The impact of technology on brick-and-mortar retail is just getting started as the 2020s arrive, former Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon said Tuesday.
And it may mean that by the end of the decade the days of carrying a pile of clothes into a dressing room are gone.
“Could we have virtual changing rooms so that you can just scan an item in a store with your phone and try it on yourself without actually having to go try it on?” Simon said on “Squawk on the Street.”
“There’s just amazing technology that’s already available that if it were applied to retail would fundamentally change the shopping experience.”
The past decade has been a period of significant disruption in the retail landscape as Amazon and online shopping ascended. RadioShack, Toys R Us and Sears went bankrupt, and other retailers shuttered locations — or opened smaller stores — to cut costs.
Simon, who was president and CEO of Walmart U.S. from 2010 to 2014, noted that an overwhelming majority of retail sales still comes through physical stores.
And while that proportion is likely to shrink in the next decade, he said it represents an opportunity for retailers to take advantage of both physical stores and e-commerce.
He pointed to Target as an example of a retailer who has used physical stores to complement their digital business to “actually make money.”
Target has seen success through making it easier for customers to shop online and receive their items in the same day. It does so through services such as a curbside pickup option, same-day delivery via its Shipt network and buy online, pick up in store.
Simon also called attention to some of the brick-and-mortar expansions Amazon has made, such as integrating Whole Foods into its operations and also opening its own stores.
These developments all tie into the fundamental principle of giving “the customer what they want,” Simon said. “Whether it be order online, ship to home; order online, pick up in store.”
And the technology that is coming into stores such as digital checkout “opens up fascinating opportunities for companies and consumers,” Simon said.
— CNBC’s Lauren Thomas contributed to this report.