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A look beyond what’s next in trends

New developments tend to hit the retail world with force, making waves with endless implications and possibilities. Oftentimes, they fade away into hazy breakroom conversations that go something like, “Remember that time we thought the Palm Pilot was going to change the world?” But sometimes they take root, becoming the new norm and ultimately changing how we interact, do business, and live our lives.

The speed of technology, combined with the rapid evolution of trends, make it challenging for brands to know what’s worth their time, attention, and resources. What will really stick, and how do we see it coming? We can start by anticipating what we think will impact and improve the way we do business. And we can be on the lookout for advancements that are beyond next — those technologies and influences with the potential to revolutionize the retail landscape that haven’t quite made their full debut.



Augmented and virtual reality are becoming mainstream, offering experiences and interactions that transport customers outside of, well, reality. Brands are taking note of the possibilities this presents and testing ways to merge virtual and physical worlds, integrating them into full-scale virtual shopping experiences and into our everyday lives.


  • ASOS has joined forces with Trillenium, a creator of virtual stores, to experiment with innovative 3D and virtual brand possibilities.
  • Apple is rumored to be exploring the development of digital “smart glasses,” which would use AR technology to display images and information in the user’s field of vision.

Brands like Disney, Comcast, and Time Warner are investing millions of dollars in virtual reality as well; imagine a day when watching TV in VR is the norm, and flat screen TVs are a thing of the past! Retailers could provide limitless experiences that go beyond 2D. Stores could function with no inventory or physical products on hand. The opportunities are truly limitless.



Making payments with little more than a thumbprint is slowly but steadily becoming the norm. Next-gen biometric capabilities and functions — secure, frictionless interactions; virtual replications that move and engage — are beginning to make a real impact on how brands do business.


  • The Japanese government, in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, is testing a capability that will link tourists’ credit cards to their fingerprints so they can make cash-free, card-free, and phone-free purchases throughout the games.
  • eBay partnered with tech firm Lightwave to create a first-of-its-kind “emotionally powered store.” Using facial coding and “biometric pods” they can tap into the shopper’s brain to help them select the most emotionally satisfying items.

Products and environments may soon cater to customers’ moods and preferences as they change, in the moment. Physical and digital spaces could serve as forums for customers to interact as virtual versions of themselves.



From computers to smartphones, brands are exploring ways to deliver the technologies we know and love, without the burden of having physical devices in hand.


  • Knocki, a wireless device that transforms ordinary surfaces into smart surfaces, allows users to tap (“knock”) a surface — like a countertop or table — and send commands for anything from changing the thermostat to starting the coffee pot.
  • Samsung’s smart contact lenses allow users to take pictures with a blink of an eye — literally. Sensors in the lens pick up the blink, capturing the photo and sending it directly to a smartphone.

When we’re unhindered by physical devices, we’ll be free to engage with products that live as an extension of our environment and of ourselves.


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