The big question of the future: In which way the objects of desire will be ordered? With a smartphone and touchscreen or data glasses? ©
The big question of the future: In which way the objects of desire will be ordered? With a smartphone and touchscreen or data glasses? ©

How will commerce change and develop in the next decades? Which factors will be influential for customer wishes, purchasing behavior and distribution in the future? Is online shopping winning or is the pendulum swinging back to a rebirth of physical stores? One thing is for certain: The prerequisites for most of the future shopping models are already in place.

It is always difficult to make predictions about the future. And the further into the future we extrapolate, the more reckless the speculations. Think of all the outlandish developments that were predicted for the 21st Century, and yet, the reality has overshadowed even the most audacious dreams. Plus, the innovation cycles are increasingly shorter, not only because global interconnectedness tremendously accelerates the sharing of ideas, information and objects. Business will also be networked to a much broader extent and internationally connected. Country and continental borders will be no obstacle for international exchange, except for national, politically motivated protectionism. Google is leading the way: Why should the world of merchandise not be equally ubiquitous and available within seconds?

Living in the internet of things common sense until 2030

Online shopping is not an option for the future, it is a matter of course! By the year 2030, people will be completely interconnected with things. The American technology philosopher, Kevin Kelly, predicts that new technologies will develop into a form of meta-nature and entwine humans and their day-to-day existence. Technology will become more natural and humans will become more technological.

The big question will simply be in which way the objects of desire will be ordered. With a smartphone and touchscreen or data glasses? With a movement of the hand, in continuation of the Kinect technology, or, as the futurists fantasize, via smart teeth that have a coupon implanted in them? Or, will we already be clothed with the virtual store as wearable technology, while we laugh about the old days when people still had to carry around some kind of mobile device? In the end though, the medium is secondary because all devices, technologies and ranges will interplay with one another and there will be no more problems of compatibility. And that will not only be in customer and supplier communication.

Interconnectedness in logistics

Already, merchandise flows are able to operate to a great extent automatically, and in the future, the interconnectedness will be comprehensive, from order to invoicing, from warehousing to returns. Integrated chips in every product allow the entire transport route, internally and externally, to be precisely tracked and provide information about relevant properties such as size, weight, condition, turnaround time, expiry dates, etc. And facts such as popularity, seasonal demand or additives are also naturally documented. Publishers are already buying from online food suppliers, for instance.The consumer is also a winner in the game of supply and demand here. Not only because the Internet exposes companies, as futurist Peter Wippermann from Trendbüro Hamburg drastically formulated. The customer's influence grows through digital interaction.

Laura Jones, Product Marketing Manager at Google Shopping explains:

Users have more shopping options than ever before with the new trade channels. People want to shop across platforms and devices, and the more seamless the experience is, the better.

The customer as partner: This starts with the integration of suggestions into the product development through to clear specifications for manufacturers and merchants. If they fail to respond, consumers drift away. Only a few companies have the power and the image to stay true to their brand. Even iconic Apple has shown signs of erosion, as have other retailers that were once a "must shop" for shoppers.

Tailor-made offers require special logistics

One thing is certain: "The Long Tail", as Chris Anderson describes the phenomenon, will expand even further as online shopping makes even individual objects (and especially slow-selling items) profitable. Individualizing and mass customizing along with it are increasingly in demand not only in the West, but also in emerging countries.

What has become self-evident in the automobile industry will also apply in consumer goods: The demand is for personalization. "Number of items: 1" represents a huge change for the entire production and logistic process. At the same time, it heralds opportunities for established commerce—and innovative niche retailers. New virtual and real "communities" are forming around increasingly differentiated topics; shops are becoming meeting places for fans.

What does this imply for logistics? Large e-commerce players have long been working with specialized suppliers, but in the meantime, diversification has spread to the shipping area. Top dog Amazon systematically applies its strategy to be closer to the customer and is creating smaller intermediate warehousing near centers, with a purposely limited number of high-demand articles to some extent and mostly automated processing. The same is happening to conquer new markets. Bulk makes things possible; special requests take longer but are carried out in as timely a manner as possible, of course. Perhaps in other ways, though.

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