I have some predictions for the next 3-5 years:
- Internet users will increasingly be concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information.
- Amazon and Google in the US will be the biggest drivers of online shopping for the long-term. They will also drive the biggest change in how we shop.
- Most forecasters think AI will have a huge impact on retail. I agree insofar Amazon-style “things you might like” and “smart lists” are AI and need better placement in small business sites.
- Mobile payment will be used by 10-20% of online purchases in 5 years. It will be a slow growth and heavily divided between Apple, Google, and Samsung Pay. But it’s relatively easy to implement now for small businesses and they should do so to get ahead.
- Congress is likely to start regulating dominant online retailers with bad unintended consequences for small businesses. “No internet taxation without representation” is going to be a big deal.
As excited as I was about Apple’s announcement at WWDC for AR-driven products and file formats, I don’t think it’s likely to take hold. They think it’s a big deal, but I’m not convinced Amazon is going to bundle this into their app. Will it work with Android and desktop devices? If not, this is dead in the water except for some big retailers that want a splashy headline for a day.
Instead, I think the future is relatively simple:
Customers will want to buy things securely, aided by intelligent recommendations and help to find the right products so long as they can tell these things to go away when they wish. They will want these things delivered faster and faster with lots of updates on the process as it moves. They will still likely pay with a credit or debit card saved internally to each company.
And the future for retailers is also relatively simple:
Protect your customer’s data and buying habits. Give them as much information on a product you can, down to how an item feels, fits, looks, sounds, and behaves. Give them options for checkout, and be prepared for a world you need to start paying sales tax to a bunch of states.
Augmented Reality will be a huge boon for clothing retailers. Once you can “try on” a shirt virtually without having to order a size or two will be the gold standard. Unfortunately, the companies best equipped to do this are the creepiest: do you really want to dress and undress in front of an Amazon or Google camera?
Nowhere in this is Facebook because no one has ever or will ever buy anything off Facebook that isn’t an old couch sitting on the curb.