Today’s Top 10 Shopping Innovations

The Future of Shopping  has been touched on a lot over the last year, whether you look to media channels like, fastcompany and TODAY; tech companies such as Intel, Cisco, IBM and Apple; or retailers like Target, Albert Heijn, Metro Group, Nike and Amazon. Missing from previous coverage, a holistic look across shopping innovation is the focus here, specifically the top 10 shopping innovations that will stick.

The Future of Shopping, 2004, white paper

Much of today’s innovations were given birth nearly a decade ago and the recent coverage just scratches the surface.  Check out the top 10 cutting edge innovations today and find out which may have had their roots in my 2003 research on The Future of Shopping.

Check out the related article on the top 14 transformations that will redefine shopping by 2020.

A decade of dramatic digital growth gives shopping new meaning

Over the last 10 years, the concept of shopping has changed from being a physical, in-store only, experience to being a mix of physical and digital experience. Digital technology rapidly expanded beyond online reviews and coupons to become an integral part of the shopping process—from buying to customer service and everything in between. The lines between physical and digital shopping are becoming so blurred today, as mobile devices become embedded in the shopping experience, that having a clear experience strategy for your brand will be essential to survive.

Over the last 10 years more than…

  • 10 trillion web pages have been created
  • 8 billion songs have been purchased
  • 13 million articles have been created in Wikipedia

E-commerce sales were 1% in 2000 and have  jumped to over a projected 3% (projected) in 2010. In the US, these numbers show a steeper adoption curve, going from roughly 1% in 2000 and will be nearing the 10% (projected) mark in 2010. No medium in history—not radio, television, records, cassette, nor dvd—has been adopted and embraced as quickly as the web and online shopping. What is cutting edge today and what does the future hold for 2020? How will your favorite brand experience evolve?

Top 10: Today’s Shopping Innovations

What are the key technologies today that will continue to change the way we shop? There is a lot to trudge through, but below are the top 10 innovations that will continue to evolve and have a significant impact on how each of us shops and how companies sell, market and make a profit.

Pre-Shop: Capturing Shoppers Attention and Wallet

All 3 of the innovations in this section were called out in our 2003 research. It is really interesting to see exactly how they have manifested.

1. Ads that stalk you: Those cookies websites set are going to follow us everywhere. Ads when you enter a store or aisle or even head down the street will start to follow you across different touch points in the digital and physical world. Read the article on Three companies to check out are placecast, Point Inside and MOVO.

2. Digital coupons you never forget: Digital coupons can now be saved on your loyalty card and auto redeemed when you shop. Expect loyalty cards to move into your smart phone soon, just like payment has in some countries, and your phone will do even more. is one company doing this and calls it the “direct to card” feature. Shortcuts is a partnership between AOL and NAM, see the TODAY clip.

3. Any surface becomes a display: Ultra thin, transparent digital displays and next generation digital billboards that will continue to evolve starting to cover shelves, signs and walls at a store near you in the next 18 months. (Video below from showing Samsung laptop example, but there are a lot of contenders in this space like eInk and Aveso.)

At Shop: Turning Purchase Intent to Action

The actualy shopping experience was the focus of our 2003 research. Within it, we predicted and had concepts showing 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 below.

4. Find what you need: Mobile apps, such as Fast Mall and Grocery IQ work together with in-store digital displays to help you find stores and stuff faster while also exploring some things you didn’t know were there, from apps like Nearby Now.

5. Find a bargain: Use an app to scan product barcodes or take a picture of it on the shelf and instantly find best price, product review, or even eco ratings. There are a host of apps you can use for this, some free, some fee based. A few popular examples: Google Shopper, Google Goggles, GoodGuide, and RedLaser.

6. Find a suprise: Loyalty and location based, just-in-time bargains, timed promotions and exclusive events instantly appear on a mobile phone or aisle display as a customer enters the store, walks down an aisle or visits a certain neighborhood. Just out, the shopkick app has big partners on board like Macy’s, Best Buy, American Eagle Outfitters and the Simon Property Group. Gilt organizes exclusive events for the loyalty crowd. Google is also working on an app that let’s you preview what shops have before you even visit.

7. Get it now: Always on, vending machine offerings and new designs will continue to evolve as companies regularly turn 300% more profit from machines compared to per square foot sales in a physical store.  This high margin, always on space has proven effective in Japan over the last few years and continues to expand around the world. Here’s an article on vending if you want to learn a bit more.

8. Find the perfect fit: From your sofa or an in store digital “mirror display,” technology is ready to handle the virtual “try on” with anything from clothes, watches, eye shadow, glasses or that new tattoo you wanted. Piloted by Prada in their flagship store back in early 2002 (see “vintage” video), today’s evolution is ready. The one thing to watch out for here is the experience that surrounds this virtual try on. Those who get it right will be rewarded, the brands who don’t will have wasted time, money and potentially damaged their reputation with consumers. (See the video below from Cisco.)

Post-Shop: Understanding the data and analytics to drive new value

For the post-shopping experience, back in 2003, we only got #9. We knew data and analysis would be important for sure.

9. Connecting the data: Data is the new oil or the new soil—either way, it’s like gold—Most of the technology and data has been on the back-end of stores (think supply chain, inventory) and over the last few years it has started to explode into the front of the store (think digital signage, traffic analysis, restocking). With all this new technology comes more information, and data mining and analysis will continue to drive dollars by improving customer service and targeted advertising/offers that become more and more critical for future success. Check out this Intel video for a glimpse of the in-store implications. In terms of data mining and analysis, there will always be a Nielson, but there are some nimble players innovating in niche areas too, like Collective Intellect, who focus on social media and semantic search.


10. Seeing the value, really seeing it: Visualization of information brings further meaning to the business of shopping, and to consumers who are being more discriminating, in more areas than ever. For a brief glimpse of what data visualization can do, an amazing TedTalk that David McCandeless gave recently is below and also see one of Hans Rosling’s Ted Talks if you haven’t already.

Predicted 8 out of 10 back in 2003. What are your predictions for today and tomorrow?

Looking back, we missed 2 out of 10 of these key innovations back in 2003. 80% accuracy is pretty good when you’re looking 5 to 10 years into the future and things are changing fast. Many of the top 10 are still in early stage roll out, and there will be consolidation and fine tuning to perfect each one. However, all 10 seem very strong areas of growth today.

Two questions to you:

1. Are there other major shopping innovations today that will endure that are missing from the top 10?

2. How will the experience evolve to be beneficial for shoppers, making life easier, versus just having to juggle more stuff?

Also, if you’ve got technology or trends that aren’t reality today, email them to me (experiencerethink [at] gmail [dot] com) so I can consider them for my upcoming post on the future of shopping by 2020.


A special note of thanks to the 2003 research team: Clive Roux, Russell Blanchard, Giang Vu, Francis Chu, Anders Smith. Several of us hold global patents from the work through Philips.


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