When it comes to what one can have brought straight to his or her doorstep, the 2019 consumer is spoiled silly. While extravagant delivered goods are certainly nothing new (in the 1920s any American citizen with $225 and a stamp could have a Thomson submachine gun delivered to his or her stoop), it wasn’t until the advent of the World Wide Web and mobile computing that consumers really started to experience a plush, out-of-store shopping experience. Since these revolutions, the way people shop has fundamentally changed.
A great showcase of a specific change can be found in the world of restaurateurs. “In-house” food ordering portals and apps like those used by Domino’s Pizza have put a priority on keeping customers informed at every step of the pizza-making process. And the consumer appreciates this newfound domain over purchases; recent numbers for pizzas ordered online outpace phone orders by 18 percent. Outsourced online food ordering services such as Uber Eats take things a step further and involve customers in the delivery of their food in addition to its cook time. Uber Eats users are provided with the names, faces and ratings of their “delivery partners” along with their live location en route to the chosen delivery destination.
Grocers and big-box chains ride the delivery wave as well, unveiling dozens of uber-convenient services that span their full catalogues. Meijer and Target have employed Shipt to offer their customers online-ordered, same-day deliveries for tens of thousands of products. Kroger developed Kroger Pickup, which lets regular customers submit a regular shopping list to be collected and picked up car side at their preferred store. The big change these systems are sure to bring about is how consumers compile shopping lists and subsequently how brand loyal they are. Thanks to systems like Kroger Pickup, large, regular hauls like groceries no longer need to be bought in terms of weekly needs but rather broad yearly consumption patterns (i.e., “what are we missing this week” may turn into “what do we tend to go through the quickest”). Services like Shipt can fit nicely into this framework to fill in any gaps in a vague shopping haul.
Perhaps the broadest way to address the changes in the way we shop is to acknowledge the blatant slant toward handing responsibility to the retailer. Of course, the reigning monarch of this philosophy is none other than the big, bad, orange smile itself: Amazon.com. Amazon Dash Buttons are perhaps the perfect embodiment of consumption boiled down to its most efficient, with all the attention to price and quantity relinquished to the push of a button. But the company does so much more to ease its customers’ shopping experience. If a button seems like a disquieting amount of control over your purchase, you can always court the ever-popular Amazon Alexa.
With the help of artificial intelligence, customers can order virtually anything with a simple utterance and receive purchase suggestions based on everyday questions. In other words, now consumers can make robots do all of the work that comes with shopping. Another high-tech perk Amazon gives its shoppers is testing out the optics of their products. Amazon’s AR View uses mobile tech to display virtual models of everything from appliances to décor, allowing customers to shirk hard measurements and planning for a simple augmented reality display.
In an age of increasing immediacy, companies have begun to get ahead of the consumer, giving them what they want before they know they want it. While things as trivial as fast food can be tracked down to the moment the pepperoni hits the cheese, behind-the-scenes details for retail goods seem to be the least of the modern shopper’s worry. Whether it’s custom shopping lists on file or remote-controlled online orders, the business of the future has to keep in mind that it’s possible consumers don’t like shopping at all.