This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

November 7, 2000

The Future of e-tailing

51 Days until January 1, 2001

The other day, we were watching out thirteen year-old daughter play Dracon^, a computer game where the heroine has an opportunity to "save the people of the village who have been captured into slavery." The protagonist walks through caves and flies over varied terrains on the back of her dragon friend to find her weapons and amulets, so that she may successfully battle the bad guys and save the day. Playing the game is a real experience; it feels like you are really there.

As we watched, we wondered, "When are e-tailers going to get the message and invest in this level of graphics for their on-line stores?" You could conceivably create a character that was you and walk through the store trying clothing items on your body, like the Lands End program and depositing items into your shopping cart as you virtually shopped. We have the technology to create an online store like this one right now. But wait, there is still something missing.

What is missing is the kinesthetic aspect of the shopping experience. Like one of our readers pointed out, in online shopping you must forego the tactile experience of shopping, of touching the item, of actually holding it in your hands. For those of us who are that kinesthetic, hold on. Your turn is coming soon.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, you will be able to climb into your virtual reality suit and actually hold the items; you will feel the clothing on your body, for better or for worse. At that point, e-tailing will truly realize its potential. For the time being though, e-tailers could give us more of a shopping experience. Most of the on-line catalogs don't know how (or do not want to invest the dollars it would cost) to create a real on-line shopping experience. Thus, for the time being, we will have to satisfy ourselves with point and click.

Imagine the possibilities. Not just for retailing, but for all sorts of sensory experiences. Internet gaming? How about virtual reality fencing with an opponent from another country? It's coming.

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