What the Future Holds for Consumers

In 40 years, �the customer is always right� will be more than a catchphrase

I remember how excited my husband and I were when we first ordered groceries online. It was a supermarket shopper’s dream! We loved the convenience. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Or does it? The last 40 years have seen many convenient, time-saving advancements. But what will life be like for consumers in the next 40 years?

Whenever you go to your local bank, you’re usually greeted by a teller. Because of a growing need to cut costs, the ATM of the future will be updated to perform even more functions. This is also part of a trend Trend Hunter magazine calls “unservice,” or getting customers to serve themselves. You’ll have the ability not only to pay bills and cash checks but to call for customer assistance from the touch screen and receive money in any denomination. There will also be no need to carry your ATM card, since access to one’s account will be based on biometric technology—which has already been rolled out in Australia, using voice authentication for telephone banking, and Japan and Poland, where ATMs can scan the veins in your finger.

With the increasing focus on security (and also privacy and fairness), comes reform. Forty years ago, the U.S. Congress began regulating the credit card industry, starting with the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970. We’ve certainly come a long way since then. One change resulting from the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 is that those under 21 need a cosigner or proof of an independent source of income to open a credit card account. I predict that there will be even more credit card reforms and, increasingly, debit card reforms as card companies seek to make up their losses there.

As the way we pay for things changes, so will the way we buy things. One thing I detest about shopping for clothing: If something doesn’t fit, I have to change back into my clothes and walk back to the rack to get another size. I predict the adoption of automated dressing rooms. All you’ll have to do is use a touch screen in the dressing room to enter the item you want, and it will be delivered to you. Over the past few years, technology has been tested that can turn your fitting room mirror into a source of additional product information, a virtual stylist, and a link to your social network.

In 40 years, “the customer is always right” will be more than a catchphrase. Businesses will truly listen and cater to the needs of the consumer. Our world will be driven by convenience, customer service, and customization.

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