When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon back in 1994, it started as an online marketplace for books. But today, Amazon has changed the landscape of retail, allowing customers to have nearly anything, from shampoo to refrigerators, delivered to their doorstep within days.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) also propelled its founder to immense success: Bezos is worth an estimated $82.5 billion and has briefly held the title of the richest person in the world .
Back in 1999, as Amazon was still gaining steam and Americans warmed to the idea of ordering everyday products online, he was featured in a Wired profile titled "The Inner Bezos." During the interview, the billionaire shared a few predictions on what he believed the world of retail would look like in 2020. We might still be three years from that point, but things have come a long way in since the '90s.
Here are three things Bezos predicted correctly — and one he got wrong.
1. Instead of going to a physical store, people will order the majority of store-bought goods online, including food staples, paper products and cleaning supplies.
Bezos accurately predicted what Amazon would grow into. The company, which currently has a market cap of $461.5 billion, offers far more than just books. Customers buy everything from clothes to groceries to kitchen appliances from the e-commerce giant. Amazon has also launched programs that take the hassle out of everyday chores, including Prime Pantry for grocery delivery and dash buttons that allow users to reorder items like paper towels and laundry detergent with a single click.
Amazon's not alone. Sites like Jet.com and Boxed also allow consumers to get their favorite products delivered. Start-ups such as Fresh Direct and Instacart eliminate the need to go to the grocery store as well.
2. Convenience stores will hit their peak. Not only will they be open 24/7, but vans stocked with necessities like toilet paper will circle neighborhoods, prepared to drop off orders instantaneously.
He's right: It's common for drugstores like Walgreens, CVS and Duane Reade to have locations that stay open 24 hours a day, should you need to make a 2 a.m. cold medicine run.
And though we have yet to see vans circling the neighborhood, Bezos fulfilled his own prediction in a similar way. Amazon recently launched its "Instant Pickup" feature, which allows customers to order staple items such as candy or phone chargers from an app and find a nearby location to pick them up within minutes, CNN reports. The service is starting with college campuses and is currently available at a limited number of schools.
The service's predecessor, Amazon Locker, allows customers to have packages delivered to a locker location instead of your home or office.
3. As Bezos succinctly told Wired: "Strip malls are history."
It's happening. As major retailers, including stalwarts Macy's and Sears, strive to appeal to younger shoppers yet lose store after store, the repercussions reverberate throughout entire malls. Business Insider reports that roughly 310 of the nation's 1,300 shopping malls are at risk of losing a so-called anchor store, citing data from commercial real estate firm CoStar.
Malls struggle to replace these anchor stores, which typically take up prime real estate. "When anchor stores are boarded up, traffic to the retailers in the middle sections of malls tends to decrease," Business Insider explains. "That has been happening at shopping malls nationwide, and now many retailers are going out of business and closing their stores as a result."
4. Stores like Gap and Nordstrom will thrive by becoming destinations that offer more than just clothing. Flashy gimmicks and personalized service will turn shopping from a casual pastime into an anticipated event. "That experience is what you get when you go to movie theaters, and why you don't always rent movies, right?" he told Wired.
Bezos missed the mark on this one, but he's not far off. Although retail is suffering big time , it's not for lack of trying. As retailers struggle to attract customers, they admit that making the in-store experience more exciting is crucial, but few have cracked how to do so successfully, CNBC reports .
"I think people are falling back on experience [as a concept], and perhaps not thinking about it in the right way," Jeremy Bergstein, president of The Science Project, previously told CNBC . "They have to look at what their ownable qualities are."
Retailers have introduced everything from interactive apps to virtual reality installments to make the shopping experience more hands-on and tech-forward. But as retail sales continue to slip , it seems they'll have to keep pushing for a more complete breakthrough.
And according to Business Insider, movie theaters aren't doing so well either.
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