Imagine the 21st century is a consumer. She’s approaching her 18th year, she’s got the world at her fingertips and she wants it all to fall into her hands. This includes purchasing. Yet she couldn’t tell you where or how she will shop tomorrow, or even in the next hour.

Future Shopping

And that will largely shape the world of retail in 2018. Like a person who suddenly reaches adulthood, retail’s basics are the same, but its responsibilities are rapidly transforming. In particular, since shoppers are demanding difference — in terms of product, experience and location — this will trigger surprising shifts, and risks, in 2018.

They shouldn’t be that unexpected, though, considering what we can see from shopper data and behavior of the past few years. Still, shoppers might be surprised by the revisions they have put into motion.

I asked some industry experts what they see coming, and added a few of my own ideas. Following are 10 predictions for 2018.

Pop-in-path retail: Rather than wait for shoppers to find time to visit their stores, more merchants will step into the shopper’s path to purchase, said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, a global retail consultancy. “It’s evidenced at the McDonald’s McCafé in Manhattan, where visitors can place and pay for orders by touchscreen, and Walmart’s endless aisle of toys, accessible through a kiosk in its Orlando, Florida, store.” Other retailers are reformatting stores with quick-hit items right inside the door. Target’s next-generation store in Richmond, Texas, includes two entrances, one expressly for online pickups or grab-and-go food items.

Mail will scale: The delivery industry will become increasingly competitive within retail, predicts Stefan Weitz, executive vice president of technology services at Radial, an ecommerce fulfillment company. “In order to keep up with the growing expectations set by Amazon, some retailers (will begin) to contract out their own fulfillment networks, meaning they’ll choose a partner company to maximize delivery speeds and save costs on distributing orders,” he said. “Overall, the broader industry will be required to digitize and take on another level of sophistication to achieve the agility required to remain a competitive partner of retailers.”

Price will gain weight: Brands will explore new ways to use price, outside of discounting, to attract customers, predicts Katie Smith, retail analysis and insights director at Edited, an international retail analytics company. “While some discounting is healthy and necessary, retailers have found that a long-term dependence on markdowns dilutes a brand’s value and erodes confidence,” Smith said. Strategies would include giving online discounts when customers remove the “free returns” option or when…