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Jonathan Reynolds

By Jonathan Reynolds

Dystopian retail futures

Here in Oxford we spend a lot of of our time thinking about the future of retailing. What always strikes me from these exercises is that they can become relentlessly optimistic, especially when it comes to the application of technology. Apart, of course, for those businesses that lose out from the new and different trading equilibrium towards which the sector is moving.  But our experience of the Internet and its associated devices, applications and resulting behaviours, is not always good. Quite a few years ago, a campaign by internet services provider AOL demonstrated the power of advertising and the genuine dilemmas that exist when we think about the good or bad aspects of the Internet.

I was in Sweden recently for a research day bringing together directors of retail research from Swedish universities. We thought critically about the future from a variety of perspectives. I thought it might be interesting to speculate on what might happen if everything went wrong? Entitled ‘Digital Dystopia: a retail thought experiment’, I asked:

  • What if it all went wrong?
  • What if the store experience was unpleasant, violent and even deadly?
  • What if downtowns died?
  • What if virtual currencies like bitcoin turned out not to be the answer for payment?
  • What if your identity was stolen on a regular basis?
  • What if you couldn’t believe what your Google glasses were telling you?
  • What if you were beset by distribution disasters?
  • What if online shopping caused economic meltdown?

.. then perhaps a different kind of retail experience would be safer?

You can see the supporting presentation here.

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