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The World is Our Storefront

Given my unique professional background, I am often asked, “What does the store of the future look like?”

I usually respond, “DeLoreans. Lots and lots of DeLoreans.” I then wait for laughs (or eye rolls) and say, in all seriousness, “The store of the future is right in front of us this very second.”

That’s right. The store of the future is already around us. It is the physical world we see every day. The physical world is the new retail storefront. New technologies will soon bring it to life in ways never imagined.

You need look no further than the significant advancements being made in visual search. If you are unfamiliar with visual search and have never tried it before, grab your mobile phone, open your Amazon app, click the camera icon and take a picture of anything that catches your fancy within your current field of vision.

If that product is identifiable and available within Amazon’s product catalog, it will be available for purchase and delivery from Amazon that very second.

Pretty cool, huh?

Amazon’s not the only one experimenting with visual search either. Many retailers and companies are working on similar capabilities. The technology will only get better over time and quite soon these advancements will likely make our mobile phones remote controls for the commercial exploration of the physical world.

Soon anything we taste, see, touch, or smell in the physical world could trigger commerce, right in the moment.

That pair of shoes that person is wearing? Take a photo.

Need a new outfit for Friday night? Snap a picture of your favorite celebrity in US Weekly, and paint the town red.

Our mobile phones will be like our television remote controls, and objects within our purview will be the program listings. Point and click, and we will be able to have anything we see, even the chair on which I am sitting at Starbucks right now, at the press of a button.

Combine visual search with advances in mobile payments and order-ahead technologies, the likes of which are also on grand display at retailers every day, and it is not hard to envision a future where the world is the consumer’s oyster and the decision of what, where, and how to buy any given product is 100% at the consumer’s discretion.

Look back to Part 1 of this series and the case for the blurring of pre-purchase and purchase marketing becomes even stronger. Pundits like to argue that every consumer journey starts with mobile, but as we can see in a world of visual search, consumer journeys start somewhere quite different. Consumer journeys begin with whatever catches our eye or sparks a memory, while immersed in our surroundings.

Pictures will become just like typing keywords in the Google search bar. The returned results from our photographic queries could be life or death differences for retailers and brands. When done well, mobile search results will be the tools or the near-instant roadmaps or street signs that tell us the quickest, most efficient roads to product acquisition, enabling us to go from product discovery to payment in nanoseconds.

A lack of quality search results could be the death sentence for any brand or retailer.

It is this last point to which we will devote our final attention in Part 3: Location-Marketing is the Flux Capacitor of Mobile Retailing

Check out the other parts of this series:



Guest blog by: Chris Walton

Chris Walton is a leading expert and influencer in omnichannel retailing. An accomplished Senior Executive, with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries, Chris has high-level executive experience across nearly every discipline within retail.  Currently he is the CEO and Founder of Red Archer Retail  and Omni Talk , one of the fastest growing blogs in retail. When he is not writing for Omni Talk or contributing regularly to Retail Dive and the Robin Report, Chris also sits as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for GSVlabs and on the Advisory Board for Delivery Solutions, a leader in last-mile delivery technology. Prior to starting Red Archer Retail and Omni Talk, Chris worked for Target, where he was the Vice President of the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also the Vice President of Merchandising for Home Furnishings on  Chris began his career at Gap, Inc. and holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Chris can be reached at  or follow his blog at