Saturday, November 8, 2008

Future of Shopping

What is the future of shopping going to look like in the next five years? That is the question I am asking myself a lot now. Personally, I do believe that some kind of social shopping will dominate in few years across all kinds of possible communiaction platforms and channels. Two speakers, Robert Garf (Retail Strategies AMR Research) and Fred Balboni (IBM Global Business Services), share some thoughts about future shopping in IBM and the Future of Shopping podcast.

Their vision is that web shops, as we know them these days, will become more like a service centers:
... the major growth in retail we see happening is the rise of services. The services around your core retail experience. ... So as we see services increasing in retail, the store also becomes a place where you organize your services -- a service center, if you will.
And the physical shops will become more like a depot:
Getting the product in your hands to get it home, the store might shift to become possibly more of a depot where you go collect what it is that you've already browsed and selected. I think that's a real possibility in the future.
As for the technology that will make this possible Balboin says:
...the technology dimension of this really isn't the hard part.
and he follows:
The challenging thing for retailers is the business model to operationalize. How do I...if I understand that somebody in a certain market wants a certain product, how do I, in a cost-effective manner, get that product to them? The ability to manage from these large quantities of customer information I think is going to change retail over the next five years.
And I agree with this point. But even if the technology part is not that hard the question is if it would be effective for each retailer to invest into development, implementation and maintenance of this layer (I mean distributed social shop service center). And I think the answer is no. Moreover, looking from the customer point of view they might prefer to stick to independent service which gives them more freedom and product choices as opposed to specific retailer service implementation. And this leads me to conclusion that there is a possibility for a new business model, something like new Google or may be Facebook platform for retailers. A platform which would be simple enough so that individual retailers could easily feed the data in and compete for customers in more effective way and don't have to worry about the technology side of the thing... 

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