Commerce is changing at its core
In fact, there's a fundamental shift in the very nature of what a product is. Products are in the process of transforming from artifacts to experiences.
Golf clubs are no longer weighted sticks with which to hit a ball; they have embedded chips that integrate with software to help you analyze and adjust your swing. The club has gone from tool to teacher. Your thermostat is watching you, learning your behaviors so that it can make subtle adjustments in order to create an optimal home experience while creating efficiencies that save you money at the end of the month. Light bulbs can programmatically change color and intensity, effectively shifting from providers of lumens to providers of ambience.
From exchange to experience
This shift to experience is happening across the channels through which we buy things, as well. Four walls and piles of stuff people want isn't enough anymore. In fact, the purchasing experience begins long before the customer ever walks through your doors (if they walk through your doors). Showrooming is becoming popular because, while people still like to put their hands on something before they buy it, they can almost always find it for less online. The types of purchases that still predominately take place in a brick-and-mortar establishment are usually heavily researched online long before the actual transaction begins.
For things that are bought online, Amazon has done to fulfillment what Google did to search; now, products purchased online will arrive the next day (or sooner, if Amazon gets its fleet of drones off the ground...), so the requirement for a physical store only solves the requirement that the customer needs something today. That can be addressed by turning your physical locations into extensions of your brand experience. Sensors and on-site content streams can react to specific customers and deliver the highest value information to them while they explore the environment. That same data about a customer can enable the sales staff to have insight about a customer before they even approach them. Just like the golf club can be a teacher, the store can become a trusted advisor.
The connected nature of products allows for frictionless collaboration between companies and consumers, as well. The software industry learned a long time ago that it could track user behaviors, especially those leading to negative outcomes, in order to plan for improvements to their products. Now, the same can be done for your connected devices. Issues can be addressed in a proactive fashion, reducing the number of calls to your service center. In fact, some issues can be addressed real-time - a Tesla engine that is running roughly can be fixed with in over-the-air firmware upgrade while the customer is still driving. In the customer's eyes, the product itself is helping you use it. It becomes an uninterrupted experience.
This barely scratches the surface of the changes to how companies will engage, convert, and maintain relationships with their customers. How will our clients avoid becoming the next business that gets blind-sided by change?