How will you shop in 2030?

Consumer shopping habits are changing faster than ever thanks to AI. Explore what’s driving this evolution and what everyday shopping could look like in the future.

By Steve Feyer on June 5, 2024

Future of shopping

Last week I got to try the Rabbit R1 device for the first time. A darling of CES 2024, the Rabbit R1 made headlines as a first-of-its-kind AI device designed to take actions in the real world.

The Rabbit R1 is cute, and at $199 won’t break the bank. I still came away with questions—principally, why would I carry a separate device when I already have a phone with all of the same hardware? Even if the Rabbit R1 isn’t yet a must-have product, it definitely points toward the future of ecommerce.

The Rabbit R1 takes the logical next step from the amazing advances in generative AI, which now allow Internet users to communicate with machines in natural language, receiving natural language information in response. What if an AI were able to handle more than information requests? Given instructions and the right access, AI technologies can order a rideshare vehicle, buy food, book travel, and identify objects and landmarks—in fact, the Rabbit R1 can take these actions now.

As the technology and interfaces continue to advance, consumers will soon begin to expect real-world capabilities from AI. They will give instructions to an AI, likely using voice commands, and the AI will complete the requested task. The most exciting aspect of this future capability is how it will impact both buying and retailing behaviors.

I think of this near-term transformation in shopping in four steps. Step one is how we have shopped until just recently, with the advent of generative AI. Step two, where we are now, is to use generative AI to conduct consumer research. Step three, beginning with the Rabbit R1, employs AI agents to take specific actions. Step four will use AI agents to reach goals, according to one’s consumer preferences. I believe we will complete this major shift in just a few more years—by 2030, consumers will widely use AI as their agents for real-world goals.

What does this shift look like in practice? Here is an illustration of how you might buy an everyday product such as toothpaste now and in the near future.

Shopping with AI for toothpaste

  1. How we have always shopped – Use my favorite search engine or ecommerce site to research options and pricing, make a selection, and order manually.
  2. How we are beginning to shop – Ask an AI about the best toothpaste options. Follow links or recommendations to ecommerce sites, make a selection, and order.
  3. How we will shop in the coming months – Instruct the AI agent to order toothpaste from a specific site, within a specific dollar limit and with specified shipping options.
  4. How we will shop in 2030) – Tell the AI the following: “I never want to run out of toothpaste. Order my preferred brand periodically, or when it’s on sale. I’ll let you know if I have enough already. And let me know if you see a new product I might want to try based on my preferences.”

The transformation may be even more remarkable for discretionary goods, such as fashion. Here is an illustration of how you might buy an outfit now and in the near future.

Shopping with AI for an outfit

  1. How we have always shopped – Observe what’s happening on social media, in advertising, and in publications. When there is a new trend, find relevant clothing on multiple ecommerce sites, compare prices and reputation, make a selection, and order manually.
  2. How we are beginning to shop – Ask an AI about the latest fashion trend. Follow links or recommendations to ecommerce sites, compare prices and reputation, make a selection, and order manually.
  3. How we will shop in the coming months – Instruct the AI agent to order a piece of clothing from a specific site, within a specific dollar limit and with specified shipping options.
  4. How we will shop in 2030 – Tell the AI the following: “I want to look like my favorite Instagram influencer. When she has a new outfit, order an outfit that resembles it. But don’t spend more than $100 a month without checking in with me first, and make sure the clothes are seasonally appropriate to where I live.”

This huge transformation is beginning now, and will have huge impacts on retailers as well as consumers. Learn more about how retailers can prepare for the future of ecommerce now in Session AI’s ebook, The Age of the Anonymous: An Ecommerce Guide for Selling to Anonymous Visitors.

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