Jay Leno likes to do a comedy skit about what’s trending tomorrow rather than what’s trending today. As it relates to online shopping, this is actually important for online shops to be aware of technologies that could impact their future. Most of these technologies are actually possible now, but both consumer-readiness and merchant –readiness have not made them widely available.
Amazon made $61 billion in sales worldwide last year — just 13% of what Walmart made. For all Amazon’s web dominance, eCommerce still accounted for only 6% of total U.S. retail sales in 2012, according to the Department of Commerce. And most small retailers are still getting their feet wet when it comes to online sales. B2B, wholesale sites have lagged even further behind than retail sites, although 46% of the Wholesale companies interviewed indicated that they expect more than half of their customers to be ordering online within the next 3 years (Forrester Research).
So if consumers and merchants are not yet ready for these technologies, why talk about them? Because 10 years ago, eCommerce as we know it today was not even on most people’s radar. In another 10 years, these technologies are likely to be commonplace. You could be a leader in any one of these if you act now. I’ve written in-depth about many of these in the past year, but here is a recap:
Facial recognition ads – Facial recognition can target ads specifically to you. Are you a middle aged man or a young woman? Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic or Black? No matter, the ad that is shown to you as you walk by those tv screens in the store can be made to be specific for you. See my post on facial recognition.
Built in-sensors – Popularized by the science fiction film “The 6th Day”, in which an “Internet Refrigerator” which had been programmed to sense what kind of products were being stored inside and it could keep track of what needed to be re-ordered. Vending machines, cars, even your closet may well have built-in sensors in the future that can do your shopping for you.
Payment methods – The credit card may be obsolete within 10 years. It isn’t clear yet what technology will replace it, but like checks, there are more convenient ways to pay than having to carry around credit cards. It may be mobile checkouts (like Google wallet or phone-bump technology), or it may just be a link tied to your bank account. There is a real problem today with password fatigue – people having to remember and type in numerous passwords just to check out of an online store. The new Apple iPhone includes fingerprint technology – what if you just swipe your finger print to checkout?
Augmented Reality – Imagine being able to “try-on” your new clothes or jewelry before you purchase them, or see what a new couch would look like in your living room. This is augmented reality. Google Glass is available now, as are many smartphone apps that allow you to do exactly that. See my post on augmented reality.
3D Printing – Many companies, including Amazon, Google, and eBay are experimenting with same day delivery – but that in fact still involves delivery. What if you could order a product, receive an electronic file that you could send to your 3D printer, and have the product created immediately? Sounds like a Star Trek replicator right? Only it’s real – see my post about 3D printing.
What technology do you see changing online shopping in 10 years?