Merchants also face major challenges as the digital revolution unfolds. This article shows how we will shop in the future and the direction in which commerce will move. The two articles are from the Aduno Group magazine “The way to pay – tomorrow”.

The world as a shopping centre

Shopping in the future will be smarter and easier. In 2030, even public space will have become a consumer zone.

Online, offline, mobile. The customers of tomorrow want a shopping experience which is as seamless, and even limitless, as possible posits the renowned Zukunftsinstitut in Frankfurt, Germany, in its study entitled “Salestrends”. Even today, the boundaries between the real and digital consumer worlds are noticeably blurred. By 2030, the entire world will be one big shopping centre where people can shop at any time, instantly and everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether the desired article is in a shop window, advertised on a billboard or a video wall or is located somewhere in the real world – in the future, anyone who is inclined to buy will quite simply be able to take aim with his smartphone, confirm the purchase with a click or a movement of the hand and the object of his desire will automatically be delivered to his house. 

On the other side, technologies which have finally come of age, such as mobile location-based services or “augmented reality”, offer a personalised shopping experience: in shops, customers are shown entirely personalised prices which are determined by their loyalty discount, or they are informed as to whether a certain product is suitable for them as diabetes or allergy sufferers or competitive athletes. When passing by a shop, it will automatically send a voucher or a product recommendation to their smart device. This device might be a smartphone, data glasses, a watch, a bracelet or other so-called “wearables”. 

More convenient shopping

So that the consumer of 2030 can find his way through the product jungle, he will receive appropriate shopping help on request: as a member of the “quantified self” movement, the modern consumer records personal, health-related, sporting and habit-specific data and makes it available to the retailer. By using this data together with past shopping behaviour, the service provider can offer meaningful recommendations almost in real time.

With regard to everyday consumer items such as milk, bread and soap, however, the consumer of 2030 will no longer have to give them a thought: intelligent household appliances and storage facilities will report the current stock to the relevant supplier who will automatically replenish the stocks as required. The Internet of things makes it all possible. 

So will physical shops have been phased out by 2030? Not at all, my futurologist. They will simply fulfil other functions: consumers will handle or try products here and receive advice – and maintain social contacts.

The changing roles in commerce

By 2030, the world of commerce will have been reinvented: service providers will have to adapt to trends such as the share economy and new role perceptions. 

Use instead of own – the “share economy” has turned the world of commerce on its head: even today, it is estimated that between 20 and 30 billion dollars change hands in the share economy. What began with car and house sharing will boast a market potential of some 850 billion dollars, predicts Rachel Botsman, the mastermind behind this movement. Market researchers assume that, by 2030, the “share economy” will have become more professionalised in that not only private individuals and small firms will use it to earn money, but large companies will also be in the thick of the action.

And traditional retail roles will change accordingly. This can be seen today in the field of 3D printing: customers are becoming producers, so-called “prosumers”. Consequently, experts are advising retailers to become service providers, active enablers.

Logistic grids à la app stores

A second fundamental change relates to the delivery of goods, which is increasingly carried out by smartphone. To be able to accelerate m-commerce, more efficient logistics networks will be necessary.

In its study “The Future of Shopping”, the Rüschlikon-based Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute offers an insight into what these might look like. By 2030, so-called “logistic grids” could have been developed: this involves major retailers opening their logistics systems and maintaining the networks almost as operating systems for other retailers. Small-scale providers can even build on the complete platforms which include payment systems and additional services – rather like Apple today with the iTunes store for app providers.

To further optimise the supply chains and delivery times, the Internet of things will also ensure that people will be entirely networked with their environment by 2030. In everything they do, the consumers of the future will supply complex data streams which will be constantly analysed by big data applications, thereby guiding the market offer almost in real time: the goods are there before the customer has even ordered anything. The world of commerce is already experimenting with personalised programmes, which use data intelligence and behavioural models to identify precise consumer preferences. Thanks to geolocation, customers can receive an appropriate bonus or special offer directly at the point of sale or nearby. The distribution giant Amazon is moving in a similar direction with its recently-patented “anticipatory shipping”: in the future, the company intends to evaluate the personality patterns of its customers and send corresponding goods to a distribution centre close to one or more consumers who will very probably be interested in the product. The products will then be delivered within 30 minutes by means of autonomous drones.

In light of such scenarios, the question of data protection will become even more important. Customers must have total control over their personal information and profiles at all times. It is not inconceivable that by 2030, specialised service providers will be responsible for the safe administration and supervision of personal data on behalf of consumers.