The Future Of Shopping: Where Everyone Is A Retailer, by Jorg Snoeck & Pauline Neerman
This is a book that left me with mixed feelings. On the positive side, there is a lot that this book happens to get right, regarding the different attitudes towards shopping that people have across generations, all of which is leading to an area where shoppers demand transparency of information and where loyalty to brands and retailers has declined to a massive degree and where companies have to work hard to understand and tailor their products to solutions desired by customers. The authors’ rather frequent points about the future being a place where everyone is a retailer are in many ways true, at least in a limited form. The authors also offer prescient warnings about the tendency of people to be in a bubble that is based on their own perspective and worldview that basically closes out anything that would be hostile to them. To a large extent this bubble exists and someone can, if they do not go out of their way to find things that challenge them and which they disagree with, largely live in a world that caters to their own perspective in how sources of news and marketing appear to them. And for many of us, a certain amount of time and effort is spent helping to make our bubbles more secure against the idiotic and wrongheaded views of those who disagree with us, be they people or companies or other institutions.
This book is between 250 and 300 pages and consists of a few unnumbered chapters. The book begins with a table of contents as well as a preface. After that comes a look at the supposedly permanent new face of retail, an unlikely case given the multitude of changes that retail has faced over the past few decades. This is followed by a look at the new rules of retailing which looks at 3 generations of retail change in the past few decades, from the glory years of mass consumption in the postwar period to the Amazon era to the supposed fourth industrial revolution. After that comes the authors’ discussions of demographic trends, especially in Europe. This is followed by a discussion of the future of the internet as well as blockchains and the internet of things. After this comes a look at the future of the store and some of the many things this means. After that comes a look at the future of retail in being a triumph of niches and customization. After that comes a look at the future of the supermarket and whether it will survive this century. Finally, the authors present their titular argument that in the (nearish) future everyone will be a retailer.
Where I tend to find this book less enjoyable is in its tone and attitude. While the authors seek to present themselves as being insightful guides to the future of shopping and marketing, much of what they have to say is not particularly original. Indeed, the authors themselves are polite enough to point out the many dozens of occasions where some particularly strongly worded statement they are making is being paraphrased from some other writer from the last twenty years or so. This book is part of a larger conversation and contains assumptions about the behavior of people as well as the desirability of certain social trends relating to morality and demography. Quite a few of the authors’ discussions about the behavior of shoppers is abhorrent in nature, and presents a look at people who have failed at life, however much they may succeed, for example, at making custom curtains like those found in a particular movie they were streaming. Even more so, this book’s general attitude and approach was one that I found somewhat irritating, largely because the authors are hyping something that has not yet come but may come in the future, and I tend to be the sort of person more interested in the tried and true than in the untried and possibly fictitious. Obviously, as is often the case, this book is written by someone who wants to be on the leading edge of hype rather than on the trailing edge once the hype has failed and it is time to look at the real worth of something to society as a whole.