Who needs Privacy? – The Future of Online Shopping

by Johan Peter Paludan - The Future of Online Shopping

Online shopping is fundamentally different from traditional shopping. At the mall, shoppers browse through the aisles and displays to find what he or she wants, sometimes finding things they weren’t even looking for. Online shoppers tend to use search engines to find specific products or product categories.

In the future, online shopping will be increasingly based on the shop knowing more and more about the individual shopper. Therefore we’re going to see the online shopping experience be based more and more on automatically displaying products that the shopper is known to like. This is already happening. What we miss online is the social dimension. But this is changing, too. That said, with man being the social animal he is, I expect we will continue to go to real shops to experience real people.

Privacy is gone – get over it

As companies work to enhance the online shopping experience, concerns about privacy are sure to arise. We’ve seen it already. The reality is that suppliers will know more and more about the individual consumer. Right now the chatter out there is all about “big data” and how to exploit it. Deep down we all know that the advantage of this is seeing the information we want to see – and less spam! Or at least spam will increasingly be one of the deadly sins of cyberspace shopping. The flip side to that coin, of course, is that this will indeed negatively affect privacy. But as someone said recently, “privacy is gone – get over it.” Now there’s certainly some truth to that, but it will only take a couple of data misuse scandals and we’ll find ourselves in a totally new situation. Ironically enough this issue will be much like traditional shopping in that it is s basically a matter of trust. And we all know that trust takes a long time to build but only short time to demolish.

The shift continues

If you’re wondering which products might disappear from the traditional retail trade as consumers shift more and more to online purchases, look no further than to the current state of affairs. Among the first products to be popular online were those we didn’t need to touch, taste or smell, such as books and music. Been to a bookstore lately? I imagine the answer for most of us is increasingly “no.” Ultimately, all products could disappear from the traditional retail trade once we achieve the digitalization of taste and smell. And it will happen, but for now that process is still in the lab.

Traditional retail will have to survive on the social needs of people and local marketing. Imagine this: when you walk around downtown you – or rather your smartphone – will be bombarded with messages about what you could get just round the corner. Instant gratification is always tempting.

Private parcel doors?

Logistics is going to play a major role in this picture. Gone will be the days of the consumer going the so-called “last mile” – taking their purchases home themselves. Online shopping makes retailers responsible for the last mile – and it becomes a huge competitive element. Retailers who work with the most innovative logistics providers will win the day.

Those logistics companies will really have to keep an eye on the future and what people’s needs are. Take, for example, the fact that people who shop online are often at work when their parcels arrive. My vision is that every home will have a kind of trap door – like the little two-way doors some people have for their pets. This pet door for parcels would be a one-way mechanism for receiving goods when no one is home, and could even be equipped with built-in cooling/freezing facilities.

Sound far-fetched? I’m curious to know what you think.

For futher information please read the new report InsightOn and E-Commerce Special.

About the Author

Johan Peter Paludan serves as the Director Emeritus at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS).

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  1. Peter Staffel: November 27th, 2012 - 02:49 PM

    Hallo Herr Paludan,

    ich muss Ihnen teilweise Recht geben. Manche Artikel lassen sich wirklich leichter über das Internet beziehen. Meine Frau und einer meiner Söhne sind überzeugte e-book-reader. Andere Sachen kaufen wir allerdings nach wie vor auf herkömmliche Art und Weise ein. Das liegt unter Anderem daran, dass wir extrem sparsam mit der Weitergabe unserer Daten über das Internet sind. Ihre Idee mit einer Paketklappe in der Wohnungstür mag ja einen gewissen Charme haben, geht aber völlig an der Realität vorbei. Es hat in der Vergangenheit schon Einbrüche durch nur 25x25cm gr0ße Öffnungen gegeben. Außerdem, geht die “Paketklappe” in eine Richtung auf, kann eine Türe oder ein Fenster von einem eingedrungenen Helfershelfer der Einbrecher, leicht für diese geöffnet werden. Einen weiteren negativen Aspekt des geänderten Einkaufsverhaltens sehe ich in einen steigenden Verödung ganzer Stadtcentren durch die darauf folgende Schließung vieler Einzelhandelsgeschäfte, sowie einer daraus resultierenten Steigerung der Arbeitslosen.

  2. Frans Huijbregts: November 28th, 2012 - 01:02 PM

    We (Logixbox) fully underscribe your vision towards the future of delivery of e-commerce goods (the last mile). Therefore we recently introduced our home drop boxes to receive the goods at your own house or office. Your proposed trap door may be slightly difficult to install in existing houses but according to our opinion must be a stándard option in all newly built houses. It’s an exciting time for us indeed and your article confirms that we’re on the right track!

  3. Kellersmann: December 28th, 2012 - 01:29 PM

    Die Paketklappe ist eine gute Lösung! Da brauchen wir innovative Ideen und Wettbewerb, gern auch mit Kühlfach und automatischer SMS-Meldung, geschützt vor Einbruch. Dem Einzelhandel wünsche ich mehr Kreativität. Spontankäufe sind wie das Versandgeschäft ebenfalls die Zukunft. Keiner will mehr warten. Wenn ich in meiner Stadt nach einem Produkt suche, finde ich nur schlecht gemachte Portale. Wo bleiben die Informationen, wer welche Produkte vorrätig hält – und vor allem: Wo sind die Hinweise zu Öffnungszeiten, Anfahrtskizzen und Service. Lassen sich die Einzelhändler durch Versender komplett die Butter vom Brot nehmen? Beispiel: Bitte einmal die Suche “Mongolischer Feuertopf” online und dann für meine Stadt eingeben. Wo lande ich? Bei zig Versendern. Und Einzelhändler: Tote Hose. Dabei will ich meinen Kaufdruck befriedigen, spontan losfahren und habe keine Anhaltspunkte, wo ich lokal fündig werde.