Paul Greenberg is 54 years old. He likes music and vintage guitars, and prefers jeans over suit pants. If those facts don’t interest you, there’s a good chance you are not an online retailer.
In the future, as our shopping experience becomes even more digital and global, we are going to get much more comfortable with sharing – and maybe even selling – our personal data, says Mr Greenberg, the executive chairman of the National Online Retailers Association.
“As consumers, we all have a concern, with a small ‘c’, about privacy,” he says. “But I think the shopper will be happy to get into the dance as long as there’s a return on their investment.”
Sellers will know more and more about us, and be able to tailor their offers and marketing to what we want. We may even offer up our personal information in exchange for discounts and other perks.
It will be extremely easy to share this data, too. Thanks to the “Internet of Things”, our devices and gadgets will talk to each other, and probably to shop owners, via the Cloud.
Online wine retailer Vinomofo CEO Andre Eikmeier says this data will enable “real-time response” to what we want to buy.
“It will all be about retailers knowing what we want and need,” he says.
Our fridges and cupboards will know what we’ve got, and make suggestions accordingly.
Mr Eikmeir thinks our homes will even keep track of our shopping and consumption habits.
“Our fridges and cupboards will know what we’ve got, and make suggestions accordingly,” he says.
The shopfront won’t die
No matter how important the Internet becomes, futurist and trends expert Michael McQueen says it is unlikely that physical stores will die out.
“While online shopping is a convenient way to do the transaction, it doesn’t offer the same visceral experience that consumers want,” Mr McQueen says.
Smartphones will play an “ever-increasingly important” role in uniting the digital and physical shopping experience, he says.
Swoop, a tech startup in Melbourne, is trying a similar idea with GPS-linked app alerts.
Cofounder of Swoop Michael Carr thinks that biology and technology will integrate even further in the next two decades.
“We are already beginning to wear our tech, i.e. google glasses, smart watches, etc. Fast forward 20 years and I wouldn’t be surprised if technology and biology have merged at least to some extent.
“Swoop demonstrates what is possible in terms of giving retailers the ability to affect their foot traffic at the drop of a hat the instant it is needed,” Mr Carr says.
“Now imagine this ability, but in 20 years when things are more integrated.”
Who knows, we might get flashing red lights in our Google Glass, a jolt in our smart watch, or maybe even a push notification in our brains when a store near us is having a sale.
Give it to me now
For those who prefer to shop from home, courier services will continue to be crucial.
CEO of Pack & Send Michael Paul acknowledges that couriers will need to innovate to keep up with “dramatically” increasing demand.
“There just has to be new, innovative ways of getting parcels delivered to the consumer. The old traditional methods just aren’t cost effective,” Mr Paul says.
The big problem at the moment is predictability, Mr Paul says. It’s often a struggle to drop off a package when the customer is at home, which can spiral into a cat-and-mouse game of failed deliveries.
Robot drones could be one solution to shopping delivery.
“Today, it’s hard to see [drones] working, but who knows, in 20 years time that could be,” Mr Paul says.
Or maybe we’ll all have giant mailboxes.