The simplicity, ease and instant nature of the online sales transaction has transformed the way we buy anything, from pizzas, to insurance, clothing and household goods. The vast cyber-marketplace out there is waiting to fill up our virtual baskets and fresh reports say we are filling them up faster than ever.
So what’s the appeal of online shopping?
Simple and convenient
One of the key ingredients to the success of Internet retail is just how easy it is. From the comfort of our sofas we can do the grocery shop and get it delivered to the door at a convenient time. Prior to the advent of the Internet we had to cram grocery errands into a busy schedule but now we can shop in the middle of the night or whenever else is the most convenient. All those bulky items like diapers, pet food and bath tissue can be easily delivered – who wouldn’t choose this simpler option?
Many online stores do not have a bricks and mortar presence so their running costs and overheads are lower. This translates to more competitive pricing and wider choice, which are very positive for the consumer. The vast selection of goods available online is all part of the Internet shopping experience. Take sites such as As Seen On TV for example, that carry an extensive selection of premium household and personal items and use various mediums including traditional ads and social media to drive engagement and complete sales online.
The online marketplace is a dynamic and reactive environment where retailers are now responding to client behaviors in real time. Cyber retailers are able to analyze Big Data and metrics in order to optimize client experience while end users are using fast-loading mobile apps and digital payment systems as part of a new generation of e-commerce. Mobile is the latest frontier for online shopping but the tech industry is already looking ahead to bigger ideas with bots and drone deliveries set to transform the experience further during the next decade. US tech firm Locus Robotics has recently created a robot which can reportedly boost productivity by 800% by working alongside human workers, which ties in perfectly with today’s trend of everything being smarter, faster and easier. Locus Robotics CEO Bruce Welty adds, “We developed a system where the robots do all the walking. As retailers continue to exceed expectation around next-day shipping, they’re going to look to technology to help them provide an even faster turn-around.”
Social media has also had a profound impact on the online shopping environment. Popular sites such as Instagram and Pinterest are used to showcase new purchases while Twitter is increasingly used by those seeking direct dialogue with an online organization’s customer service department. Many retail and service websites have instant chat options in place so they can be contacted online at any time to resolve problems or answer questions. Because there is no face-to-face client relationship, online retail has to work harder at creating a positive shopping experience and delivering high quality communications.
Social shopping is a key trend for 2016 due to the rise in popularity of referral purchases and buy it now options on sites including Facebook and Twitter. Referral shopping brings together all the beneficial aspects of online shopping and pushes the consumer along the buying cycle in the shortest and simplest manner. Meanwhile, research shows that peer recommendations on social media sites have the biggest influence on purchases. Social media can now be seen as a one-stop shop for both parties as enterprises can streamline marketing, sales, and appeal to a potential global audience of millions, while consumers can research, engage, and purchase products and services without navigating away from the platform.
There are environmental benefits to the online retail revolution too. We purchase more downloads rather than physical products these days – items such as e-books and music are no longer sent by mail while purchases made instantly online saves on packaging and fuel costs. Equally, leaving our cars at home and shopping from our phones or laptops, means we are reducing carbon emissions. Logistics programs developed by large e-tailers focus on deliveries that are smooth, quick and ecologically efficient.
The appeal of online shopping is not difficult to understand – why wouldn’t you want an easier, cheaper way to shop? The wider impact, however, is more complex. Physical stores, malls, and town centers are suffering from fall in revenue and this has consequences on the wider economy. Also, some customers still prefer the touch and feel of a tangible product before purchasing. These minor problems are unlikely to stop the march of online shopping though because as customer expectations increase further, online stores are the best placed to fulfill their demands.