Towards the end of 2012 I was involved in a project at The Marketing Store that attempted to make some predictions about the future of retail. As part of that I created a “Timeline of the Future” containing trends and events that I frankly made up, leading up to 2039. The dev team created a nifty interactive version of it but I can’t find it anywhere.

Some of this stuff will definitely happen. Some of it is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I thought it might be worth preserving here just in case any of it comes true. If it does, I’m quite happy to do breakfast TV interviews as long as I don’t have to get up too early and I can wear my own cloak.

Feel free to suggest additions/amendments in the comments.

2010 to 2019

Huge space storm wreaks havoc

(06/2013 – 09/2013) Scientists believe it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.

RBS closes all branches

(03/2015) The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (that includes NatWest and Direct Line amongst others) responds to increasing financial and public pressures and closes all of its physical branches in the UK. Its operation is entirely virtualised through a range of digital channels and applications.

Amazon establishes tax haven

(05/2016) The Greek government suffered badly during the financial crises of the early 2010′s. In an effort to lessen sovereign debt, several Greek islands are offered for sale. The ecommerce giant, Amazon, buys an entire chain of islands and establishes a “corporate state” called the Amazon Principality. Amazon declares the Principality a tax haven.

John Lewis software agent

(06/2017) John Lewis launches a subscription-only software agent service to guarantee its “Never Knowingly Undersold” promise. Subscribers to the service are guaranteed the best price for any product purchased through the price-matching algorithm. John Lewis earns an income from subscriptions and a percentage of each sale.

Chinese brand pirate

(07/2018) Chinese retailer and Ikea “brand pirate”, 11 Furniture, opens 50 showrooms across the UK. The showrooms offer an almost identical shopping experience and range of products to Ikea but at a lower price point.

Facebook bought by eBay

(10/2019) Facebook, once the darling of social networking, is much diminished since its heyday. Like many other digital services and “dotcoms” that people thought would be around forever (CompuServe, AOL, mySpace etc) it failed to adapt to the needs of a changing society. eBay acquires Facebook and absorbs the technology and remaining community.

Non-physical shopping

(01/2010 – 12/2019) A population used to over a decade of ecommerce expects retailers to provide non-physical shopping and transaction services.

Mobile first

(01/2010 – 12/2019) As mobile and wearable computing becomes the norm, marketing and service platform strategies increasingly start by addressing mobile behaviours and needs.

Social and Interest graphs

(01/2010 – 12/2019) Retailers and brands increasingly capitalise on the benefits of utilising the Social and Interest Graphs. The Social Graph is a network composed of the people you’re connected to. The Interest Graph is a representation of the things people care about.

Shopper expectations change

(01/2010 – 12/2019) Shopper expectations of physical retail experiences are heavily influenced by a decade of ecommerce, including: delivery options, customisation, comparison, payment options, stock availability, customer reviews…

Mobile money

(01/2010 – 12/2019) Significant advances are made in mobile payment technologies, including NFC and the mobile wallet. While adoption is initially slow, contactless payments made via a portable device become increasingly mainstream by the end of the decade. Physical cash becomes more and more of a rarity.

Mobile/wearable computing becomes primary means of staying connected to The Network

(01/2010 – 12/2019) As Moore’s Law continues to reduce the size and cost of computing technology, people move away from desktop and laptop computers as their primary means of access to the Network. Smartphones and tablets become the norm early in the decade. Later, wearable computing becomes mainstream, with form-factors including jewellery, “watch” and eventually fabrics.

Global Austerity

(01/2010 – 12/2019) A decade of global “austerity” measures in order to address sovereign debt. The impact of the financial crises of the early 2010′s are felt for years. Unemployment levels are high and public spending by governments is severely restricted. Some household name businesses never recover and disappear forever.

UK coalition government collapses

(01/2010 – 12/2019) The first UK coalition government since World War 2 struggles to maintain a united front and eventually collapses.

2020 to 2029


(02/2020) Microsoft and Google merge, creating the world’s largest company.

Human Connectome Project completed

(02/2021) In the same way that the Human Genome Project successfully mapped the genetic structure of the human body in the previous decade, the Human Connectome Project successfully creates a neural simulation of the human brain.

Tesco Clubcard Points

(06/2021) Tesco Clubcard Points become the first virtual currency traded on the Foreign Exchange market.

Hydrogen Vehicles

(04/2024) Hydrogen vehicles become more common than carbon fuel vehicles in the UK.

Little Brother

(07/2024) Googlesoft’s Contextual Automation Suite (or Little Brother) becomes a computing standard, initiating a steady rise in automated “shopping”.

United Nations replaced by United Cities

(05/2025) In recognition of the United Nations’ decreasing ability to meaningfully organise to address global issues, it finally disbands. It becomes clear that cities are better able to represent the views of their citizens than nation states. Sharing of information and resources between cities produces concrete change. The United Cities Organisation is founded to formalise global protocols.

Royal Mail renamed

(06/2025) The Royal Mail is renamed the Royal Network to commemorate the launch of the world’s largest network of 3D printers. Home use of 3D print technology is still not mainstream but now a digital blueprint may be selected by any member of the public and printed off for collection at their nearest Royal Network outlet.

Domestic Robotics

(08/2027) DoRo (Samsung Domestic Robotics) becomes a generic trademark in the way “hoover” was in the late 20th Century.

Walk-through healthcare

(09/2028) DIY GP (a private company providing automated, personalised, health services based on your genome) opens walk-through centres in every major urban and commercial centre in the UK and becomes the drive-through of healthcare.

3D printing

(01/2020 – 12/2029) 3D printing becomes an increasingly mainstream proposition due to technological advancements and falling price point.

Virtual Currencies

(01/2020 – 12/2029) As the use of physical cash declines, virtual currencies, such as Tesco Clubcard Points and Bitcoins, move away from “toy” status and start to become currencies in their own right.

Rise of Psyber Culture

(01/2020 – 12/2029) Steady adoption of early-stage, non-invasive, neural interfaces permits the control of devices using electrical activity across the brain. Users that opt-in may choose to share elements of their emotional and physical state with compatible retail/brand digital services.

Contextual Automation

(01/2020 – 12/2029) Contextual Automation software platforms begin to enjoy mass adoption, providing real-time, automated, context-specific, personalised information and services, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. There is a steady rise in the use of algorithms to automate everyday search-and-shop routines.

2030 to 2039

M&S InstaBarter™

(02/2030) M&S deploys InstaBarter™ algorithms across all owned commerce nodes (physical or otherwise), embracing Fluid Pricing for all.

Lunar Missile Crisis

(03/2032) The Sino-Indian Union (the largest global superpower) establishes the first permanent moonbase, initiating the Lunar Missile Crisis.


(03/2033) Active nanomaterials in widespread use from Third World water filtration to bio-medicine to domestic hydrogen production and “safe” 3D printing.

The Identity Crash

(06/2033) Linked datasets containing personal financial data are merged. Whether this is accidental or socio-economic hacktivism is never clear. Every citizen has their credit rating reset as a remedial action. The repercussions are felt across all global markets.

Single Currency

(09/2035) Subsequent to the Identity Crash of ‘33, a single virtual currency is adopted worldwide: the Cowry (in reference to the use of cowry shells as currency by ancient cultures).

South-East Conurbation

(06/2036) “London” now stretches from the Thames to the South and East coasts of England. Renamed South East Conurbation.

Retail Community IPO

(10/2036) PeopleTrade™ becomes the first peer-to-peer, creator-consumer network to float on the stock market.

Attention Economy Act

(04/2037) The Attention Economy Act abolishes Push Marketing to counter excessive comms encroachment on personal space.


(01/2039) The first Strong Artificial Intelligence is created. It chooses the name “Gene” and opts to distribute itself across The Network, rather than align itself with any specific human geo-political entity. It begins to evolve its design.

Artificial Intelligence

(01/2030 – 12/2039) Software sophistication begins to rival that of the human brain, affecting all aspects of society from education to financial services.

“Own label” redefined

(01/2030 – 12/2039) Peer-to-peer commercial networks (directly connecting individual product creators with individual buyers) and instant manufacture (enabled by sophisticated 3D printing technologies) redefine “own label”.

Automated Barter

(01/2030 – 12/2039) Pre-sale barter becomes largely automated, based on a real-time negotiation between an individual’s price/quality/delivery preferences and those of competing retail software agents able to match customer specifications.

Fluid Pricing

(01/2030 – 12/2039) Fluid Pricing becomes the norm. Everything you share with The Network (status, preferences, influence, etc) has a bearing on the price you will finally pay.

Push Marketing Legislation

(01/2030 – 12/2039) Push Marketing and Advertising reach such intrusive levels that some geo-political entities mandate an Opt-In only policy. In this environment, a positive recommendation from someone you know might be the only way to hear about a new product or service.

Photo Credit: choreographics via Compfight cc