Recent news has concentrated heavily on the future of ecommerce. Everyone is asking questions like: How much will the industry earn in 2020? Will Amazon’s dream of autonomous delivery drones ever become reality?
Questions like these are important, but do you ever wonder about the distant future? Science fiction authors and movies have sometime predicted the future with a respectable degree of accuracy.
Minority Report, for example, foresaw the advent of personalized advertising. As the protagonist moves through the movie, various smart sensors match his retinas to his purchasing habits, prompting connected billboards and AI sales reps to market specific products and services.
Admittedly, our current technological capacity only allows for advertisers to track our movements on the web, but are retinal-based marketing measures really that far off? Below are a few predictions about the far-flung future of ecommerce and how near we are to actually realizing it.
Requiem for Brick & Mortar
Shoppers are already making the majority of their purchases online. Will we see the end of brick and mortar stores in our lifetime? Will people who are looking up ‘how to create an ecommerce website’ in the future, wonder what it was like to have to physically visit a storefront to start their small business?
While some people may see the declining number of in-person retail stores as a sign of the end, others are hopeful that the industry will evolve to match consumer needs. Look at Warby Parker. They deliver glasses right to your door and allow you to test drive various pairs until you find something you like. Yet, Warby Parker still operates brick-and-mortar stores as a kind of showroom; and it looks like Bonobos is following suit.
One Quora user hypothesizes that will continue to exist in some form to fill the needs of physical browsing and immediate gratification. Is he right? Only time will tell.
VR/AR Dressing Rooms
As you know, ecommerce has its limitations. One of the most troubling, is that customers can’t try on clothes or examine products without a good deal of shipping and logistics. But in the future, it’s possible that augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) could replace dressing rooms or even clothes themselves!
In the psychological-thriller anime Psycho-Pass, characters can adjust their home décor, clothing and makeup with the press of a button thanks to holograms (they can even dress up as their favorite avatar for in-person chatrooms). This is not hard to imagine knowing that Microsoft is already experimenting with Hololens, a “fully untethered, see-through holographic computer.”
You can even take things further by allowing consumers to shop for or develop products in VR so they can be printed out on a 3D printer.
Voice-operated digital assistants like Siri and Alexa are already helping people organize their lives, operate their homes and purchase products online (although there have been some hiccups in implementation). In reality, these technologies are pretty limited in what they can do. But what will AI look like in 50 years?
According to futurist and philosopher Ray Kurzweil, by 2045 we will see super-intelligent computers developing and improving computer systems at such a speed that a ‘runaway reaction’ is likely. In other words, AI will develop new AI so complex that it will completely surpass humanity, rendering us obsolete by comparison. Far out, right?
If this really is the case, we could see digital assistants operating nearly every portion of our lives including ecommerce marketing, customer service, manufacturing, shipping, ordering and everything in between. The possibilities are endless!
Of course, none of these predictions are certain. Perhaps shoppers will lose their interest in AI assistants; or maybe brick-and-mortar stores will see a resurgence (pop-up shops are a perfect example of this). Kurzweil has been wrong before and sci-fi tends to over-promise. But whether you are an avid consumer or an ecommerce vendor, it can be fun to speculate about what’s to come.
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