Effortless shopping has been the goal of retailers for centuries. Things we use everyday—the receipt (3000 BC), shopping carts (1937), and subscription boxes (2010)—are only a fraction of the ways retailers make it easier for customers to spend money. Learn more about retail inventions you already depend on and discover what's in store for the future of shopping
Follow our infographic to see the past, present, and future of retail. Click on Learn More to see the stories behind the inventions that changed the way we shop.
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A look at innovation in retail through the ages.
Past (1800s - mid 1900s)
In the late 1800s, shopkeepers realized that the longer shoppers lingered in stores, the more they were likely to spend. Hence the invention of products that improve the in-store experience and keep people engaged while shopping. Today we still use:
- Escalator (1895)
- Women's restrooms and lounges (1900s)
- Self-service (1916)
- Shopping carts (1937)
Present (1900 - 2015)
The signs of changing times? Abandoned malls, closing book stores, groceries delivered straight to your door. The meteoric rise of e-commerce has shifted many of our retail experiences to the digital world. Also, with the surplus of big data available brands can easily ‘remember’ individual customers who visit their website, making internet shopping convenient, personalized, and irresistible.
- Shopping apps (2000s)
- Digital wallet (2000s)
- Subscription boxes (2010)
- Messaging apps for retail (2014)
Future (2015 and beyond)
Welcome to the age of the 24-hour consumer. Technology is making it easier to spend every second of free time shopping. With smart vending machines, holographic kiosks, and drone delivery becoming the norm, retail experiences can pop up anyplace.
- Digital smart stores (2015+)
- Virtual shopping holograms (2015+)
- Drone delivery (2015+)
- Magnetic mapping (2015+)
Chelsea Larsson is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. She believes any problem can be solved with a pen, paper, and Pimm's cup. Find her on Twitter: @ChelseaLarsson.
Suzanne Barnecut is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. She is fascinated by technology, but a diehard reader of paper-made books and sender of snail mail. Find her on Twitter: @elisesuz.