IBM’s ‘Wide-Eyed’ Local Shopping Predictions

IBM 5It’s year-end roundup and predictions season. However most predictions that I’m seeing are safe, vague or derivative.

Among scores of others IBM has released its now annual “5 in 5” set of predictions about how technology will change our lives in five years. Courtesy of my Opus Research colleague Dan Miller (who sent them to me), here are the five IBM predictions from this year:

  1. In 5 years the classroom will learn you
  2. In 5 years buying local will beat online
  3. In 5 years doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well
  4. In 5 years the city will help you live in it
  5. In 5 years a digital guardian will protect you online

I’m not going to unpack and/or critique all of these. I was struck, however, by the one about local retailing.

IBM local shopping

Here’s what IBM says will be true of local retail in five years (with my commentary). The statements below are close paraphrases of the IBM verbatim statements and predictions:

  1. Local retail has been “spanked” by online/e-commerce for the past several years (this is partly correct for a selection of industries and online retailers, mostly Amazon. However it’s incorrect as an overall generalization; e-commerce is much smaller than offline retail and there are very few online only retail brands)
  2. Physical retail will incorporate the personalization and enhanced information of online (it’s already happening in some cases, but it will only be true for the more sophisticated retailers)
  3. Augmented reality, wearable computing and location-based technologies will give consumers richer in-store experiences (that’s questionable regarding AR and wearables. But it’s certainly true about indoor location, which is not specifically mentioned by IBM)
  4. To the extent that consumers share personal information with retailers, in-store experiences will become highly personalized (this is a more specific version of #2 above. As a general matter retailers will have access to more data and use personalized information to target offers/email/ads; it’s far from clear that personalization will define the in-store experience. Spaaza’s personalized in-store pricing is a provocative example of what might happen however)
  5. Retail sales staff will be experts on every product in the store and tap cloud based cognitive systems to get a clear understanding of their customers (this is simply incorrect. Machines might do some version of this and mobile apps/kiosks may provide this kind of information to in-store shoppers — but not poorly-paid retail staff)
  6. Retailers will offer same-day delivery “wherever you are” (same-day delivery may become a reality in selected markets or from a few stores, but it will not be standard absent an Amazon-like existential-competitive threat)

There’s a wide-eyed “better living through technology” naivete to the IBM predictions above, even though some of them are consistent with the way the market is going at the highest level.

Below is the video laying these out. See for yourself and tell me what you think:

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