean experience

human touch

Human touch

There will always be consumers looking for the human feedback. It can add a lot of value for customers (for ex. personalised advices) 

ecosystem touch

The ecosystem approach

Brands and retailers should always be on the lookout for an opportunity to interact with their customers. A store should not only be a place to buy but where a community could interact

Contact us

François Jaucot

François Jaucot

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 473 65 89 84

Floris Ampe

Floris Ampe

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 477 61 79 91

Xavier Verhaeghe

Xavier Verhaeghe

Partner, Technology Consulting, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 495 59 08 40

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