The Future Shopper Is Already Here, Is Your Loyalty Program Ready?

Jul 17, 2013

One of the most compelling presentations at last month’s 2013 Customer Relationship Management Conference was that of J. Walker Smith from consulting firm, The Futures Company. In it, he spoke of the future shopper and how digital technology is changing the nature of our social interactions.

Smith also discussed how Generation Z (those born around 2000), is more focused on digital channels than any other generation. He also described an experiment where an 18-month-old was given an iPad to see how fast the child learned to manipulate it by swiping and “pinching.” The same 18-month-old was then given a print magazine. The child tried to manipulate its pages like an iPad, but couldn’t determine how a paper magazine “worked.” Tomorrow’s consumer will be totally digitally inclined, Smith said, and off line channels won’t mean very much. At most they might be supplemental material. 

While I agree some of this scenario is likely, I question whether off line channels will become entirely supplemental.

That’s why I was excited to read about an online grocer and delivery service called Peapod, and how it’s shifting the consumer shopping dynamic. In 2012, Peapod installed interactive signs at train stations throughout Philadelphia, where commuters could shop for groceries by scanning quick response (QR) codes printed on images of physical products.

Fast-forward to summer 2013 and Peapod has launched an aggressive promotional campaign that utilizes a specially outfitted truck. The campaign is stopping at various cities, street corners, stadiums and concert venues around the country to give passersby the experience (and benefits) of the real-world social interactive fun of shopping for groceries with their smartphones while in the midst of performing (or waiting to perform) other tasks.

Beyond reinforcing that QR codes do have merit, virtual real-world shopping is also likely to expand into other verticals as technology advances. Imagine a pop-up store that features actionable QR code images. In the future, this shopping experience could also include wearable headgear, like Google Glass, that project augmented reality images of the “virtual” items on display, in the changing room or being tried on by the shopper. Placed in the context of a customer rewards program and proper loyalty management, and you have the makings of unmatched brand engagement.

While they might be the very last letter of the alphabet but Gen Zers are only the beginning of this new marketing potential. Many of their generational cohorts might still be too young to shop on their own. But you can be sure they’ll learn from their parents – and especially their siblings.

In other words, digital technology and digital engagement will only enhance the physical world and the loyalty programs that exist within it. But they won’t replace it.

What will the future shopper look like, armed with new wearable technologies and how will these affect loyalty programs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.