We are still in a transitional phase. The four new types of economy – smart, sharing, circular and platform – are relatively new. Consumers of all ages and backgrounds have different ways of adopting new habits offered by these economies. Gradually they are becoming more conscious onlife shoppers. Their very own onlife identity is taking shape, which in turn presents a very real value for retailers. As a result, consumers have a lot of power to wield. Ours is an era where customers are in the driver’s seat more than ever before, and they are craving authenticity, newness, convenience, and creativity. We are living in a customer-driven economy. Today’s customers are, in fact, the powerful onlife consumers of tomorrow

Onlife consumer: a new journey?

The customer journey can best be described as the shared journey of consumers and businesses during the purchase of goods or use of services. It consists of the steps consumers need to take to

buy something and the possibilities businesses provide for them to take those steps. Belgian professor of marketing Gino van Ossel has termed this the buying path, though he also includes the actual

consuming of the purchases, which I have decided not to do in this book.

There are many different ways to describe the customer journey. I’ve found a lot of inspiration in the descriptions by McKinsey & Company23, IKEA24 and Bonsing|Mann. After adding my own twist, I’ve defined five separate steps. Let’s take a look at how these have changed over time:

  1. Orientation

Then: radio, TV, newspapers, flyers, mailings.

Now: search engines, comparison sites, social media, blogs, vlogs, videos

Tomorrow: predictive personalized messages, virtual reality, augmented

reality, holograms.

  1. Selection

Then: stores, travel agencies, insurance companies.

Now: web store, influencer marketing, home speaker and ordering devices.

Tomorrow: app (store), virtual and augmented store and showroom, holograms.

  1. Transaction

Then: identification, purchase, payment and delivery all happen simultaneously at the end of the customer journey; risk is balanced evenly between buyer and seller; virtually no risk.

Now: Identification, purchase, payment and delivery need not happen at the same time; risk is unevenly balanced between buyer and seller.

Tomorrow: identification happens at start of customer journey; purchase, payment and delivery need not happen at the same time, virtually no risk thanks to blockchain technology.

  1. Delivery

Then: mailman, milkman, post office.

Now: pickup points, same-day delivery, home delivery, office delivery, in-fridge delivery.

Tomorrow: self-driving cars and delivery trucks, robot and drone delivery.

  1. Customer care

Then: service desk, by phone.

Now: WhatsApp, (web) chats, Skype and FaceTime, virtual assistants and chatbots.

Tomorrow: deep-learning chatbots and robot advisers.

Certainly, this is not a full reflection of our reality nowadays, where linear customer journeys are becoming increasingly rare. In years to come, the customer journey is inevitably going change a lot. Onlification of society is certainly going to alter the way people look, choose and buy. Analogue customers will become onlife consumers who find completely new ways to shape their customer journey.

Over the next months, I will discuss the separate steps of this new customer journey — from the perspective of onlife consumers. After all: that’s the perspective that matters most.

This is blog 29, based on my book ‘The end of online shopping. The future of retail in an always connected world’, published by Business Contact (Dutch/Flemish editions), Nubiz (English edition) Post & Telecom Publishers, Beijing (Chinese edition). The book will also be translated into Danish, German, Italian and Portuguese in 2018.