Friday, 13 September 2013

The Future of Shopping - A Radical Viewpoint

“Each wave of change does not eliminate what came before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition.”

I can almost look at the future in the eye with startling clarity and clairvoyance. Shopping in the future is going to be quite different.

What we are seeing today is only the beginning. Soon it will be hard even to define e-commerce, let alone measure it. In future, online shopping will become very chic. It is already predicted that e-commerce is developing at an unprecedented rate such that statistics show that two in every four people would do online shopping by the year 2030. Forget future, even today internet is far more accessible than ever before, and thus more and more time is being spent in the cyber world and people are becoming susceptible to extensive advertising.

I foresee the use of replicators and tele-porters. There is no drive to a store. People will no longer queue up to get items and green pieces of paper will not be used to convey value as a digital wallet or smart gadgets will replace it.

Spending money on junk will make no sense in the future. In the days that follow we will see this civilization fall apart. People will learn that spending money on plastic fill dirt is not the way to go. In the future, we will be remembered as a chunk of wasteful people who did ruin the environment with detritus and have left a mess for those that followed.

As we predict the coming future, I wish people can create with their minds anything they want. The age of machines is like living in a wheelchair where you depend on others, but in the far flung futurity you can make anything and do so without any inputs other than your raw will. (strictly for noble purposes only)

Shopping will be done sitting on your couch by launching a video conference with your personal concierge who recommends several items, superimposing photos of them onto your avatar. You reject the ones you don’t like and toggle to another browser tab to research customer reviews and prices, find better deals on several items at another retailer using your mobile app, and order them. We are all living in the ‘smartphone’ world already, it will get to the ultimate level in 2030, so we can share the images and videos with our stylish friends, asking for their opinion.

Gifts will be ordered from a web store but can be exchanged at a local store. There will be virtual dressing rooms that give the user a gauge of cloth fitting. In this scenario, men will not be exhausted with women to shop around. In my view, retailing is distribution + experience. Now the “experience” is getting digitized, becoming “virtual” for the convenience it offers.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and other such focused sites will allow like-minded consumers to follow a favorite retailer and get discounts or tips on deals. There will be more choices for consumers, more things to buy, compare products and prices, and more methods to evaluate goods.

It will be like a dream come true for the shopper — an abundance of information, near-perfect price transparency, a parade of special deals! Retailers relying on earlier formats will die out as the new ones pull volume from their stores and make the remaining volume less profitable.

Online shoppers will benefit from reading customer reviews on products, videos on how products work, compare pricing, free shipping, know who has it in stock, who offers remarkable customer service and a greater selection than a store. What they are missing out on is traffic, driving, wandering through a store trying to find what they are looking for, wondering if they are getting the best deal, wondering if there are any like products that are better, wondering if it even works good or not, asking an employee that does not have any answers, waiting in long lines.

Visually-oriented shoppers will be happy with the system generated "Here is a deal for YOU!" as they enter the digital system. It will present people with options in general that they are likely to enjoy and more likely to buy - similar to browsing a department or style within a store. This will lead to "precision shopping". Perhaps we'll spend less (think of all the things you *won't* randomly buy on impulse if you're not doing as much casual shopping at a mall) and hence you’ll save more.

A device that looks like a smart phone will make supermarket shoppers and stores—happier. Perched on the handle of the shopping cart, it will scan grocery items as the customer adds them to the cart and navigates through the aisles while a screen keeps a running total of their purchases. If shoppers scan an unwanted item by accident, they simply select "Remove" from the menu option, scan the item again, and it is removed from the cart. The total is updated. Retail experts predict that the new retail gizmos will eventually bring about the end of traditional cash registers. Shoppers will like it because it helps avoid an interminable wait at the cashier and retailers will love it because the device encourages shoppers to buy more.

With all of the technology, one forgets the thrill of the hunt and the social aspects of shopping for the best product at the best prices. I think there's room for both. I like scoring the best deal as much as the next girl, but there's also something special about wandering through urban open-air markets and buying from local artisans, etc. Technology does come at a cost.

This post is my entry for the ebay contest under Indibloggers trending topic.
To know more about ebay click here


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