If you asked that question even a year ago, there would be plenty of naysayers listing every item that's difficult to purchase without seeing the real product. Shoes, perishable items, high end fashion... But today there's plenty of ecommerce going on in these areas, and many others trying to lure your dedication by offering discounts, free shipping and other benefits.
So here are some of my predictions if the trends reversed:
- We will all have a lot more free time - 30 minutes to drive to the store + 30 minutes walking around * the number of stores you visit + 30 minutes driving home - adds up to a lot of time you can do something better with...
- Collaborative shopping search engines will have to get even better - So you can enjoy 'browsing' an online store - ideally collaboratively. Right now, even basic search for the things you know you need can still be time consuming.
- People will consume less - which will scare some people thriving on shopaholics and spenders. But on the flip side, I see people spending more on entertainment, travel and other expenditures to help them enjoy their free time (see point #1).
- Specialty stores may rise again - Lets face it, everyone will have their top 1-2 stores that they enjoy and want to visit. For some it may be shoes, jewelry, electronics... For me it will be the grocery so I can see the freshest produce, items with the longest shelf life, etc. But each of these stores will have a harder time maintaining loyal customers. I can see large stores suffering in this scenario (why go to WalMart when I can purchase most of their items from their website), but smart specialty stores winning by stocking intelligently and providing excellent customer service.
- Kids will be smarter - Fewer summer jobs at stores and the mall means more of them will have to earn as knowledge workers.
- It will dramatically change the landscape of commercial real estate. I'm guessing that some of this space might be converted to small warehouses where consumers can also return/exchange goods. But hopefully some of this space will convert to parks and other recreational areas.