BCSC Knowledge and Research Manager Davinder Jhamat blogs on social media, the internet and its impact on retail following this week's release of BCSC's new research paper Social Media - Do we really know what we are doing?
An epiphany - Social Media or Anti-Social? Where is the future of communications
heading? How will we be talking in five
years time? How will technology enable
us to work, socialise and purchase goods in the future?
A few things spring to mind. Do
you remember the first time a hologram was used in Star Wars movies when
Princess Leia was transported and said "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." That was 33 years ago. Given recent developments in Kinect 3D data,
could it be that in a matter of years we could have our own personal holograms
where when we are purchasing goods via a laptop, ipad or mobile device? That a
customer service assistant's hologram transports itself out of the device,
conversing with us in real time, discussing and recording our purchases before
Would such a model get round the issue of call centres where so many of
us loathe the idea of having to prepare ourselves to do battle with a voice we
cannot see or associate with? Would a
conversation with a customer service advisor via a hologram,get around the idea
of not having to wait in queues for a service or frustrating telephone conservations
with call centre staff?
Another thought. Someone said to me this week, could you imagine a world
where at the click of a button, you could change your clothes several times in
a day, and where there would be no potential requirement for the physical
presence of fashion retailers? All you
would need to do would be to buy a blank electronic canvas of some sort which
you threw on and then at the click of a button, choose any item from your
wardrobe and wear. How cool would that be?
In South Korea, the Tesco Plus format allows commuters on their way home
to use mobile applications to scan bar codes off a wall in a public space which
take the shape all the goods within a Tesco Plus shop, pay for the goods online
and have them delivered in time for when you arrive home. Wired magazine has a
fascinating article about it here: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-06/30/tesco-home-plus-billboard-store
What I am trying to get at is that is that given how the internet is revolutionising
the way we shop, could it be that one day it becomes so natural to go online
that demand for retail space may indeed become limited? Could public spaces such as bus stops, tube and
rail station platforms or even doctors' surgeries become a community offer for
retailing? Would there really be a need
for a shop unit?
After the launch of the BCSC social media research and the discussion of
multichannel retailing at the Futurescape conference this week, there is much
to reflect on. The speed of communication complimented with technological
advances is setting the scene of how consumers will purchase in the future and
how they want to be served. However,
will this be at the risk of not having face to face dialogue at all? Is there the danger that people will stop
interacting and it becomes all too impersonal?
I do not deny the reach and appeal of social media but can it truly be
social? I continue to ponder.