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Global E-Tailing 2025

Future scenarios – four possible developments

By means of four future scenarios, the “Global E-Tailing 2025” study describes the role which electronic retailing will play in people’s lives in the year 2025, how international online retailing will change consumer behavior and thus the world of retailing as a whole, and what challenges the logistics industry will then be faced with. The four exploratory future scenarios have been developed on the basis of a global, medium-term perspective; they are not intended to be precise forecasts of the future. Rather, with the description of these future scenarios for the year 2025 the study aims to initiate a dialog about the future of electronic retailing and the implications for the logistics industry.

This look ahead to the future is enhanced by several essays written by well-known experts in the fields of research and practice and also by interviews with managers in the logistics and retail sectors. The primary focus here is on trends and developments which are already highly significant and which will have a growing influence on consumerism, retailing and logistics in the course of the next eleven years.

The study also examines a number of future-oriented best-practice solutions already implemented by Deutsche Post DHL in order to demonstrate the development capabilities which increased electronic retailing offers for the logistics industry.

The scenarios

The scenario method is an ideal means of developing alternative visions of the future. The objective is to spur people’s imagination and give them new perspectives. Accordingly, the scenarios do not simply carry the current situation forward into the future: they consciously reckon with upheavals and discontinuities. With this description of very diverse development paths, the future scenarios generate an awareness of possible changes in the business environment. They invite the reader to consider the risks and opportunities involved, as well as the strategies and possible courses of action. The result is a valuable mental exercise and a thought-provoking assessment of possible future developments.

Scenario 1 – Hybrid consumer behavior in convergent worlds of retailing

Against a background of moderate economic growth, the achievement-oriented society has been firmly established worldwide. In many of the developed economies, such as Australia, France or the United Kingdom, social contrasts have increased.

Technological progress has only been moderate. Smartphones and tablets are still people’s constant companions. They have flexible screens which can be rolled out, folded and flipped up. Interactive displays are ever-present in city streets, serving as interfaces to the virtual world. Retail companies offer their goods online and in stationary stores – multichannel retailing has become established. In many cases stores merely have the function of showrooms where customers can “experience” the goods. Prompt delivery to any specified location is a standard service. For all who can afford it, convenience is a decisive factor as far as shopping is concerned. But for the vast majority of people, it is still price which ultimately matters most.

Scenario 2 – Self-presentation in virtual communities
People are prospering. For the first time in history, a middle class with a comparatively strong purchasing power has developed worldwide. This has been accompanied by a shift in values, with the focus on leisure time rather than on work. Self-fulfillment and individual lifestyles are more important than success in one’s job. Trends are mainly set by international lifestyle communities. They have a strong influence on the shopping habits of broad sections of the public. Small, innovative online retailing platforms serve the different communities, while large online retailers and platforms take care of the mainstream market. Stationary retailing is principally focused on “experience” shopping.

So-called wearables are a standard feature of everyday life. One of the main purposes of this portable technology is to measure and optimize one’s own actions – in relation to nutrition or fitness, for example – and to continually exchange information and experience within the community. As a result of the boom in online retailing, the volume of goods transported by the logistics companies has increased substantially. To prevent complete gridlock, a number of conurbations have brought in stricter regulations for the delivery of goods.

Scenario 3 – Artificial intelligence in the digital retailing sphere
The main driving-force behind the global economy is the dynamism and innovative flair of information technology. People are living in a highly developed digital culture. Data glasses, smart contact lenses and other wearables have become indispensable parts of everyday life. Intelligent avatars serve as virtual shopping advisers. Often they act independently and “purchase” everyday goods, for example. Web shops adapt their offerings to customer profiles in real time; the avatars present supposedly interesting products to their users in “personal shopping hubs”. Stationary retailing and the showrooms of the online shops also operate with simulations which are tailored to customer’s requirements.

Same-day delivery is standard practice in major cities. Retailers and logistics companies can often predict requirements on the basis of precise customer data. They send off the goods – in some cases via automated solutions such as drones – even before the customer has ordered them.

Scenario 4 – Collaborative consumption in a regionalized retailing landscape
The global economy is stagnating. Trade barriers and high energy and raw material prices have led to a regionalization of the economy. People buy locally, as a rule. Sustainability and energy efficiency are the pivotal factors in shopping. Leasing and sharing models are therefore very common. The importance of personal possessions has diminished significantly for many people. Availability is what really matters.

Major online portals are mainly involved in leasing business. At regional and local level, a large proportion of swapping transactions are organized via smaller online platforms. Electronic equipment and consumer goods are modular in design so that their useful life can be prolonged. This facilitates both repair and maintenance. In addition to the traditional delivery solutions, the majority of logistics firms offers spare parts logistics as well as repair services.