Evan Davis on the brilliant Bottom Line asked his guests what the business world will look like in 2020. Justin King of Sainsbury’s commented that it’s difficult enough looking at 2013 and 2020 is impossible. Laura Tenison of JoJo Maman Bebe claimed M-commerce would be commonplace, and Michael Birch, co-founder of Bebo said connectivity to the cloud would be the biggest difference.
Such forecasting always reminds me of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World show where their predictions of robots in every home and self-replenishing fridges proved unrealistic, but here’s my take on the question:
Curators – there’s far too much data content now as people play with media as much as they consume it. Flipboard, Twitter lists and Google+ Circles are starting points but they’re nowhere near what we need to successfully plug in this fire hose. Some uber-smart MIT dropout will leap this forward soon.
Social commerce – some would argue all commerce is social as people often tell friends about their latest purchases; I don’t fully agree. But following trends will be much easier and integrating recommendations, likes and opinions of friends and peers will influence decisions like never before.
One click buying – as you read about an item in a social network or an article, a right click and ‘Buy Now’ will apply your normal shopping preferences (vendor preferences, sizing, card and delivery details) without anything like a mundane checkout process.
M-commerce – this is surely the tsunami that won’t be held back. I think conversion on tablets will outclass phones in most categories but phones will be great for repetitive purchases (e.g. simply scanning at the tube station), micropayments and voucher delivery.
Phones – data married with location is a winning formula. Searching will provide different results based on your geography. “Cross-channel retail,” will be commonplace as customers in store actually research online via their smartphones. Shopping searches will point you to the local retailer who told Google they have it in stock, not the guy around the corner who is simply listing the catalogue. Your phone’s camera will be able to populate the search, rather than the keyboard (upload a photo of a mate’s watch rather than type Casio G-shock, Google/eBay/Amazon finds it).
Multichannel – retailers are hungrier than ever for sales and they’ll take them any way they can get them. All and sundry will look to improve their transactional websites to compliment their physical stores. Pureplay retailers will encroach on the high street and the smartest will hook paper, web and bricks and motor into a seamless integrated purchasing system (tri-tail, even). Argos and Ikea probably lead this fight in 2011.
Marketplace – this will be the buzzword as the bigger sites aim to carve ever larger slices of retailing web. Amazon don’t just want to sell to you, they’re happy for you to list items on their site and take a percentage as you sell them to me. Why? Proximity: the more items they get next to themselves, the better. If we’re all on there selling cheaper than each other, the site wins as it gets more customers. If the site wins, Amazon win through commissions. There’ll be half a dozen big name players that dominate this next year.
Customisation – thanks to my surfing history and click rates, as well as my stated preferences, sites will know what content to serve me. My Times Online homepage will differ from yours. Ditto for Play.com and the like. Amazon do this very well now. Soon, the level of intuition will be mind blowing.
Cloud computing – we’re currently thinking about storage and remote access as data and photos are backed up online. But more than that, you’ll hook up many, many things to the net: cars (for servicing and sharing), houses (to monitor and trade energy supplies), even pets. Your dog or cat will have a chip that pings the web and checks their health, their dietary requirements, how far they’ve walked etc. Think Nike+, meets Crufts, meets Bupa.
Direct retail – supply chains are shortening. Wrangler has just opened its first store in the US. They’re very late to the party as big name brands want to showcase their wares without the middleman and follow the over-used, but absolutely true example of Apple. There’s an obvious knock-on here for small retailers who carry those brands and helped establish the business.
Regardless of the specifics of the cloud, or what car you’ll be driving in ten years, if our technology is going to reach anything like its potential, we need much better wi-fi access. This isn’t Korea and ubiquitous and free are unrealistic in the UK, but better pricing policies, simpler access and more connectivity are surely overdue/the starting points.