Imagine a world where Suzie finds virtual shoes she likes on her friend’s social networking page. She buys the same shoes for her profile and decides she would like them for real. During a break at work, she visits a store, tries on the shoes, buys them and gets them delivered to her home.

This is just one of many scenarios for the year 2020, but the chances are that we will all become more used to making purchases in different ways in the near future. The future is not so easy to predict, but the megatrends that ultimately determine these changes are already with us. We know that technology, the environment, globalization and demographic changes are all influential factors, not only in retail.

By looking at current and future activities through market research we are able to see what the practical implications are for developments like these. For example, everyone shops now, regardless of gender, age, even wealth. That is a tremendous diversification; that’s why retailers must offer various channels to satisfy these needs. There are new opportunities everywhere; it is something retailers must keep in mind.

Greater individualization will also mean some will decide to go shopping, order via TV or online; it is what best suits them. For the retailer, that generates a need for flexibility and scalability. Some call it multi-channel although “cross-channel” is probably more appropriate because this gives you an indication that in the future customers will move across channels.

Much of it relies on content displayed on the web, on mobile devices etc. The question we are asking now is, who will create this content and who will be responsible for it? In terms of personalization, there is also the issue of delivering the right message, offer or coupon at the right time. We call this “Precision retailing.” By understanding the consumer, via mobile apps, we can respond quickly, in real-time, to interact with them in a way that adds value to the customer.

Today we have the potential to track the whole supply chain end-to-end, from the customer to the manufacturer. This changes the demand on logistics, and retailers have to understand the need for speed and create flexibility.