The Future of Retail

Futurist Thomas Frey – Imagine yourself walking through a shop, wanting to know more information on a particular product. You pull out your phone, point it at the product and click a button, instantly revealing a page with product information, links to product reviews, and places to purchase it online. Pressing another button you are given options for purchasing it online and having it delivered to your home. Since you are already in a retail store, you could purchase it there if the price differential isn’t too great.

But the shopping experience isn’t necessarily confined to a store. If a person walks by on the street and you just happen to like the jacket they are wearing, just aim your phone, point and click. You can see the same jacket displayed on your screen in a variety of colors and styles, with your ability to complete the purchase transaction only a click or two away.

Since most cell phones already have a working camera, the missing element is a piece of object-recognition software, barcode reader, or RFID receiver that connects items with the online marketplace. It’s not a real stretch to envision this being commonplace on some level in a matter of months.

Replacing Interactive Video

Over a decade ago, business leaders were focused on what they believed would become the “next big thing” – interactive video. Most thinking about interactive video had been framed around our ability to watch television or a movie and click on objects to get information and purchase things.

After many years and countless failed attempts to open up this marketplace, more entrepreneurs have grown increasingly disillusioned by the prospects for interactive video. Several people have pointed to the attitudinal differences between the people who “lean forward to be engaged when using a computer” and those who “lean back to relax to be entertained by a television”.

However, next generation retail won’t find it necessary to play within the bounds of a television set or a movie theater. Suddenly, the whole world becomes a marketplace with some very different rules of engagement, unlike anything we’ve seen in the past.

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