Self-Fulfilling Prophesies in Commerce

PLUS: See you at SXSW?
March 1, 2024
Future Commerce co-founder Brian Lange hosts a panel at eTail West featuring Beyond Yoga, Wine Enthusiast, Pampered Chef, and

Welcome to Friday, Futurists! We had a blast at eTail West. It was great to see so many Futurists from our community under one roof. Before we get to the final boss of conference season, Shoptalk, we have one more event to add to your dance card: VISIONS Summit: Austin.

Join us in two weeks’ time in Austin, Texas, during SXSW, for an evening examining The Multiplayer Brand. Network with other leaders in retail and eCommerce, and experience a hands-on next-generation shopping experience with our friends from FERMÁT. Register here to attend.

The Ouroboros of Trendcasting

This week on the podcast we sat down with Matt Klein of ZINE to discuss his annual META Trends Report, which aggregates and analyzes over 200+ industry trends reports. The annual event marks the end of the trends reporting season, and Matt shared with us the biggest headline: reported trends are largely the same over the past five years. 

We’re seeing large macro trends in Commerce begin to take shape in the form of consumer products: VR is here in both aspirational and accessible formats. AI is the fastest-adopted consumer product of all-time, making chatbots more relevant than ever.

Ask ChatGPT, "what is the future of commerce?" You'll likely get whatever the first page of Google results says from an SEO article. This begs the question—was the trendcasting industry in the eCommerce space correct over the past decade, or was the direction of technology a self-fulfilling prophecy because the industry and analysts have made it such a dominant conversation?

“It's completely a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Klein in this week’s episode of the pod. “It's an ouroboros—the snake eating its own tail.” The Ouroboros, an ancient symbol for renewal, death, and rebirth, is an apt description of the cyclical nature of Commerce, the self-referentiality of the ecosystem, and our penchant for collective autofellation.

As an industry that enables the cycles of consumption, the ouroboros is a hopeful symbol. Whether we like it or not, to be human is to consume. This is why Commerce has such a prominent role in ancient depictions of human customs. Artist Paolo Veronese decorated the Doge’s Palace with the Renaissance masterpiece, The Apotheosis of Venice, depicting Justice, Commerce, and Navigation (exploration), entwined as equals amongst the gods.

The darker expression of the ouroboros is the Leviathan, the beast that eats the world. Here, we are consumed by our own greed and insatiable desire for more. The analyst industry’s reports become a means of exercising control and gaining fame. They also dissuade original thinking and unique ideas; it’s too easy to be wrong, after all.

Still, the self-referentiality of an industry is a reflection of how small it truly is, and how persuaded we are by the echo chambers we visit. “I write something in ZINE, and I read one of these reports, and then I'm cited as proof for the existence of this trend in the trend report,” says Klein. “It's spooky.”

If you want to know what’s really around the next corner, check out this week’s episode of the Future Commerce podcast. You can listen on Apple or Spotify.

— Phillip

P.S. The Print Shop is now open! Grab a tote bag, a t-shirt, or a copy of our annual print journal. Free Shipping in the US and flat rate in Canada. We ship worldwide to 215 countries. See around the next corner and look good doing it at

Pictured: Palazzo by Venus Williams

Venus de A.I.-lo? Tennis star Venus Williams announced the development of Palazzo, an AI-assisted interior design tool. Users can upload a photo of a room, and Palazzo will (eventually) enhance the image with design, including products from brand partners. The app is in beta and has a very limited feature set.

King of the Hill? The old saying goes, “it’s harder to be on top than it is to make the climb.” SamA is proving it this week. Elon Musk filed suit against OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman over a contract breach, while the SEC is investigating whether OpenAI misled investors during SamA’s brief departure in October.

I Like the Way You (Net)work It. Wawa is the latest business to launch a retail media network reports C-Store Dive. Wawa’s partnership with Publicis and other ad partners to launch the “Goose Media Network” marks one of the few convenience store ad networks. Following the lead of 7-Eleven and Casey’s, Wawa will deliver brand partnership display ads to customers via mobile apps, video at the pump, and through the Wawa website. 

Image Credit: @itsnicethat on Instagram

Art x Commerce. Parisian department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche is the temporary home to artist Jean Jullien’s paper giants. The pop-up (pun intended) runs through April 11.

Pictured: Fruity Pebbles x Kith

Fruity Pebbles: The Brand. Kith has perfected the art of the dreaded ‘triple collab’; this one is sweeter than usual. Fruity Pebbles is partnering with Kith Treats, Nike, and Lebron for the pick-and-roll: shop their limited-edition sneaks while eating their sweet treats. The sneaker collab will drop in-store on National Cereal Day, March 7. The double-team doesn’t end there. Designer and artist-led brand, Susan Alexandra, is releasing a limited-edition line of products, including a bejeweled tote in berry tones, in collaboration with Berry Pebbles. This BedROCKS.

Burrito Bots. Chipotle announced this week a $100M venture fund to invest in the ‘future of food.’ Not to be outdone by upstart rival, Sweetgreen, Chipotle is soliciting startups that will help accelerate its stated mission of operating 7,000 restaurants in North America. Sweetgreen debuted its salad robots in 2023 before posting a better-than-expected Q4.

AI Content Licenses: The Future of Commerce? Following Reddit’s historic S1 filing, where we learned of their $200M deal to license their content to an LLM provider, we’re beginning to see other license deals make the rounds. Tumblr announced they’re partnering with image generation software maker, Midjourney, for a similar deal. This story was reported on Business Insider, whose parent company, Alex Springer, licensed its content archives to OpenAI in December 2023 for an undisclosed amount.

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