Quite a bit of “shopping evolution” isn’t it? We have been moving from
- going to the manufacturer (the artisan) to request a product by providing our “specs” to
- having manufacturers betting onto what we would be willing to buy and filling shops with merchandise, to
- accessing unlimited choices provided by e-commerce sites to the aggregation of parts (hard and soft), to
- creating our own customised product by assembling parts provided through different channels, to
- creating a shopping chain through the ambient, products/services we are already using.
Of course this represents just a systematization of the evolution, with each subsequent phase becoming prevalent but with the previous ones still active (we are still using artisans although this is the exception rather than the rule…).
As a shop owner I had to adapt and change through this evolution. And more is on the horizon. I have been told that the evolution is towards a sort of integration, or symbioses, between the shopper/user and the product/service. This is called the “Integrated digital shopper”.
The novelty is that in some (and growing) instances when you buy something, that something is actually partly outside of you (as it has always been…) and partly is ending up inside you, a software like medium that makes you a better fit with the product.
The selling proposition looks engaging: you want to buy a piano? What about buying a package that will provide you the skill to play that piano? Now, this looks like science fiction and it will remain so for a few more years but what about systems that through advance BCI can deliver Augmented Reality right when you need to interface with a product? Clearly hitting a piano key that you see highlighted with your fingers is nothing like “playing a piano”, although it might help the learning process (and there have been applications highlighting the keys on a screen for several years now, what is new is that the highlighting takes place through AR and it is invisible to others watching you playing).
What will happen in the coming years is a progressive augmentation of humans and this may go hand in hand with a growing symbiosis with products. Now, if this seems out of science fiction as I mentioned before one should recognise that the digitalisation of humans has progressed significantly resulting in the creation of digital twins. The digital twin lives in the cyberspace and can be used by third parties (having been given access rights) to simulate products interactions (including drugs – actually this was the first application) and it is being more and more used to create applications that customise the rendering of information (which in turns means the customisation of experience). Hence, it has become more and more common to augment your digital twin to better exploit a product or a service.
This is becoming the tell-tale sign of the shift from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0, the embedding of the user in the product.
Although ideas are still being discussed on what Industry 5.0 may be, there is a consensus that it will be characterised by a much stronger cooperation between humans and machines (robots/autonomous systems) throughout the whole production chain. I still have to figure out my role, as a shop owner, in this evolution…