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Smartphones everywhere. Social media that keep spreading. And consumers chomping at the bit for the next big technology offer. All the elements thus are in place to change the way we buy. Shopping might not even be recognizable in a few years, according to some prognosticators.

Some of these predictions seem quite reasonable. Others are more difficult to imagine. But in the next five to ten years, experts say, cash will largely disappear from the market. Rather, people will use their smartphones (or some new mobile device) to pay for literally everything.

But in most cases, they will not have the opportunity to pay cash anyway, because stores will transform from places to buy thing into showrooms that demonstrate what is available online. For example, big box retailers such as Best Buy and Office Depot will simply stock products that people can test out before they purchase them online. Accordingly, the boxes will be far less big, and these chains, probably known by some other term, will open their smaller footprint stores in unique locations, such as office or apartment buildings.

Because consumers already are buying everything online, online retailers will improve their shipping services, and service providers such as FedEx and UPS will expand their offerings to include refrigerated home deliveries. Google appears poised to provide deliveries from local sellers, so consumers can still enjoy “buying local,” in a sense.

Then again, why order products from stores when you can print them out at home? The latest three-dimensional printers have capabilities to create actual products, not just pictures of them, including components for electronics, towels, hardware, and clothing.

Even if some details of these predictions do not come true, shopping as we know it appears highly likely to change. It already has in some areas; the rapid spread and advancement of technology and related tools imply that the changes will be arriving even more quickly.

Source: Jon Swartz, “Why Shopping Will Never Be the Same,” USA Today, August 8, 2012