The people in our neighbourhood considered our family to be the most prosperous one given the number of mangoes our trees produced every year. While others had to knock every door asking if they would barter goods, our case was completely different. All that we used to do when we were in need of food grains or pulses was to whisper slowly in the ears of one our neighbours that we are ready to barter mangoes for the required item. Those who produced that item and required mangoes (in fact, there was none who didn't require mangoes) would gather as a crowd in front of our house and make their offer. We would choose the lucky one based on their offer and on how well they addressed us. The winning bidder’s house would then be a location for party that night.
Time passed and kings and kingdoms came into existence. Round and square metal pieces had value of their own. No worthless rounds and square pieces meant a poor person who can’t afford to fill his stomach. The transition wasn't quick but took several years. And so was the transition of our family from being the most prosperous one to being just one another family. We accepted the change and took our degrading popularity in the right spirit. Fairs were organised once a week where all necessary items were sold; their value quoted in terms of metal pieces.
Time moved on and we entered the phase of life where not every person produced something that was consumable. A large section of the society produced the items not so basic to human survival but still necessary to be considered as a dignified individual and be respected. There was immense competition between those who produced goods - be it consumable ones or the illusions. And sellers took to streets! Shops used to arrive at out doorsteps on carts.
Further into the present, civilisation and technology advanced. Lifeless but colourful computers and mobile phones replaced human relations. The interaction with these inanimate things outweighed the interaction with the co passengers of life. The sellers took advantage of the situation and introduced online shopping where things ranging from food grains to cars can be bought with the click of a button. Sellers profited and we enjoyed the convenience.
Now, the question arises - What more changes can be expected in the world of shopping by 2030? Here are some thoughts ranging from realistic to crazy.
Feel the product
The way we try products has definitely undergone a change from touching and feeling products in the pre online shopping era to assessing quality by looking at their high quality images determined by the photographers or technical expertise. Into the future, more and more products might offer a three dimensional animated view of their products which some vendors already do. And if technology progresses even further, product information and design from the computer will be projected stereographically onto the space in front of the computer so that you can move around and inspect the virtual 3D model in air from every angle. And may be the ability to touch it and feel it would also be incorporated by stimulating the nerve endings in your fingers with false stimulus.
Personalisation to the peak
Personalisation of the web is a fast emerging technology. The ads shown on the web pages are suggested to you to make you click more. The friends suggested by online social networking sites are personalised to make you touch the limit. And the items suggested by shopping sites strive to turn you penniless. Into the future, more and more of your online past is expected to be stored resulting in a better personalised web shopping. The next phase may be humanising personalisation. No matter how well the personalised suggestions suit your taste, they still are nothing more than suggestions generated by some lifeless computer program; its intelligence failing to matter in most of the cases. A suggestion by your friend has a better influence on you than the one by the computer; no matter how better the computer’s suggestion may be in comparison with that of your friend’s - the reason being that we still value humans to a certain extent. The shopping gurus taking an advantage of this weakness may create even more intelligent programs that create a personalised virtual human being for every shopper which talks to you just like your friend with its head popping up from the sidebar every now and then whenever you are in a mood to make a purchase. And who knows - one might spend his entire day chatting with this virtual friend, shopping occasionally.
To you we come
No matter how tech savvy we become, there is an urge and a desire in people to do things the old fashioned way. Realising this, online stores may come on to the roads, stopping at every gate and inviting people to experience online shopping offline. Not to be confused with those age old carts - Stores on the roads are sophisticated. They are big enough to allow you to enter into it and feel things by moving your hands over them. Virtual people move around in the limited space to give you a feeling of buying things at a real offline shopping site. Gravitational force on your hand increases and pulls them down to make you experience moving around with a heavy bag of items. Once you are done the computer smiles, prints a receipt, accepts payments and you are carried to your sofa in your house. You watch TV while they arrange the newly purchased products in your home.
Pay as you wish
A rupee of one person may be a thousand of another person. The value of money varies from person to person. Some people may be willing to pay more for a product than others. But the current economics ignores this fact. What you pay for an item is based on how worthy it is for the society as a whole rather than how worthy it is to you. With the improvement in the number crunching power of computers, the future shopping stories may quote a different price for the same items to different customers based on their perception of the product. View the product page every day with an intention to buy it but dropping the idea looking at the cash in your wallet - and the price rises. Have friends who own the product and the price you pay will be more. Go to a product which may not be much useful to you but you still don’t mind having it and you get it at a discount. Be a rich man - Pay more. Be a poor man - Pay less.
I didn't feel like waking up but the servant robot wouldn't allow me to sleep. It brushed my teeth, gave me a bath, put on my clothes and filled my stomach with fruits and milk. I sat on the sofa with my mind full of thoughts. A dozen virtual screens magically appeared up in the air in front of me, claiming that their servers inferred from my brain waves that I wanted to purchase something. Robots jumped out of the screens and approached me with replicas of the products, giving a demonstration. I have chosen one of them. My bio-balance was deducted and the robots along with the screens vanished. A blink of the eye and a 3D television was in front of me waiting to be switched on with a signal from my brain.