Take a moment and think about how personal computers, mobile phones, and the Internet have changed your life.
Now think about how those technologies have changed your shopping experience.
I think it’s safe to say that you’ve reduced your spending locally in favor of online purchases?
For many, online shopping is more convenient, cheaper, offers greater selection, better return policies, and, in some cases, better service.
But local businesses have advantages. Things like proximity, physical relationships, and awareness of local events/conditions.
Here’s what we may see in the future of local shopping…
You’ll be hyper aware of local businesses that serve your needs. You’ll have a network that alerts you to new store openings and updates. You’ll know what promotions they’re offering, what’s new on the menu, what events they’re sponsoring, and how you can get involved. Businesses will be categorized based upon their distinct competitive advantages.
Mediocre products and services will be eliminated-it’s too easy to shop elsewhere.
Imagine your network recommending places you’ll love based upon your history. By using data collected in the websites you visit (e.g. Yelp, FB, FourSquare, Amazon, Chrome, etc…) your network knows what you like, where you visit, what reviews you write, and you’re matched with accurate and personalized recommendations.
Recommendations are made based upon your lifestyle – what you do and when. Because businesses know when you’re visiting, how long you stay and what you order.
Maybe you made reservations with friends at your favorite restaurant, or are looking for a new pair of shoes. In either case, the business will be ready for you with a table and menu recommendations, or a variety of different shoes that are in your size.
When you visit the business, they’ll recognize you – call you by your first name – and be familiar with your needs and interests.
Does this all sound a little big brotherish? It may, but guess what – it’s already happening!
In the near future, you’ll order via your computer or mobile device and products are delivered real time, within an hour. When you order shoes, they drop off a few options – you try them on and keep the ones you want, send back the ones you don’t, real time. Your dry cleaning service picks up and drops off cloths –you don’t need to drive out of your way.
Your personal health and well being services are kept on track with appointments and recommended services. Maybe your chiropractor has a new service that will help your ailing hip. He sees you’ve been to a Tough Mudder and asks if you need an adjustment.
Cash registers are replaced by a system that offers loyalty programs, customer reviews, interactive menus, self-serve ordering, and contests. The system detects when you’re nearby and engages you. At a restaurant, it recommends what you’ll like, at a shoe store, it will display those that are your size and in stock – it will be a completely personalized experience.
This system will be available as a native app/web experiences on your phone that allows for downloads, interacting, and saving locally.
When you shop online, you’ll have an option to choose for local pickup or delivery. A system will be available to tell you when an item in your cart is available locally – local companies will price match if you buy from them. Forget remarketing – you’ll get a text, email, or pop up when the product you want to buy is available locally, for the same price, or cheaper, without having to wait for shipping.
Small businesses are slowly starting to implement newer technologies to improve their customers experience. Like text message reminders from the Dr.’s office, or ordering and delivery service through mobile apps.
Those who embrace technology to improve their customers experience will thrive. As consumers, we all want to be known, feel heard, and have an amazing experience with the stores we buy from. Perhaps the most effective way to achieve that is through technology.