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Shopping without shopping

Why the future of commerce is contextual.


In brief

  • A rapid acceleration in emerging technologies will challenge how customers are defined and hence, the nature of commerce, in the next 3 to 5 years.
  • Meet tomorrow’s customers: mirrored consumers, curators and collectives.
  • Serving them will affect operational, brand and reputational strategies. Businesses must shift from a linear customer journey to a life-centric one.

Big changes coming fast for commerce.

Within the next three to five years, shopping will undergo a profound transformation, driven by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, augmented reality, and 5G-enabled metaverses. Imagine shopping so convenient that people don’t have to do it themselves—or even think about it. This acceleration of the contextual aspects of commerce completely changes the shopping experience for customers. For companies, it requires reinventing marketing, sales and service.

Meet tomorrow’s customers

While there are pockets of contextual commerce happening today across various geographies and industries, it isn’t yet at scale. To succeed in this new era of commerce, companies will have to work differently in everything from the strategic priorities they set to the key performance indicators they measure. None of this will pay off unless companies embrace a fundamental truth about contextual commerce. It will create new customer types that require a different strategy and approach.

These are mirrored consumers, curators and collectives.

Future of commerce is contextual
Future of commerce is contextual

The mirrored consumer: Knows me

Mirrored consumers are digital representations of customers that offer real-time, holistic profiles. These profiles are derived from aggregated first- and third-party data, including data from sensors, wearables, and haptic technologies. This data creates intelligent networks of digital twins and threads that offer a more holistic, day-in-the-life understanding of customers.

It’s easy to see why mirrored consumers are very relevant across industries like consumer-packaged goods, retail and travel. They are also relevant for services industries where customer interactions are less frequent. And by integrating second and third-party data, this data profile can unlock insights into how customers experience their organization across various touchpoints.

Changes in commerce are moving at hyper speed—impacting everything from traditional B2C, B2B and B2B2C models to newer models like C2C.

The curator: Buys for me

AI-powered curators will revolutionize the sales and marketing landscape by serving as intermediaries between businesses and customers. They can operate in distinct roles: some curators work on behalf of customers to enhance their buying experience, while others represent companies to improve selling strategies. In both instances, curators are taking over the time-consuming and boring shopping that people don’t always like to do. It all hinges on their life-centric understanding of customers.

The advent of buyer and seller curators will lead to an uncharted type of commerce: bot2bot or AI2AI commerce. With bots representing both sides of the transactions, humans are completely absent. Companies will need to reset traditional truths about sales and marketing. After all, in the future of commerce, the customer won’t always be human.

The collective: Includes me

Communities play a significant role in influencing purchasing decisions. Group buying and sustainability-focused collectives are on the rise, as customers seek shared experiences and align with like-minded communities The rise of the collective will challenge companies to think about customers differently. Communities add new layers to branding and the purchasing journey as well as new customer acquisition economics.

We expect collectives to evolve as entities in their own right within the marketing ecosystem. They will be targets, influencers, buyers—and even fuel the development of a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) market. In this world where collectives have the economic power and do the purchasing, companies will have to win over and compensate multiple individuals. The strategic and operational realities of being relevant to so many individuals at once is uncharted territory for most companies.

Today isn’t too early for companies to start preparing for commerce’s tomorrow. Because a world where shopping without shopping isn’t so far over the horizon.

What’s next?

To prepare, businesses will need to broaden their definition of "customer" and understand the life-centric implications of contextual commerce. Embracing new technologies and expanding ecosystem partnerships will be essential for creating experiences that truly wrap around people’s lives.


Fabio Vacirca

Global Lead, Commerce

Mohammed Sirajuddeen

Managing Director – Accenture Song