Furniture stores are restaurants, real estate websites are dating agencies and shopping centers are amusement parks

Digital transformation influences the way consumers plan and execute their purchases. We are evolving form a physical to a digital evaluation of possibilities, in which we make decisions in a shorter time frame.

My daughters for example were born just in time to experience the end of the video store era. It was a slow process, with a decreasing video offering and an increase of popcorn and candy. Up to the point that video stores disappeared and one can only order movies and series through Telenet, Belgacom or Netflix. So what lies ahead for my daugthers?

Furniture stores are restaurants

Our daughter needs new bedroom furniture and that means spending weekends in furniture stores, looking for nice furniture that fits the room. We compare the colors of the furniture with the colors of the existing bed room on our iPhone, etc. A very time consuming matter.

But in the future, it could be different. 3D cameras are already available at affordable prices of around 100 euro. Sooner or later they will be integrated in smartphones and tablets. You will be able to scan your furniture with your smartphone and adapt it according to your preferences (‘I always found my wardrobe was too small)’. Then you pick the desired style from an online catalogue. Finally, you launch your request on a 3D market place, upon which you receive an offer from a number of companies to make your tailored furniture and to deliver it on your doorstep. 

After your command, the furniture manufacturer starts its digital journey. He uses Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing to industrially produce on a scale of one. Of course he puts some sensors in your new sofa or bed. This way he can find out how much you use it and how much weight it has to support. And, where it breaks so he knows how to better design that sofa in the future. He can also discover when you’re up for maintenance, or even better, a new sofa.

Real estate websites are dating agencies

One of the core tasks of a real estate website is matching people looking for a home with people selling one. Two factors are important: first of all, the data on the house itself, and secondly, the profile and desires of the buyer. 

As a salesman it is important to make an accurate assessment of the value of the house you’re selling. Today, websites like Realo, already gather and apply public information to estimate house prices. The possibilities are vast: thanks to big data you can validate flood hazard, risk for traffic jams, soil pollution, zoning plans, crime figures, temperature, precipitation figures, proximity of facilities (such as furniture stores), and so on. The external dimensions of a house can be defined with Google Maps. A next step can be the addition of a 3D scan of the inside of that house through 3D glasses or a VR glass.

All this information ensures that you, as a buyer, can easily shop for your ideal home. And once you have a shortlist, there is, thanks to Virtual Reality, no longer need for physical travel. 

Shopping centers are amusement parks

What you do in a store (checking out or buying clothes or products) can already be done online. What you can’t do is walk through that shop or mall, checking out people and talking to them, trying out the clothes or the products in real life. The future of the shopping center is in offering the full shopping experience.

Maybe you will be able to visit the cinema, get a ‘real’ massage, participate in cooking classes, book reviews, VIP visits, wine tasting, fitness, meditation …. You name it. With everything you will be virtually/digitally informed about your experience, with of course the possibility and invitation to relive that experience.

In the future, the expression ‘in our time’ will probably be heard by many of us. For the generation of my daughter and the many after her, this will be the new reality.


  • W. De Groote
    Wim De Groote
    Leading in Digital Business
    +32 (0)2 538 92 92