Tom Karst, National Editor
Tom Karst, National Editor

Imagine a grocery shopping trip in 10 years. What will it be like?

For one thing, it may not be a “trip” at all.

After all, the online publication Business Insider reports online purchases of groceries will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.1%, reaching $18 billion by 2018. By the way, the old-time “offline” grocery sales will only grow 3.1% annually during the same five-year period.

I could use my iPhone version 20 smartphone app to order milk, apples, frozen chicken breasts, salad mix and bread delivered later that day.

When I actually take my car out to the grocery store a decade from now, it may be that I will have an early prototype of a “driverless” car. Experts say the self-driving car — a hybrid or electric version, no doubt — may only be five years away from initial availability.

Instead of tuning in to scratchy AM talk radio — all but defunct by then — I will be watching the latest installment of “Orphan Black: The Next Generation” streamed on Amazon Prime to my video console in the car.

But perhaps before I even arrive at the store, my smartphone may beep and Siri may recite a message to us. “I see you appear to be heading to Whole Foods. Hy-Vee has just texted you a 10% off coupon for today only. Would you like me to reroute?”

“That will be fine, Siri. Thank you.”

When I get to Hy-Vee, a couple of robot produce clerks will be manning the department, straightening up displays and greeting customers.

Taking a trip to the produce aisle of the future“Hello Tom, good to see you again today!,” the robot with the name tag “Sam” will exclaim.

“Have you seen the new Honeycrisp apples from Minnesota? They have been flying off the shelves. Because I know you like them, I’m sending your iPhone a coupon you can use today for them.”

“Thanks Sam. How’s the fam?”

“Very funny, Tom. You kill me.”

It won’t end there. My smartphone will be tracked as I wind through the store, sending me alerts and special deals as I pass by each row. Knowing my purchase history and my location in the supermarket, I will be lured over to pick up a clamshell of blueberries.

At the end of my grocery shopping, I will pay with the Hy-Vee smartphone loyalty app. With a little help from an unrelentingly upbeat female robot with a name tag reading “Tracy,” I load the groceries in my self-drivng car, flip on the video screen and head home.

Is this reality possible in just 10 years?

The Japanese corporation SoftBank has already announced plans to sell the weirdly likable Pepper robot in Sprint stores next year.

Is it really far fetched to think robots will be used in businesses in a decade from now?

A Sept. 4 story in the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail said the future shopping experience will feature personalized offers “pinged direct” to shoppers’ smartphones when they enter stores.

A company called Appflare plans to team up with fast-food and coffee shops, according to the article, so that a customer’s order is ready upon arrival.

Using “beacon” technology developed by Apple, mannequins in upscale clothing shops identify nearby shoppers and give those shoppers a description of what the mannequin is wearing.

For proponents of this technology, the prospect of giving shoppers a “personalized experience,” “relevant offers” at the right time and place is pure heaven.

For others, it is cringeworthy, reeking of Big Brother and lost privacy.

Is this vision of shopping remotely possible?

I have to say I love scanning QR codes and getting deals at restaurants. I love my mobile phone for ordering online and getting deep discounts.

So maybe this future will be for me.

Or, more likely, I will still be driving my 1997 Civic, listening to scratchy AM radio and heading to the grocery store with nothing but a crumpled shopping list.

tkarst@thepacker.com

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