It’s human nature to imagine what the future will be like. Many of us imagined life in the 2020s would involve flying cars, jetpacks, and full meals miraculously cooked at the touch of a button.
While those types of futuristic technologies are unlikely to touch our lives anytime soon, the ecommerce world in 2020 and beyond may prove to be more futuristic than you may have imagined.
The world of things, brought to you by Amazon
By 2020, Amazon is likely to dominate our lives even more than it does now, both online and off. Amazon has already begun to open brick and mortar bookstores and pop-up retail stores, as well as a few Amazon Go grocery stores. Amazon Go is a grocery store without grocers, which processes transactions via apps and sensors. This concept of “frictionless paying” is likely to become the model for how we shop offline in the future.
Amazon has also begun to open smaller, decentralized warehouses that will likely either augment or replace their current larger, centralized warehouses in order to cut down on the amount of time it takes to ship an order. We’re already used to a world of instant gratification, and it’s likely we will only grow more impatient with time. Because of this, Amazon is already experimenting with on-demand shipping, where your order can be delivered to you in 30 minutes or less via drone. Many companies are likely to follow suit, especially restaurants that offer delivery services.
With the increasing amount of products that come out every year, cutting down on the number of warehouses, as well as the size of them, may seem counter intuitive. The rise of 3D printing and scanning, however, is likely to transform the way we think of both storage and inventory management.
By 2020, the capabilities of 3D printing will become increasingly sophisticated, allowing retailers to “print” new inventory on demand. There will be less need to keep a large quantity of any given product on hand, possibly making “out of stock” a thing of the past.
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.
Will social shopping become the new social television?
In recent years, we’ve seen the trend of people choosing to watch live TV shows and events together via social media instead of getting together for viewing parties. As people spend an increasing amount of time socializing online instead of in person, it only makes sense that other social activities will move online, as well.
That means shopping. With fewer trips to brick and mortar stores, and fewer stores to take those trips to, going shopping with friends is likely to move online as well.
As augmented reality, and perhaps even virtual reality, capabilities become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the ecommerce shopping experience, technology will be developed to capitalize on the desire people have to shop while socializing. Be on the lookout for Google Hangout-type apps being integrated with augmented reality capabilities so that people can get together to shop in ecommerce stores or even try on clothing online, together.
This isn’t science fiction; these ecommerce trends are already in the early stages of development, and at least a couple of these are likely to be integrated into our lives by 2020. But that doesn’t mean these are the only ways in which shopping will change.
Technology is likely to continue to surprise us, and there will always be the next latest and greatest thing on the horizon. We don’t expect those flying cars or jetpacks to become an everyday part of life within the next few years, but we are 100% confident that eCommerce will have more than a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve in the near future.
Ron Dod is partner and CEO of Visiture LLC.