Recent data suggests that retailing isn’t disappearing so much as going through a drastic reinvention. Yes, store closures in 2017 were up four times over the previous year’s pace, as tumbleweeds skip through empty parking lots at abandoned malls and shuttered big box stores. Bankruptcies have affected many prominent names in recent years, including Payless ShoeSource and, most recently, Toys “R” Us.

Then there are more positive signs. In the second quarter of 2017, Goldman Sachs reported that 76 percent of 50 retail companies bested the consensus earnings-per-share estimates and that a majority saw growth in same-store sales and an uptick in traffic.

This comes at a time when a greater share of interactive technology is beginning to make its way into the retail channel, which not only offers consumers a more interactive experience, but also provides retailers with critical feedback that can improve the merchandising mix.

Advanced technology for retail

As Michael Boykin, Ph.D., and Daniel Munyan of DXC explain in the paper, “Optimizing the In-Store Retail Experience Using Geomatics,” advanced technology — including geomatics, lasers, facial sensors, location-enabled tracking and machine learning — is helping retailers develop the same kind of insights about consumer behavior and preferences that online retailers enjoy.

Geomatics, the science of analyzing and managing geospatial data, gives retailers a clearer picture of a store’s space that is automatically updated to accurately portray customers’ experiences. As the system gathers in-store location-based metrics, retailers can use geomatics to better understand and improve customers’ in-store experience. Using a veritable tool chest of technologies that includes lasers, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), Bluetooth-enabled tags, 3D facial sensors, and more, retailers can combine browsing habits with purchase data to get the same kinds of insights that online retailers can generate from clicks and purchases.

Sensor-equipped retail shelves are an exciting development. Smart shelves that report stock levels tell companies what products consumers are buying, when and in what quantities. Millions of these events occur each minute on shelves, creating a vast trove of potentially valuable data.

Retailers are also becoming more adept at using omnichannel strategies that combine consumer browsing and purchasing habits through apps, websites and in-store actions to offer a seamless interaction that can dynamically adjust to customers’ needs, wants and expectations. Amazon’s well-publicized 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods underscores the opportunity the online giant sees in combining virtual and physical shopping opportunities.

It’s clear that Amazon and many other retailers believe that putting the right product in front of the right customer at the right time will enable brick-and-mortar retail stores to continue to play a vital role in the consumer’s path to purchase.

Read more on how brick-and-mortar retailers are learning from industry disruptors in the DXC paper, “Optimizing the In-Store Retail Experience Using Geomatics.”