Most of us make the mistake of thinking that data and technology will be the end of brick-and-mortar retail. But what if we're wrong? What if it's the only thing that can save retail?

"With shoppers' expectations rising, the proliferation of data and new touch points, and increasing competitive pressures, retailers must focus on delivering the most relevant customer experiences possible in order to succeed. It is no easy feat to deliver engaging content and powerful personalization at scale without the right tools and technology," said Aseem Chandra, Vice President, Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target​.

"By incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, retailers can automate exceptional experiences for each individual consumer across every interaction."

See, we are looking at retail in its current state. We view online options as personalized, more convenient, less hassle. But despite a possible future of same-hour drone delivery, online retail will always lack immediacy. So suspend your disbelief for a moment.

Understand that data can save retail, not kill it.

Is it possible to make physical retail more convenient? Yes. Is it possible to make the physical shopping experience more personalized? Yes. Is it super annoying to return large items that you bought online? Yes.

"Data is the future of retail in the sense that without it, retailers won't be able to survive and compete. Data helps inform the ability to be truly customer centric and relevant to consumers," said Marissa Tarleton, CMO, RetailMeNot.

"Last year, we anticipated the first week of November as a peak shopping time, and saw the average promotion run for 10 days around Black Friday. Especially in light of UPS' recent announcement of shipping costs, we expect consumers to be shopping even earlier ahead of Black Friday and retailers will need to evaluate promotion length and timing to really get in front of their customers when they're ready to buy."

So how do physical retailers use data? Use it the same way Amazon does but in real-life. We know that AR, beacons, IoT exist.

Retailers to some extent have tested these features solely, in a vacuum. But the process needs to be seamless and fluid. People will never want 45 apps for 45 different stores and have to remember to turn on specific phone features to access things.

It's easy to understand your customer through data. So take them on a journey. Right now, today, someone could walk in to your store and receive a welcome message with deals tailored to them.

They could use AR to figure out if something will fit in their house immediately. They could share their purchase on social media and have a 24 or 48-hour window where they received incentives for driving other people to make purchases in that time.

Create a unique experience.

"Despite the rise in online shopping coupled with a decline of brick and mortar sales and traffic, the physical store remains an important touch point in the customer journey. Many are innovating to transform their stores into go-to destinations in an effort to draw shoppers into the store," said Michael Klein, Director, Industry Strategy, Retail, Adobe.

The argument over privacy versus convenience will naturally occur. But data can drastically enhance the experience. "Personalization continues to be the holy grail in retail--consumers expect highly personalized experiences and brands must address this. Automating personalized experiences, in-store and online, with machine learning and AI will benefit retailers and consumers," said Klein.

Because if people know your name when you enter a store and they remember you, that elicits joy. If they know how to deliver exactly what you want, quickly and put it in your hand immediately, you will come back. We are creatures of habit.

"The retailers that are winning are those who are converging in the center between online and brick and mortar. They are nimble to consumer needs, leading with mobile and using personalization and experience to differentiate," said Tarleton. "RetailMeNot data shows consumers have a preference for omnichannel content and savings, and it's up to the retailer to make it super easy to shop where they want, how they want and in their channel of preference (on desktop, in-store or on their mobile devices). In 2016, we saw RetailMeNot retailers issuing 80 percent more omnichannel offers."

Experience is more than just making smaller stores, that feel more tailored and intimate, have a better aesthetic. That's important. But experience is also how well you know your customer and how well you can immediately meet their needs.