The future reimagined

Utopia 2030 – What Will Happen to Ecommerce and Logistics?

Innovation & Technology

We can all agree that a lot, A LOT, is going to happen in the next 10 years of ecommerce. But are you genuinely prepared for the death of shopping centres, a zero waste lifestyle and a bunch of drones buzzing over your head 24/7? You better be, because that is where we are headed.

Take a look at your go-to social media account. The one you update and post on most often. Scroll back for about 3 months. Let me guess: you cannot believe that whatever you were sharing just 90 days ago was only 90 days ago.You cry out: ‘But so much has happened in between, this has got to be like from a year ago!’And you are exactly right to feel this way. Time does seem to run by faster than ever, and it has a lot to do with how much stuff is happening around us. All. The. Time.

Since change is occurring everywhere around us at a mind-boggling pace, it can be just a tiiiny bit overwhelming to try and make any sense of the world and, especially, where the world as we know it now is going next.

Sometimes the best remedy for dealing with a blurry and constantly shape-shifting future is to talk with the people who are the forerunners in their fields, to borrow their vision for different future scenarios, and thus, be more prepared for them.

So, off we go, to the year 2030 (sung in the key of Conan O’Brien’s ‘year 2000’) with two visionaries who could already offer us a glimpse not just into the next 3 months, but the next decade. Our guides into the future are Esko Kilpi, Finland’s leading expert of digital work and Noomi Jägerhorn, Head of Sustainability at Posti, and they offer us not one, not two, but six scenarios to look for in the coming ten years.

1. Our homes are our shops

Esko Kilpi sees the advances and rapid growth of online shopping, and the systems built around it from production to logistics as something that will transform consumers’ understanding of ‘shopping’ altogether. “Our homes are de facto shops, there really is not much need to go elsewhere to do your shopping, when everything can be brought to us.”, Kilpi asserts. The role of e-commerce and logistics companies will expand, as they will have the closest relationships to consumers, or ‘in-home-shopkeepers’ in the future. As Kilpi put it, “whereas logistics providers such as Posti now interacts with customers mainly one-way through the letterbox, in the future Posti will interact in both directions through an open door,” illustrating the shift in the new paradigm of how consumers look for, try, buy and receive products.

2. Retail space will transform into social space

If shopping is shifting heavily into the online space, then what will happen to all of the vast swaths of retail space both in shopping malls and downtown hotspots? Esko Kilpi sees that even though shopping will evolve, people will still need spaces to meet and interact with each other: “If people don’t know what they need, it’s very good for them to meet other people from whom they can learn, for example about products or how to cook different meals and so on. There will always be a physical dimension to shopping, that can be an experience that combines the digital and the physical. This will transform the shopping spaces we are used to today into something more like cafés and restaurants.” In essence, the service-oriented use of retail space would then be the winning path to combining new shopping habits with existing physical shopping spaces.

3. Drones, thousands of drones in the sky

Going even further, if our homes will actually become our shops, then getting our products delivered to us post-haste from warehouses becomes even more critical. If the weight of logistics efforts will move from delivering large quantities to retail vendors to delivering single products directly to customers, it seems that drone fleets will become even more ubiquitous. As Mr. Kilpi put it: “I think there are going to be thousands of drones in the sky at all times, so perhaps the new role of logistics operators such as Posti will the ‘air traffic control of drones.’”

4. Circular economy > linear economy

“Today when we choose between different products and services, we are interested in the price. However, in the very near future the decisive thing will be the carbon footprint of the products we buy.”, asserts Esko Kilpi, when asked about the future of consumption and sustainability. Noomi Jägerhorn from Posti is also thinking along similar lines: “I don’t think we can continue with the linear economic growth that we are living with at the moment forever. We are already experiencing a systemiic change towards a more circular economy. And that is definitely a good thing, when you think about the planet and its well-being.”

5. Gen Z’ers are leading consumers into the age of post-owning

As far as economic growth is concerned, the whole system is rested upon the notion on ‘buy some and then buy some more!’ – a philosophy that obviously can’t fly in the upcoming age of the circular economy. While the baby-boomer generation has found heaps of pride in owning homes, cars and, well, anything really, the younger generations are already veering away from being bogged down by material. One view of this is that the younger generations have grown up with services such as Spotify, Uber, Netflix and Airbnb that give users access to the very things we used to want to buy, such as DVDs, albums, cars or holiday homes. “I think it’s obvious that younger generations don’t want to buy new things. They don’t need to buy and own new things, they would rather see value in borrowing and lending the things and items they need, because they are more aware of the environment and the effects of consumer decisions on our planet.”, asserts Ms. Jägerhorn.

6. The future is waste-free

Furthermore, if the thinking behind circular economy is going to dominate our culture, this should dramatically cut down the amount of waste produced. This is unsurprisingly great news, when you think about how our planet is pretty much going to hell in a handbasket at the rate we are piling stress unto our already strained environment. As Noomi Jägerhorn put it: “In 2030 as e-tailers and logistics operators we won’t need as much packaging materials as we do today. We have to rethink how we do logistics, warehousing and transporting to reach consumers. In fact, I am hoping we will need zero packaging materials in the future, but there is still a lot to do to reach that goal.”

Right, the goal. Where will we be by the year 2030? Noomi Jägerhorn has a clear picture at least from the point of view of a logistics operator like Posti:- The goal for both e-tailers and logistics providers needs to be the same: we have to cooperate in order to reduce waste in the coming ten years. We can do a lot more than we are doing now, but we need to do it together. We need to make sure that the items shipped [through Posti] are handled correctly and don’t need massive amounts of plastic and cardboard around them. This way I think we can come close to zero-waste.

So, in short, your home is a shop, drones are bringing things – perhaps pre-owned things – to it, and if we’re lucky, the whole deal will produce next to no carbon emissions. Sweet! It may seem that the different viewpoints for 2030 seem far-off, but then again, the next decade will probably fly by, seeing how fast-paced our lives have already become.

We here at Posti have definitely noted how quickly the world is turning, and how rapidly everything is changing. It is kind of amazing, actually, how a company like ours with 380 plus years of history is in the midst of renewing itself, and perhaps the way this planet does business, while we’re at it. There is no chance that we will do it alone, however, so we are lucky to get to see the future through visionaries such as Esko Kilpi and Noomi Jägerhorn.

How about you? Would you like to be one of our forward-thinking friends here at Posti? If so, we would probably love to have you! Check out our Careers-page to see if there’s an opening for you.

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