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Black Friday and Cyber Monday of the Future | What’s “in Store” for Us?

Paul Griffiths
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Many of you may know the background of Black Friday being a term used for the first shopping day after Thanksgiving. The reason for the name varies depending on where you look, or who you ask. Anything from it being the first time that retailers finally start to show a profit for the calendar year, to the traffic chaos on the roads, or even the less than orderly behaviour of shoppers scrambling for bargains.

If you were looking to do some historic research, there have been plenty of articles written over the years. But enough about the origins.

What is in store for us in the future?

Knowing how digital transformation is revolutionising our lives today, what would Black Friday, and whilst we’re at it, Cyber Monday, look like in less than a decade from now?

Move the clocks forward just a handful of years and consider this—there will always be brick and mortar stores on our streets to cater for those who wish to embark on an expedition in search of a bargain. But in our smart cities, with our autonomous vehicles navigating themselves around, traffic jams and the desperate hunt for a parking space, are frustrations of the past.

Having left your car, you enter the retail fray and walking past a shop, you are buzzed by your smart phone or wristband with an enticement to enter. Then, based on your buying habits (which big data has thoughtfully provided to the retailer), the in-store Wi-Fi picks you up, and like a digital personal shopper, guides you effortlessly to the items of your choice and preference. Payment of course is on-the-go via digital currency, so there’s no queue at the checkout to get stressed about.

I wonder if gift-wrapping will survive as one of the few in-store services to remain as a purely human interaction in the run up to the festive season?

Here’s another thought—you enjoy the thrill of strolling the aisles, but don’t have the time to travel there and back? No problem! Stay at home, don your favourite headset, and in next to no time you’re there in the virtual reality of a retail emporium. Examine the goods, check the reviews, ask questions of the staff and chat to fellow VR shoppers. All without putting a foot outside your front door. Paradise!

“You must be kidding!” I hear some of you cry. “Paradise? The last thing I want to do is wander around the malls and arcades, whether they are real or not.”

Ah! But that’s one of the reasons Cyber Monday came about. Jump online and get clicking!

Cyber Monday

Since we’re looking at the future—will Cyber Monday survive in its current form? Surely there’s some IT revolution in the making. Wait! Of course! Whether we use them or not, anyone today with a so-called smartphone has their own 24/7 “digital assistant” somewhere about their person. Not only that, but just like having gas, electricity and running water, more and more households are plumbed directly into the Internet.

For a moment, I conjure up this image. Picture it with me. Cyber Monday in the future suddenly descending into its own latter-day equivalent of Black Friday. Traffic and customer chaos as millions of Alexas, Cortanas, Siris and other forms of AI, swarm to the online shops, clogging the Internet highways in an effort to be first in the digital queue when the doors open for business. Why? Because we’ve told them, or more likely, they have figured it out for themselves, to snatch that special item for us at a knock-down price as soon as it’s available online.

Some say that predictions of the future can be frightening, exciting, pure fantasy. Pick your own description. It depends on your viewpoint.

Digital transformation is not the future, it’s now.

It’s just a question of getting all the bits and pieces interlocked like a giant digital jigsaw puzzle.

High-street stores already have it in their power to draw us in and keep us there for longer than we intended. Successful retail businesses have learned how the latest generation Wi-Fi and SD-WAN equipment can track us around their stores and provide easy access to online services, without jeopardising their own PoS and back office systems.

It may be fair to say that autonomous vehicles have yet to become a common sight on our roads, but the number of smart cities grows by the day, with edge computing as a catalyst.

For all the right reasons, the Internet of Things is spreading like a plague across our world, infecting our homes, the places we travel to, as well as the people and systems we interact with.

Retailers on the street or online who ride the wave of agile, software defined IT, combining it with the visibility and control that comes with big data analysis and machine learning, are already leaving competitors wallowing in their wake.

Today is the new tomorrow.

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