Think about the last time you bought a new shirt. Did you check it out online? Did you buy it that way too? How about having it shipped to your door? If you went to a store, did you use your phone to pay?

Today’s shopping

It’s no surprise that the way people shop today is much different than just a few years ago. From how we get introduced to products — like recommendations from friends through Facebook or online ads — to how we decide to buy, to how we pay, every step of the shopping experience is being transformed.

Why is that? People today want to shop anywhere, anytime — and in all the ways that are convenient to them. Younger people are buying less and driving less, they are moving into cities and spending their time and money on fun experiences, and they are comfortable with sharing their stuff, cars and houses — with friends and even strangers. Americans increasingly turn to their phones first to shop, meaning ease is paramount.

Answering demand

Retailers must respond, and they are. New technologies and business models are exploding onto the scene at an unprecedented pace, led by start-ups, tech companies and traditional retailers themselves. They are all guided by one key principle: the shopping experience should be just that, an experience.

“Americans increasingly turn to their phones first to shop, meaning ease is paramount.”

These and other trends are disrupting the chain store age that we grew up with. A new retail epoch is emerging, one the industry calls “(R)Tech.” (R)Tech is confluence of retail and technology. It is uncharted terrain, where people consume differently, technology enables experiences, customization is commonplace and resources are highly constrained.

The (R)Tech Center for Innovation has formed to help the industry chart the course. It brings together the largest retail companies, ones that aim to embody the strongest values of both the retail and technology industries: global and local, nimble and entrepreneurial. These retailers strive every day to delight us no matter how we choose to shop. The community will address key industry needs and invigorate retail’s reputation with innovators, the next generation of retail talent, policymakers and the public.

The (R)Tech Center for Innovation exposes key players in the retail ecosystem to critical innovations — everything from blockchain to 3-D printing, to virtual and augmented reality, to wearable technology and big data analytics. These leading companies are not only reacting and adapting to change, but are driving forces at the center of it.