What will commerce look like 5, 10, 100 years from now?
Will we still use dollars? Will we still sell on marketplaces? Will we still use our phones?
Is it possible that everything we know today will be thrown out the window?
In this blog post I want to put some ideas down for the cool things that could, and should exist in the future relating to commerce.
We have the technological means to execute most of these things now… today.
The problem is mass adoption – that is a process that naturally takes a long time.
Society as a whole needs to be ready to change – a paradigm shift in how we view the world, whats important to us, and how technology should be embraced.
The question is simple – what will commerce look like in 100 years.
Almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket.
50 years ago, computers were the size of buildings and cost millions of dollars to build.
The computers in our pocket today are 100x smaller, 100x cheaper and 1000x more powerful than what we had just 50 years ago. That’s a billion fold increase in price & performance.
If today is mobile, what’s 10 years from now?
The logical progression is some sort of device that exists on top of our visual field, an augmented reality.
I’d say google glass is the first step in the right direction, but by no means a final solution.
Following that progression, the iteration after google glass would likely be a computer interface that exists directly on the eye – in the form of a contact lens.
Up until this point, the way you navigate through the computer interface would probably be with voice. In my opinion, that isn’t the ideal way to interact with these types of interfaces.
The things you’re doing on computer should be private – and voice commands makes everything public – and loud. And awkward. Stop talking to yourself.
By the time we have contact lens based computers, we will likely have figured out and mapped enough of our brainwaves to build a software layer / api to control the computer interface. If not brainwaves, then we should be able to track the movement of your eye to predict where you’re looking. A modern day mouse.
You would move apps with your mind, and think words to write stories.
Text messages turn into telepathy. Communication becomes seamless – from mind to mind.
What Does This Mean for Commerce?
In this new world, to participate in commerce all you should have to do is look at the thing you want to sell , and think “go” – the rest should be taken care of for you.
For example, lets say you want to sell your old bicycle because it’s taking too much room up in your garage. You look at it, and think “sell”.
The first thing that happens is a picture is taken of your bike.
From that picture, the system would use a combination of mechanical turk and an OCR type software to generate an accurate title for the item being sold.
From that title, the software would search databases such as pricenomics & sematics3 via their API’s to find the both the historical and optimized sales price for that item.
From these databases we can also pull other information about the item like description, model number, and other various specifications.
Once your listing has enough information to be created, it would be pushed live and shot out to every relevant marketplace, social network, blog & forum on the internet.
Anyone who is “looking for” what you’re selling would automatically get a notification. Maybe they specified they wanted to get notified for anyone selling a “bike” within “40 miles”, and your listing meets that criteria.
In addition to sending push notifications to all relevant matches, it should also push your listing to every marketplace that exists (ebay, etsy, amazon, craigslist, backpage, etc.) - maximum exposure.
When a buyer across any of these platforms purchases your item, you’d get a notification that it’s been sold and the payment would be waiting for you in a secure escrow system.
You’d be able to meet up with the person if they’re local, or if you need to ship the item you’d be shown the location & directions to the nearest post office. Your shipping label would be purchased for you using the buyers address, and would be waiting for you at the post office.
While in-transit, the item would automatically be tracked by GPS, and when it was confirmed as delivered, the money would automatically be released to the seller (you).
That is the full lifecycle of a transaction happening seamlessly. This technology already exists, and the framework for this new era of commerce is being built as we speak.
Today we have fiat money, which is backed by, essentially, nothing – I’ve covered this in a previous post (here).
In my opinion, the future will be run by cyrptocurrencies (or something similiar), which are basically digital, decentralized stores of value.
Currently, Bitcoin is winning as it has a tremendous network effect. Bitcoin is what people believe will be “the currency of the future”, however this is a slightly misinformed belief in my opinion.
There will be many – maybe even thousands of crypto currencies in the future. Just like there are tons of different types of fiat money today (USD, Yen, Euro, etc.) and many different stores of value (Gold, Silver, Copper, Platinum, etc.).
Each cyrptocurrency has its own benefits and drawbacks. We’re seeing a lot of copycat cryptocurrencies because the bitcoin protocol is open sourced and it’s easy to clone something together similar pretty quickly.
There are, however, some cryptocurrencies that are improving upon bitcoin significantly, and building their own custom codebase, completely separate from bitcoin.
Companies and governments may even decide to create their own cryptos – Imagine Amazon Coin, Facebook Coin, Tesla Coin, Uber Coin, each having their own specific uses and settings.
The US could create AmericaCoin – where you’re required to hold a certain amount of your money in that coin to be considered a citizen. This coin would automatically tax 3% per year. Problem solved (but don’t do this, that would suck).
There are tons of marketplaces – and each have their own positives and negatives.
I don’t believe the future is going to allow for 1 marketplace to take over as a juggernaut. In my mind, we will have thousands of niche marketplaces, each serving a unique purpose.
It’s clear that if you’re selling shoes, the best place to sell is a niche forum or blog – the problem is a normal seller wants to spend less than 5 minutes selling their item, and they’re not going to do that searching, sign up, and learn a new website just to sell a pair of shoes.
Marketplaces should compete to get items sold for their users – or else another marketplace is going to generate that sale and the item will be deleted. It forces marketplaces to do their job – connect sellers with buyers and get your stuff sold. If marketplace 1 doesn’t sell your item, marketplace 2 will.
The framework for this type of omniscient commerce is being built now.
An API to Rule Them All:
I believe that the future of commerce will be simple.
All of these marktetplaces will be connected together by an underlying commerce framework.
We’re going to have multiple marketplaces, multiple hardware devices, and multiple currencies.
I think the most valuable technology that will be developed in the next few years will be the framework that conncets & powers commerce across all of these marketplaces & devices.
The ideal solution would be an API that anyone can pull from, and when a listing goes into the system, it can be pushed out to multiple marketplaces who then compete for the sale.
An API like this is extremely important for future innovation in the commerce space.
This would allow a google glass, or oculus rift developer to build a commerce application in hours instead of needing 6 months and $250,000.
Developers shouldn’t have to solve the same boring problems over and over again as they move to new platforms. They should focus on novel implementations of new hardware, instead worrying about how to build payments, or grow a marketplace or deal with fraud. A lot of these things have already been solved separately – but because there is no free, standard technology for developers to use, everyone looking to build in this area has to start from scratch.
SellSimple – The Future of Commerce
Now here’s the part where I plug my own company a tiny bit – SellSimple is building that API, and we want to give it to developers for free.
All of these ideas are cool, but unless they’re executed we’ll never see this vision happen.
My focus is to execute these visions through SellSimple.
With SellSimple, I’m trying to create an open API that allows developers to integrate “sell everywhere” technology into their app, pull listings from multiple marketplaces, and participate in revenue sharing for facilitating sales.
The goal today is to build a framework for seamless commerce across multiple marketplaces, devices and currencies.
At the end of the day – I believe this vision will be executed by someone, and I would like to ride that wave.
If you’d like to join forces on this journey, or have any questions, please Contact Me - I’m waiting!