In October 2013, Forbes predicted what a store of the future would look like. It suggested that shopping malls of the future would be devoid of shopping carts. Consumers would sample or try on products in the store, scan into a mobile device and purchase what they want. Then they go home and wait a few hours for delivery of their purchases. Interesting scenario, but how accurate is it?
Predicting the Future
There’s no accurate way to know precisely what the future holds. The best we can do is look at the information available on the directions technology and commerce are taking, then extrapolate from that how the future may look.
1. Durable and competitive advantages. Companies will need to offer products or services that set them apart from their competitors. If you’re offering a product or service that others can easily duplicate, you’ll be putting yourself at a disadvantage in future markets.
2. Automatic shopping. Consumers will want products they use routinely to automatically “refill” themselves when needed. A consumer will want to simply touch a button on their phone to automatically order a tube of toothpaste, for example. Or they may want a way to set up a repeating delivery on a routine basis — say, once a month a new tube of toothpaste shows up in their mail, and their credit card is automatically charged.
3. Brick-and-mortar can’t remain static. More and more products are going online. In the future, any product or service not available online will find it hard to carve out a niche in the market.
4. Center on the customer. Visitors to your website will want personal, individual service online. Real-time chat features, opportunities to video conference with a salesperson in real time: These are examples of customer interaction via technology that gives the consumer the personal interaction they want without going to the mall.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of devices other than the usual suspects such as computers and smartphones. Objects such as cars and kitchen appliances will be able to connect and communicate through the internet. The IoT will consist of a network of devices that communicate through embedded sensors to collect and exchange data. You’ll see this technology used heavily in businesses, governments and by everyday consumers. Businesses planning to thrive in 2020 will need to be on board with the IoT if they want to remain viable. Think delivery drones zipping around everywhere, delivering products ordered via a dashboard on a wrist device connected via Bluetooth to the mobile device on your belt.
Shopping will be totally different
Today, we don’t go shopping without knowing what we want, more or less exactly. This past holiday season, 95% of millennials went webrooming (the practice of using a mobile device to read reviews, check prices, or find deals and discounts, then purchasing in-store) before setting foot in a store. Despite the increasing willingness to purchase products online, many people are still more comfortable with having the opportunity to test, touch, and see a product in person before making a purchase.
To make in-store shopping easier for shoppers that currently webroom, the next logical extension would be to have either those products ready for the customers to test, and hopefully purchase, once they get to a store, or to have augmented reality capabilities to direct them to the products they were looking for. For those who don’t do research ahead of time, augmented reality would be a great way to help shoppers find deals and sales while browsing through a store.
Augmented reality will not only improve the way we shop online, it will also cut down the need for trips to the showroom for products we currently don’t feel comfortable buying online. For many people who don’t have a conventional body type, buying clothes online can be a daunting and risky venture. In the future, loading your body measurements will allow you to try on clothes virtually, cutting down on the wasted time and disappointment of buying clothes online that claim to be your size, but don’t actually fit in real life.
Augmented reality is already useful for buying products related to interior decorating or landscaping, giving us the ability to visualize how a product would actually look when placed in a room, or outside your home. As we look even further beyond 2020, there is a chance augmented reality will give way to virtual reality shopping, letting us test electronic equipment, vehicles, and more.
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