Customer interaction of the future, part 3: Shopping experience 3.0
Realities become virtual, currencies become digital – today’s future trends are tomorrow’s norm and even the way we shop will change. We’ll present some predictions in part three of this series on customer interaction of the future.
“Order at the touch of a button” – What was formerly just an advertising slogan for countless online shops is now being taken literally in the US (since 2014) and Germany (since 2016): Amazon Dash Buttons, which are linked to the Amazon app, automatically reorder certain products when activated. Everyday things in particular, like washing powder and dog food, can be bought virtually in passing. Whether these buttons catch on is yet to be seen. They are, however, just another manifestation of how buying processes are becoming ever simpler.
Let’s take payment for example. Smartphones replaced wallets a long time ago for many people. Instead of searching for their cash or credit card, they simply hold their phone over the payment terminal. Google is already testing whether it would be possible to pay by mobile without taking the phone out of your pocket. In 2015, bills amounting to 450 billion US dollars were paid by smartphones; by 2019, Statista predicts sales in the region of one trillion dollars worldwide.
But there are also digital alternatives for currencies themselves. These were initially restricted to the virtual gaming world and were then used in the form of coupons in marketing. Now they are being used in day-to-day retail. Bitcoin is currently the most well-known digital currency. It is based on Blockchain technology, a type of digital cash book. This cash book contains all transactions between buyers and sellers. Every user has their own copy and it is constantly updated – the copies, too. In this way, transactions can only be manipulated with an exceptionally high value and the system is not linked to any central hardware that could malfunction. Retailers can label products in their shop with BitTags, a development by Brit Samuel Cox that shows prices in Bitcoins – of course taking into consideration the current exchange rate in real time.
Virtually testing real products
Another trend that will change purchasing and decision processes is augmented or virtual reality (AR and VR). Although the technology is only in its infancy, the potential certainly exists. Digi-Capital estimates that the VR market will amount to around 30 billion dollars in 2020. The majority of this will come from headsets, games and videos, but VR and AR create new opportunities for companies, too: Consumers can look at products and offers – perhaps even test them – and get a completely new customer experience (check out Customer Service of the Future, Part 2). In future this will become increasingly important when it comes to differentiating from the competition and getting customers interested in products – and in some cases will be even more important than product features and price.
Tomorrow’s shopping experience
What does all of this mean for shopping trips of the future? For example, it could mean that customers who shop in a brick-and-mortar store may not need to line up at the cash register. Sensors in the shop will register chips in the products and will always be fully aware of the range of products in store. Customers can be identified by their device and when leaving the shop, the items they take with them will be automatically paid for. However, many products will no longer be bought physically from stores or online shops at all. Instead, consumers will acquire data sets and will feed them into their 3D printers at home. In these cases, the opportunity to see the product virtually before buying is incredibly important.
Customer dialog will subsequently change
The trends and developments we have described of course also affect how companies and customers will interact in the future:
- Customers will expect to encounter companies in virtual reality and communicate with them there. This entails specific challenges in the technical development and implementation of the systems required.
- The increasing network also means that the number and speed of transactions will significantly increase. Companies must be able to process and manage the volumes of data that come with this.
- Payment processes must not only be uncomplicated, but also – and most importantly – secure. After all, if consumers do not trust the payment process, there will be no transactions.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.