IBM: Physical stores will turn the tables in five years as buying local beats online

Armonk, N.Y. -- In five years, buying local will beat online. That is one of five predictions that appear on IBM’s eight annual “IBM 5 in 5” forecast, which the company describes as a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

According to IBM, online stores currently have an advantage in their ability to learn from the choices consumers make on the web.  But physical stores will have turned the tables in five years, magnifying the digital experience better than a customer’s favorite online-only retailer. Savvy retailers are already experimenting with new services that combine digital and physical experiences in the store. For example, British retailer Topshop launched a Christmas campaign with Pinterest, allowing customers in its flagship stores to pin, share and shop for items on giant touch-screens. In the future, retailers will layer increasing levels of engagement and personalization on top of such experiences, ultimately merging the instant gratification of physical shopping with the richness of online shopping, IBM predicted.

In five years, retailers could rely on Watson-like technologies to equip sales associates to be expert about every product in the store, the report said.

“As mobile devices supported by cloud computing enable individuals to share what makes them tick, their health or nutritional needs, virtual closets, social networks, retailers will soon be able to anticipate with incredible accuracy the products a shopper most wants and needs,” the report said. “As a result, stores will transform into immersive destinations with experiences customized for each individual. And given their proximity and multiple footprints, stores will be able to offer shoppers a variety of fast pick-up or delivery options, wherever the customer is. Two day shipping will feel like snail mail.”

This year’s IBM forecast  explores the idea that “everything” will learn — driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way. These innovations are beginning to emerge enabled by cloud computing, big data analytics, and learning technologies all coming together, with the appropriate privacy and security considerations, for consumers, citizens, students and patients.

According to IBM, a new era in computing will lead to breakthroughs that will amplify human abilities, assist us in making good choices, look out for us and help us navigate our world in powerful new ways.

“We know more now than any other generation at any time has known. And yet, we struggle to keep up with this flood of increasingly complex information, let alone make sense of the meaning that is inherent in the massive amounts of data we are acquiring at ever faster rates,” said Dr. Dario Gil, director, cognitive experience lab, IBM. “By creating technology that is explicitly designed to learn and enhance our cognition we will usher in a new era of progress for both individuals and for society at large.”

Here are IBM’s five predictions that will define the future and impact us at a personal level:

  • The classroom will learn you;
  • Buying local will beat online;
  • Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well;
  • A digital guardian will protect you online; and
  • The city will help you live in it.