What omnichannel retail is showing us is not that people will buy less—it’s that people will shop less. In the past, people had no choice but to go shopping to get what they needed.
Today, they have plenty of new options—and because of this, what they are willing to expend attention on is shifting. Some things just aren’t worth spending time shopping for, so subscriptions, algorithms, and auto replenishment become much more attractive ways for consumers to buy these items. Brands must think more broadly about how technology and expectations are intersecting to create a new relationship between people’s attention span and commerce. Retailers have long been skilled at managing product selection and inventory of things people want to buy, but in the future, winners in retail will be best at attracting and retaining the attention of consumers. In an attention economy, retailers will face new competitors but also have new opportunities. They must reshape commerce to fit into consumers’ lives while offering up the excitement of discovery and experience when they want it. The best retailers will find ways to help consumers free up their attention by making buying easier, so that those consumers have more time to shop… with them.