Quod libet – The shopping experience of the future
Algorithms are increasingly categorizing customers according to personality types in order to offer everyone a personalized consumer experience. But what does that mean in concrete terms? What would a supermarket look like that had a suitable offer for everyone? For the introverts as well as the extroverts, the conscientious as well as the chaotic? Accompany me on the shopping stroll of the future ...
by Strigalt von Entf*
Don't waste time with long digressions, dear readers, because the future is waiting for us, and as we all know, it won't wait long! Already in the present, that is today, here and now, I reveal to you what our future shopping experience will look like ...
In the last part of this thought-provoking column, you learned that the advertising industry is now drawing on the deep knowledge of psychology to screen your personality according to the "Big Five." In the glitzy, sparkly make-believe world of online shopping, it's pretty clear what this interjection is for: The new mascara that costs four times as much and lasts twice as long can be presented to the more extraverted party girl with a photo of happy dancing people, while the more introverted yoga instructor can be presented with a picture of an oasis of silence. So far, so understandable.
But, my esteemed meaning-seekers, you and I notice it immediately: the story is not that simple. Yes, we may enjoy the convenient possibility to get everything with one click, without moving a step from the comfortable armchair, the roasted pigeons may not fly into your open mouth, but at least directly into the mailbox, nice. Humans as homines sociales will not find lasting happiness in being in possession of paradise within their own four walls and in being talked into products by algorithmically selected stock photos that they don't even need if they don't go out the door anyway. They strive out, out into the real world, real experiences, real encounters, real feelings. This is also where the future of shopping will take place: in the real supermarket!
What? Then it will be just like today? – No, not at all, because the market of the future will have learned. One market for all, that can't work. Instead, there will be a market for everyone – or a market that knows how to adapt to the wishes and needs of its customers as profoundly as Zeus, the father of the gods, on the hunt for a beautiful maiden. The Big Five will help, of course! How is this supposed to work? Well, it's easy to imagine for free spirits like you and me.
It starts at the entrance, where it's all about luring those willing to buy into the right tract. The conscientious will, of course, immediately reach for an appropriate sized shopping cart or basket. These are conveniently placed in such a way that they lead from there directly to the well-stocked part of the market, where all products have their fixed place, arranged according to useful categories. The fresh products and those to be refrigerated are found at the very end. The aisles can be narrow, because well prepared shopping lists mean that the sorted rarely have to go back because they forgot something after all. In winding curves, the aisles lead efficiently along the rows of products to the checkout.
The less conscientious, on the other hand, are a different story. They're offered a pretty, wide, highly visible entrance that's closer to the parking lot but doesn't have transportation ready. "I don't need much!" – yes, sure ... don't worry, baskets and trolleys are of course spontaneously ready to hand at irregular intervals in the market, in case one should "surprisingly" need more after all. Instead of clear routes, there are rather rhizomatically connected alleys, so that a quick back and forth between the product categories is easily possible. Frequently forgotten products can be found at handy reminder rummage tables just before the checkouts, and fruit scales can also be found there in rough quantities – what a paradise for the creative chaotic.
But this is not the only turn to take. After both main entrances, the path splits again into two organized or unorganized paths each. You get to choose again: Do you follow the one with the soft party music and flickering lights, an invitation to also get into a bit of a party mood and chat with other bargain hunters while shopping? Sales staff who are just as extroverted as you will give you friendly advice, tips or simply compliments.
Or do you prefer to keep to yourself? You can go your own way, undisturbed, unperturbed. The sales staff will largely make themselves invisible and silently stock the shelves, only seeking contact with you in the case of very, very important concerns and only when explicitly asked. The other customers, who have chosen the same path, will not disturb your solitude of their own accord, so that all introverts can enjoy a relaxed shopping experience.
The hidden treasure
Those who know their customers well also know their needs – and could thus have decisive advantages. Detailed knowledge about one's own clientele would be abundantly available, only it is hidden in the most diverse data sets. How to make the most of customer data – find out here!
Suddenly: an unfamiliar, unsuspected, unsniffed fragrance, it smells of adventure, promises mysterious discoveries and undiscovered secrets. If you have a rather high score on the scale of "openness", you will fall for the olfactory sirens, like Odysseus and his Argonauts. You will follow the aisle to where there is always something new – new offers, unknown vegetables, product launches, promotional stands. The whole colorful world awaits you!
Or are you more of a creature of habit? Then you'd better avoid this strange smell and turn where the usual floor polish shows you the way. In this part of the store, you'll find your usual products in their usual places, nodding to each other like an old married couple who've been through so much together – why suddenly become unfaithful?
But what is this? There is something wrong with the product. The expiration date is long past, there's a scuff here, and this is just not what the packaging promises. You need to see someone from the sales staff. But with what desire? Are you very compatible? Then the very idea of a confrontation probably makes you sweat. At no cost would you want to argue. Don't worry, there are anonymous feedback columns for you, protected from view like Cyrano de Bergerac in the bushes at night. If a reaction is needed right away, very friendly smiling service people are waiting for you at a warmly decorated reception, who will quickly try to find a replacement – it doesn't take many words on your part, they will read your wish from your eyes.
Perhaps, however, you are on the more intolerating side of this scale. You're not so much concerned with finding a solution. Rather, you want to let off steam about the impertinence of trying to foist such a shoddy product on you. You head straight for the uniformed market hollerers posted everywhere, mostly grumpy-looking, muscular men who you can throw harsh words at with a clear conscience. Specially trained, these employees will answer your attacks with the appropriate severity until they finally back down at just the right moment – once again, you've prevailed. A good feeling.
Targeting customers with the help of AI-supported psychometrics
In times of digitalisation with its new sales opportunities, the variety of offers is constantly increasing. People's consumer behaviour has changed accordingly, and demands on services and products have increased. This makes it all the more important to be able to address customers specifically in the digital space.
This is made possible by AI-supported psychometric methods: They allow personality traits of customers to be derived from their digital footprints – highly automated and almost in real time. Find out more in the "Sparx" talk by Kathrin Schwan, Managing Director at Accenture, and Sarah Boecker, Data Science Manager at Accenture. Watch the video now!
That leaves one more category: neuroticism. Well ... this is where it gets tricky. If you are hardly neurotic, you will certainly feel comfortable in the store that suits your personality. But what to do if you belong to the ... very delicate-minded people? Everything must be perfect, because everything that is not right could be directed against you. A gaggle of employees will flutter around you like moths around the neon sign of the local optician at night, will put all the products straight on the shelf, will wipe up any dirt from the floor ... but wait ... why are they all buzzing around you? Are they following you around? What have you done to be needing all-round surveillance? No, it's better not to let any employees come into view. But that's not good either – are they avoiding you? Do you stink? Bring in the employees, but keep a low profile. Wait, they're ignoring you. Hmm ... You know what? If you belong to the select group of people with a distinctive score on this most exalted of all personality dimensions – well ... maybe it's just as well that online shopping will still exist in the future.
You see: The future will offer something for all of us. If you now say: "But such a supermarket will be complex like the labyrinth of the Minotaur", I can only agree. But, not even I, Strigalt, can have an answer to everything, this is where the architects have to do their job. We have given the template.
Honored – Strigalt von Entf
*Our "Feuill-IT-ong" format is created in collaboration with the two freelance writers Tobias Lauterbach und Daniel Al-Kabbani who occasionally contribute to the satire platform "Der Postillon". Under the pseudonym Strigalt von Entf, they report on current events from the world of technology – always with a wink! ;-)