September 14, 2013

The Future of Shopping

There was a time when Amma would complain about how Dad would stand aloof in the store, while she would go saree hunting. Or how he would lose patience when she would want to compare the prices between two shops before buying. Then, once we grew up, we were her perfect companions- for both window shopping and actual purchases.
Then came the revolution in our lives, a few years back, in the form of online shopping. The newly acquired credit card was pulled out of the wallet and the first online transaction was made. I checked and rechecked my credit card statement to make sure that there were no further transactions reported and that my card was secure. And the happiness when i got the call from the mail room about a courier that was waiting in my name, well, that is something that i really cannot get down to describing! After that, i was a regular visitor to the mail room and i was sold to the concept of online shopping. Not just buying stuff for myself, online shopping helped me buy things for my loved ones and surprise them with a courier that reached their address. Tracking pending couriers became a favorite activity! Books from flipkart, electronics from ebay, clothes from one of the numerous lifestyle websites were ordered left, right and center! And well, why would you not when you are getting branded goods, for crazy prices from people who save on showroom, air conditioning, sales persons and operate with a warehouse and a website.
When my mother was describing to a neighbor about my compulsive online shopping and how one can get anything online, what she had to say was- "amma-appa vittu verai ella kadaikum" ( you can buy anything online other than your mom and dad!) . True, isn't it, in a time when you can even find your soulmate (sic) online!
Where do i see this heading? Well, we already have "try and buy", where you can get two sizes of clothes or shoes at your doorstep and pick the one that fits you the best! You can compare prices of products on multiple websites, apply coupons, get freebies and get the best bloody deal possible. You go to the store  to check actual goods, only to go back and order it by clinching the best deal there is on the product. It has become so prevalent that there is a new term for this activity- Showrooming :D
In a decade or two from now, i do not see how the brick and mortar stores are going to survive at all. Lack of time, travel constraints, expensive rental spaces are all going to result in the online way being the way to shop.
What i envision the online shopping scene to be is something like this. Login to a website by facial recognition- no hassle of maintaining usernames and passwords.
The website maintains the data of all your previous purchases, the addresses they were delivered to, size details of your friends and family for whom the purchases were made.Next time you wanna buy something, click on the person you want to make the purchase for and default sizes are already selected.
Selecting a product will give you a 3D image of the product, which you can view from all angles. If it is clothing or accessories for yourself, you can see what it looks like on a 3D model that looks like you. 3D projections outside your screen will let you sense what the product may appear like, how big it will be et al- you can see if those pair of shoes fit you like a dream,  if they make your feet look prettier and order the right size only if you are convinced!
Or if it is jewelry or a watch, see how it looks on you when you adorn it on yourself and then only shell out all the big monies on it.
Today, you get product recommendations based on your browsing history or past purchases. In future, you probably will be getting recommendations based on what a close friend or a family member has purchased. You could even be able to subscribe to updates about what someone you know is buying if they are using their social media profile to make the purchase.
Or if you are the window shopping kind who just likes to browse through what the numerous stores in a mall can offer, you could get a virtual tour of a mall space, where you stroll through passageways and choose which stores you want to browse. Once you are done sifting through the virtual racks and checking out their latest merchandise, if you feel like it, you could add products to the cart. Or simply walk into the next store. All this, without hurting your feet, without spending your car fuel or worrying about parking and within the comfort of your home.
And well, lest you should worry about missing out on the social aspect of shopping, where you can stare at the lady in red with the pretty shoes or at the book that the person next to you is browsing or bumping into a friend in the mall, what the virtual shopping experience will offer you is that a simulated version of you walks in the mall and can bump into a friend or a colleague there! And do all this, without the husband in tow cribbing about how much time you take while shopping!
What would also drastically improve in the coming decade is the delivery time. Now i have to wait for a week or so for a shipment to be sent if the seller is in Delhi and i live in Bangalore. In future, when the brick and mortar stores are done away with, what will remain will be warehouses all over the country. That way, all you need to do is place an order, and the warehouse nearest to you will deliver it to you in no time- more like how the grocery delivery happens these days.
Goes without saying that buying online is already the way most people are buying today. In the next two decades, when the penetration of the internet will increase manifold and when people become less wary of online transactions and identify how convenient it is, online shopping will be able to link every artisan, every craftsperson and everyone with an ability to provide a product or a service with the person who has the power to purchase.
This is my entry for the future of shopping contest by Though i am not sure whether what i envisage will be what the online shopping scene will be like in 2030, but the new ebay check extension for chrome is something that you should check out if you are an online shopper!


  1. Good One!

    Everyone has these small beautiful experiences (like trying out something totally new in your first ever online shopping experience and the excitement of doing so successfully!) in life but few stop to think about it once in a while and even fewer put their thoughts down. Reading these kinds of posts makes us feel like stopping once in a while and looking back at where we were before and how things have drastically changed since then!

    I hope your post wins the contest. Good luck! :-)

  2. Great post! I was wondering if you feature guest postings. Thanks and have a great day!