The Fu­ture Lab­o­ra­tory ex­plores how brands are chang­ing to se­cure con­sumer trust in years ahead

From space-mined min­er­als to in­come-ad­justed goods, our res­i­dent fu­tur­ists, The Fu­ture Lab­o­ra­tory, ex­plain the ways brands must adapt to re­tain fu­ture con­sumer trust

Computer Arts - - Contents -

The era of one price fits all may soon be over. As bricks-and­mor­tar retailers im­ple­ment new tech­nolo­gies that en­able them to bring el­e­ments of the e-com­merce in­dus­try into stores, tar­geted of­fers will be­come part of the phys­i­cal shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence.

This trend is be­ing driven by the ad­vent of au­to­mated com­merce in China, where au­to­mated store op­er­a­tor Bin­goBox plans to open 3,000 un­manned shops by 2020. JD.com has also an­nounced plans to open hun­dreds of un­manned stores af­ter suc­cess­ful tri­als at its Bei­jing HQ, with the on­line re­tailer aim­ing to use its ad­van­tage in data an­a­lyt­ics to make the in-store ex­pe­ri­ence per­son­alised. JD's stores will, for in­stance, use fa­cial recog­ni­tion to show cus­tomised deals based on cus­tomers' de­mo­graph­ics and shop­ping habits.

"The tech­nol­ogy en­ables [au­to­mated stores] to pro­vide an un­prece­dented in­sight into rec­om­men­da­tions and of­fers," says LCP Con­sult­ing manager Will Daw­son. "If a cus­tomer spends 10 min­utes brows­ing fine wines, for ex­am­ple, but then opts for a cheaper al­ter­na­tive, a tar­geted of­fer may prompt fu­ture cus­tomer up­selling and loy­alty."

These sys­tems may soon also of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage in new forms of price seg­men­ta­tion aimed at en­gag­ing less af­flu­ent con­sumer groups. "As part of a cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­gramme, act­ing as an ac­tivist with pric­ing can help dif­fer­en­ti­ate a brand," says An­drew Watts, found­ing part­ner at brand com­merce agency KHWS. One ex­am­ple of this is Ama­zon, which in 2017 of­fered a £4.58 monthly dis­count on Prime mem­ber­ship for those with a valid Elec­tronic Ben­e­fits Trans­fer (EBT).

Given that Ama­zon al­ready op­er­ates its own au­to­mated Go stores, and last year also started ex­per­i­ment­ing with a re­tail pop-up based on the con­cept of dy­namic pric­ing, it's fea­si­ble that these ini­tia­tives could merge.

With two-thirds of hu­man­ity pre­dicted to be liv­ing in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments by 2050, ac­cord­ing to the UN, cities need to be able to sus­tain the grow­ing de­mands on their in­fra­struc­ture. Not only do tech­nol­ogy cor­po­ra­tions have the tools, they also have the money that is es­sen­tial for this ur­ban evo­lu­tion – one of the rea­sons the smart cities mar­ket is fore­cast to grow from about £324bn to £915.2bn in the next four years, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Mar­kets and Mar­kets. In­creas­ingly, lo­cal gov­ern­ments are turn­ing over en­tire tracts to the likes of Sam­sung and Google, which act as testbeds for smart in­no­va­tion.

One key ex­am­ple is Google's Side­walk Labs, an ur­ban in­no­va­tion

plat­form that aims to re­de­velop an 800-acre sec­tion of Toronto's wa­ter­front in or­der to cre­ate ‘the world's first neigh­bour­hood built from the in­ter­net up'. To do this, the project will track 25 qual­ity-oflife met­rics in­clud­ing walk­a­bil­ity, job growth and civic par­tic­i­pa­tion. "We be­lieve our role is to cre­ate the con­di­tions for oth­ers to in­no­vate on top of," says CEO Daniel Doc­to­roff. "That's what great cities have al­ways done: a street grid is a plat­form."

As smart cities be­come more per­va­sive, we will need to re­main vig­i­lant about how much over­sight they give their brand op­er­a­tors. De­spite its ethos of al­tru­ism, Side­walk Labs' project will prove to be a gold­mine of data for its par­ent com­pany. "[Google] clearly re­gards Toronto's wa­ter­front as a mas­sive re­search in­cu­ba­tor for fu­ture prod­uct de­vel­op­ment," ar­gues John Lor­inc, au­thor of The New City. Can we be sure that pub­lic in­ter­est will al­ways trump the profit mo­tive?

This is a con­cern shared by Evgeny Moro­zov, au­thor of The Net Delu­sion, who states: "Amid all this plat­formapho­ria, one could eas­ily for­get that the street grid is not typ­i­cally the prop­erty of a pri­vate en­tity, ca­pa­ble of ex­clud­ing some and in­dulging oth­ers." Fol­low­ing GDPR, con­sumers will de­mand the same trans­parency about how their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is be­ing used in the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment as is now manda­tory on­line, with clear de­mar­ca­tion of where and what data is be­ing col­lected.

Al­though they are in­creas­ingly fun­da­men­tal to the func­tion­ing of mod­ern so­ci­ety, the ex­trac­tion of rare earth min­er­als such as cerium, neodymium and yt­ter­bium is dam­ag­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

In China, the con­se­quences of lax reg­u­la­tion have left much of the soil and wa­ter around min­ing sites con­tam­i­nated with poi­sonous, even ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial. This has di­rect hu­man con­se­quences. In the Bayan Obo min­ing dis­trict in In­ner Mon­go­lia, can­cer is one of the lead­ing causes of death. "The res­o­nances run­ning through the pol­i­tics of rare earths, and the pol­i­tics of tech­nol­ogy fur­ther up the sup­ply chain, force a hard re­think­ing of the var­i­ous sto­ries that Sil­i­con Valley tells it­self in or­der to live," says au­thor In­grid Bur­ring­ton.

In fu­ture though, con­sumers will be able to pur­chase elec­tron­ics whose con­stituents were not mined on Earth at all. NASA has planned two ex­pe­di­tions to map a re­source-rich as­ter­oid known as 16 Psy­che, lo­cated be­tween Jupiter and Mars, in 2021 and 2023, re­spec­tively. It is thought that it could con­tain enough min­eral value to wipe out global debt. Mean­while, in 2014, US Congress passed a bill "to pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of a com­mer­cial as­ter­oid re­sources in­dus­try for outer space", with pri­vate com­pa­nies rac­ing to be the first to prospect and process one of the 10,000 or so as­ter­oids ac­ces­si­ble from Earth. Dis­cover more: www.lsn.global

Above: The Fu­ture Lab­o­ra­tory's Far Fu­ture series en­vi­sions an era where brand op­er­ated ar­eas will rely heav­ily on con­sumer trust to con­tinue be­ing suc­cess­ful.

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