NFR: The Near Future of Retail
The TL;DR on NFR
Today, “retail” is shorthand for the world of shopping, stores, digital and physical infrastructure, and the ever-unfolding dance between brands and consumers. The way retail works today is noticeably different from the way it worked 5 years ago, and even a year ago — and the coming 3–5 years will bring even greater change as the digital-physical convergence continues to unfold enabled by AI and Machine Learning (ML), Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), digital spaces, voice interaction, and more.
What we used to call shopping is diversifying and becoming suffused into who we are and how we live — less something external, intentional and task-oriented, more essential and omnipresent in our moment to moment lives. This is partly due to the growth of materialism in the second half of the 20th century through today — and yet it’s much deeper and broader than this.
We are merging with the technology systems that we use to express ourselves and what we value — and these systems will increasingly be immersive and automatically fulfill on our expressions of value.
This might bring to mind Instagram and Pinterest, both of which are self-expression platforms and increasingly contexts for commerce. The connections people develop with brands on these and other social platforms increasingly manifest as pop-up physical experiences as well, which in turn enhance the digital experience and strengthen these relationships.
This might also remind you of Amazon’s way of inching closer and closer to knowing what we want so well, it can fulfill these wants with almost no action from us. While both these trajectories are what we’re talking about, they are just the early harbingers of what’s coming over the next 3–5 years.
A few broad strokes:
- Physical purchasable objects in the world increasingly have digital twins that can easily be experienced and shared, as photos and videos are today — by everyone from designers, manufacturers and distributors to retailers and shoppers
- Physical environments and their contents also have digital twins — making workflows around store layout, merchandising planning, service design and employee/associate training all dramatically more flexible
- Physical stores get laser focused on justifying in-person visits by shoppers — by offering experiences that require purpose-built spaces to deliver
- Purchasable products within social media posts can be individually added to whatever shopping cart is most contextually relevant
- Fulfillment is no longer a thing, as time waiting for products to show up — both in stores and at home — trends towards zero
- Products seen in the world become immediately purchasable, thanks to Augmented Reality (AR), Computer Vision (CV) and Machine Learning (ML)
As seasoned technologists and future-creators endlessly fascinated with human behavior and value systems, we are excited about the Near Future of Retail and thrilled to launch this new publication. We intend it to be a forum for those at the leading edge of these trends to share what we see and why it matters, and to channel our collective wisdom into practical guidance for all those with a vested interest in this near future.
Join us as we immerse ourselves in the Near Future of Retail.
Neil Redding + Tony Parisi
Coming soon to NFR
Just as digital is merging with physical, retail is merging with the rest of our experience. Since we see retail as rapidly evolving to subsume the full range of ways humans exchange value, we plan to cover a broad diversity of topics in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s what’s in the works already:
- 3D as a media type for product visualization — emerging standards and what they mean for makers, retailers and consumers
- Making the whole world shareable and shoppable — beyond Instagram and shoppable video
- XR and the end of physical constraints on the shopping experience
- B2B2C — immersive ads and brand experience vis a vis retail/physical products
- AR today and soon — how to understand and take advantage of this swelling wave over the coming 2 years
- Digital transformation and XR — enterprise workflow and operational implications of 3D/XR for Retail
- Physical spaces as primary participants in digital retail ecosystems — how architecture and spatial design are evolving to become inherently digital