Transaction. You go to the store and search for a memory card for your camera. You spend twenty minutes searching, deciding, and talking to a salesperson about which speed you need. You feel the salesperson does not really know the difference between memory card speeds. You still buy the card. You go to the cash desk, clink…the transaction is done. Shopping. Today, shopping is not only defined as an exchange of money for goods - it really feels like it. The process is fundamentally embedded in our minds - from the ancient marketplaces to the modern stores. It is always the same. You go to the store, browse, and buy. The store is a special place where the transaction is done, though you often feel guilt when you buy something you do not really need.
We believe that with the rise of technology, this relationship will fundamentally change. Shopping will facilitate our needs, and online, mobile and retail channels will work as one to help us choose what we really need, and get subsequent items in the easiest manner possible.
Let’s investigate three distinct areas with which technology will change how we consume at an everyday level.
Essentially, in the future, we will be always shopping, but won’t feel the 'transaction'. The process will be meticulously knitted into our daily lives. We will describe the changes through an example of an amateur photographer (though this will apply beyond shopping for technology).
1. Shopping becomes invisible
Let’s imagine no credit card or cash involved in a transaction. Even today, Amazon Go is pioneering the checkout-less concept. In the not-so-distant future, there will be many retail places where you can go to get the experience, select SKUs, and leave. Frictionless. It will not feel like shopping, it will feel more like going to a friend who is an expert in cameras, and he spends time with you to select the ideal lens, battery pack, and memory card. You can leave the store without feeling guilt, as you have received great advice tailored to your needs. Today, if you want to buy a camera, most likely you will spend hours researching online, reading articles, and watching YouTube videos. Then you will go to the electronics store which displays cameras chained to the shelves, and you won’t find a salesperson who knows more than you (know from all of your research).
We believe that electronic stores of the future will not look like marketplaces, but more like highly-curated spaces for shoppers to explore according to their needs. For instance, while today retailers generally assort their stores based on categories, retailers of tomorrow will assort based on the functions which shoppers are searching to satisfy. If you are a photographer, you want to have a dedicated place where you can browse and test cameras, lenses, and select monitors and printers. You do not want chained shelves with cameras, while also having to painfully search the other side of the store for a printer which is best for your style of photography. In this way, staff knowledge would also be more advanced, with a dedication to photography (cameras, lenses, computers, printers, equipment etc.) instead of cameras only.
2. Shopping becomes instant
There are many items which a photographer will likely buy in addition to a camera. Imagine a store which gives you ‘instant buys’ for memory cards which are best for your camera. In this way, you have a ‘one click’ option and the item is delivered to you. Upselling to more expensive items could also be sold like this.
Further, imagine that you need a lens for only one day, and you rent it with your local retailer. They ship it to you. You decide you like it and keep it for a five-day free test. Afterwards you buy it and the price of the rent/test is reduced from the purchase price.
Often, shoppers are not willing to pull the trigger as they know that the return process is cumbersome and they are restricted in many ways on what items they can.
3. Shopping becomes a subscription
One of the main problems of buying technology is that the moment you buy it, the item is already obsolete. You come home and the next day you read that the manufacturer has issued a new version. We believe that in the future you will buy a subscription for cameras and as a new one is developed, the manufacturer will send it to you. In the same box you can ship your old camera back which will be resold and recycled.
Today, software is being sold as a subscription and we believe that more and more items will be available in this manner. BMW is already selling cars as a service. However, it is important to mention that manufacturers and retailers will need to unite all their channels to facilitate this change. Currently, there are too many conflicting interests between brands, retailers, and online stores, and as a result, shoppers do not get the best possible service during their journeys (not to mention what happens post-purchase).
To conclude, retailers and brands will have to work together to satisfy the real needs of shoppers. They will have to unify channels and be primarily motivated to fulfill shopper needs, not corporate margins. This will lead shopping to become a more ‘invisible’ process for higher priced goods and adjacent purchases will turn faster, driven by shopper buying history (i.e. an automated online portal for the specific camera you own will offer deals and alternatives). Further, we believe that retail will be much more bundled as a subscription, meaning shoppers will always have up-to-date products without worrying about having to sell what they currently own.