You’re standing at the bus stop, waiting for the 5.20pm 209 to take you home. Busses now all run on solar electric (they top up at each stop when they stop over the wireless charging plates in the road, themselves networked back to the district grid) and you’re happy to catch them on your 3 days at the city office, especially since you sold off your 2nd car and are hiring out the remaining one during work hours to earn some credit.
Bus stop shelters all carry dynamic advertising boards that update products based on the people standing at the stop at the time. The hyper-connectivity of your hand-held and wearable tech with the city network means that the retailer’s advertising algorithms can flash up products that they know you favour, based on past spending activity. Bread, milk, a curry and some greenery for dinner.. oh yeah, and a selection of fresh-cut flowers and cards given that it’s your partner’s birthday tomorrow.
You take the bait and wave your phone over each selected image, confirming the purchase and immediate delivery. The items will be dispatched by drone and arrive home within 40 minutes.
What’s just taken place is known as ‘native advertising’, and most of what you just read is already real and happening out there.
Native advertising is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and function of the user experience in which they are placed (Wikipedia)
This is an emerging dimension of online shopping, which is the fastest growing mode of retail in the developed world. We can already make purchases through our computer, tablet device or hand-held… in many cases without even visiting a store.
And the current mode of native advertising is only the beginning. We’re already on the way towards what I’d call ‘ambush native advertising’; you’re sitting on the bus and are feeling like you have a cold coming on. Your clothing has enough sensors built in that it can measure your increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and it knows you’re getting a cold. This information then triggers a push advertisement onto your handheld right before your eyes… ‘Feeling Flat? Try Mr Trippy’s Blue Pill. Select Enter to make your purchase and activate delivery’.
Will native advertising break down our already weak guard and convince us to spend more, or will it simply prompt us to make more targeted and useful purchases as we need them? Whichever way it goes, it’s likely that the push of retailing into our devices is going to reduce the need for physical shops.
I actually look forward to some aspects of this connected future, but seeing images like the one above, when ‘fresh food’ becomes nothing more than an image on a wall, fills me with a touch of sadness (but a dose of resolve). We are already too disconnected from nature, and much of this trend threatens to cut us off altogether – a dystopian future? As with all things – appropriate technology is the way.