More than at any point since the rise of the Internet and online retail, the future of shopping is rife with change — and with change comes the occasionally insane-sounding forecast of more transitions to come. So, which paradigm shifts will actually play out? There are myriad predictions; let’s take a look at the ones we believe, the prognostications that probably won’t come true, and the changes we’re actually really looking forward to.
- Current big box stores like Target will shrink to become mere test centers for online purchases. We don’t believe that. First and foremost, how inconvenient would it be to test something and not be able to buy it right there? Second, national mass retailers are leading the way, if anything, in bringing physical, digital, and mobile retail together effectively and efficiently. They’re appealing to customers across the shopping spectrum, as they need to do.
- In the future, but not too far off, 3D printers will let consumers create their own clothes and utensils at home. We’ve been tracking 3D printing for a while, and not only do we believe it’s coming, we’re pretty excited about this one. Really, how cool is this technology? After all, 3D printers have already been used to make model rockets, so tee shirts couldn’t possibly be too far off. What’ll be most interesting to see, however, is the timeline it takes for 3D printing to become widely affordable.
- Digital billboards will let consumers shop anywhere. This technology is already here, if not yet widespread — public train stations in South Korea and Britain boast virtual stores that are shoppable by scanning one’s smartphone. Meanwhile, Glamour experimented with a fully shoppable virtual boutique, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, last year. While we doubt this is the sole fate of the big box stores, mentioned above, it seems like a technology that retail will experiment with and embrace across the board.
- Mobile payments and apps will rule everything. Yes, they will. From the very real rise in mobile shopping apps to the utility they provide retailers in knowing and helping their customers, this is a trend that won’t quit. And the rise in mobile payments and phones-as-wallets is right there along with the overall surge in app use. Of course, there’s still public hesitation as to mobile payments’ security, but as the technology progresses, we’re sure those fears will be largely set aside.
Beyond witnessing the technological advances themselves, we’re interested to see how much they take root specifically within the fashion and luxury sector of retail. While we have no doubt that these changes are going to affect shopping in every possible way, it’s happened in the past that designers who fall prey to a focus on technology have done so so at the expense of the clothes. Furthermore, when it comes to fashion, the in-store experience still matters — a lot. And that’s something 3D printers can’t change (at least for a while).