Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping―what was once frowned upon has now managed to gain acceptance with open wallets! Yes, while in the past we hesitated ordering things online, and most importantly questioned the safety of letting out our credit/debit card details on the Internet, now due to the safe and secure online market, the skepticism has vanished to a great extent. A recent study done by eMarketer confirms the truth of this statement. Their analysis predicts the growth of online sales in the United States to USD 434.2 billion by 2017, from USD 225.5 billion in 2012.

The year 2009 saw an extraordinary trend. While most industries suffered significant losses due to recession, the U.S. saw a significant rise in online retail of 11%, according to a report by Forrester Research published in March 2010. This just shows the popularity of the trend of online shopping in the past few years.

Online Shopping: From a Luxury to a Trend to a Necessity

The 90s proved to be historical for Internet shopping when the world was introduced to the ‘World Wide Web’. The pioneering online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay were launched in 1995, and they still continue to reign the kingdom of online retail market. Among the initial steps in Internet selling was the selling of books. What started as a trial-and-error strategy―with many people wondering the feasibility of the success of web shopping―today, has become a revolutionary industry worth billions!

With the consumer population becoming more and more tech-savvy, and with the technological excellence that has led to safe, secure, reliable, and satisfactory online transactions in the recent past, most people prefer to avoid the chaotic crowd of shopping malls, and opt for shopping from the comfort of their homes.

The Internet was once an option, and is now a necessity. Likewise, the virtual market has become more than a facility; it is now, in fact, a necessity. With irresistible advantages such as 24X7 access to shopping, free shipment, and home delivery, the online retailers have managed to acquire some loyal customers. Forrester Research state that the United States online retail industry is likely to be worth USD 279 billion in 2015.

Factors That Have Made Online Shopping a Trend

From the 90s till now, gradually people have accepted virtual shopping to be an easy and affordable way to get hold of things ranging from luxury items such as smartphones and laptops, to everyday items such as grocery and stationery. More and more stores are opening their own websites to enable consumers to shop online. There are various external factors that have contributed to the rising inclination towards virtual shopping.

The Social Media: While browsing through social network sites such as Facebook, have you noticed the ads that are displayed on the right hand corner of the webpage … attracting you towards the trendy branded clothes, jewelry, scents, and footwear? With sellers joining the social networking sites and creating their own pages, a study shows that almost 60% of online buyers used social media to discover, like, and follow retail sites in the past year. This strategy definitely helps increase the pace of product exposure with features such as like, share, recommend a friend, reviews, and more.

Smartphones and Tablets: With the increasing user base of smartphones and tablets, online shopping is not just confined to sitting in front of a PC. If you know what you want, shopping can be done while eating your lunch, while traveling to your work … while on the move! Another survey depicts that almost 10-15% of Internet traffic comes through mobile devices. A trend known as “show rooming” has been on the up lately. The buyers visit the physical retail stores to check out the products, browse the products online, compare prices, check the reviews on the websites, and buy the same product from an online retailer offering the best deal. Mobile apps of these retail stores also help the consumers know about the latest stock and sale going on, subsequently increasing the customer database and sales.

Crowded Shopping Destinations: While researching on shopping trends during Black Fridays, I came across various consumers who preferred shopping online rather than going out in the crowd with no parking spaces! This just shows that customers not only find it more comfortable, but also less chaotic to shop online rather than traveling all the way to the rushed shopping destinations, especially during sales. This drift has encouraged physical stores to focus more towards their service and hospitality to make customers’ shopping experience more comfortable and satisfactory.

Tech-savvy Users: Another contributing factor towards the hype in online shopping, is the majority of population becoming increasingly tech savvy. A fair amount of credit goes to the effort of sellers making online shopping not only a comfortable, but an overall safe and fun experience with alluring features such as cash on delivery, free home delivery, replacement plans, low price guarantee, gift cards, customer reviews, and more. In fact, many online retailers also give consumers an option to try their selected clothes, apparels, and footwear at home, and offer to do the necessary changes. There are also customer service numbers which enable the consumers to contact these retailers to clarify their queries. With all these features, online shopping has made the experience less complicated and tiresome for the users.

No Geographical Limitations: The one factor that has worked the most in favor of virtual shopping is the fact that users have multiple options that are not confined to any geographical boundaries, as is the case with physical stores. For example, if a book you need is not available in your city, you have no other option but to wait. In case of online shopping, if one website doesn’t have that book in stock, you will definitely get it on other websites. Also, online retail stores give you an option to set an e-mail alert when the product is in stock, so that you may complete your purchase.

What Lies Ahead …

By analyzing the aforementioned factors, it is evident that the virtual trend of shopping would only flourish in the near future. Unless the bricks-and-mortar stores don’t adapt to recent trends in e-commerce, and prepare themselves for the competitive strategies to attract online buyers, the future of traditional shopping seems to be under a potential threat. It is inevitable that online stores will have to become a compulsory feature of each and every traditional store that wants to be in the competition. In fact, a business website―which was an “added feature” till the recent past―has now become a prerequisite. Each and every business, other than retail stores is launching user-friendly and attractive websites to enable their customers to ask queries, make appointments, sales, cancellations, and the like, all through the website. With these strategic changes, buying and selling online is transforming from a luxury to a necessity.

Considering online shopping to be a solution for all shopping-related hassles would not be right. Like any other area, virtual market has its own cons, the most important one being the lack of a “physical presence”. At the end of the day, we humans are social beings, and shopping is considered by many, a means to socialize. It is normal for us to want the presence of someone who would approve with our choices, or help us make the right choice among the many options before us. Virtual shopping makes us “physically” more isolated.

Who would’ve thought, a few years ago, that the Internet would evolve from being something physically non-existent, to something that has now become an integral part of all the dominating aspects of our physical lives? The unlimited access that the Internet has provided to its users has made them more aware about the market. When it comes to online shopping, the most powerful marketing tool―the word of mouth―is what works the best. With social media, mobile apps, review sites, and sharing features, online buyers have become significant contributors in the total sales revenue. The target of the market is to find buyers and follow them where they are. Promotional ads and coupons are sent to consumers online; while offline, mobile messages are steadily delivered to their inbox, keeping them aware about what is “in store” for them. The world is functioning the quick and smart way, and e-commerce is a perfect example for reaching out to consumers even while they are busy and on the move.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Shopping

You open the latest edition of Vogue on your way to office and browse through all those eligible wardrobe additions. Suddenly, you land on these awesome pair of Gucci pumps that you immediately fall in love with. You check for the code and the item number, and surf the Internet with it. You like them better in the color blue. You check the price and it seems just perfect for those perfect pumps. You check the stores in your city and hope just one store would sell these. To your disappoint and the brands’ as well, there is no store that would help you. However, there is one store in the next state that would still have them in stock. What do you do now? You shop for them via the Internet. Simple! Since it’s so simple, there are more and more people shopping on the Internet. The increase in these online shopping trends brings us to the advantages and disadvantages mentioned below. As you continue reading, you will come across some problems you must have experienced on your own. It is these problems that need a solution to make Internet shopping one of the best ways to shop.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping

There is nothing that could ever put an end to Internet shopping, and there is just one reason that people will continue shopping via the Internet, irrespective of the drawbacks. The human need to satisfy a want is stronger than we think. Just like those Gucci pumps made you buy them, there are many others too. When you want something and know you can have it through the Internet, if nothing else, so be it!

Advantages:

Yes, it is an absolute relief to shop sans those irritating vendors. I have nothing against vendors, but they need to understand that they can’t disturb women when they are shopping. You somehow just lose the focus! However, apart from the riddance from vendors, there are more advantages of Internet shopping, as follows

– The best part about Internet shopping is the convenience it provides to the person shopping. Usually, you need to visit a few malls before you find what you have been looking for. On the Internet, you just have to sit in one place and search for what you want until you find it. You get what you want, delivered right to your doorstep. You save money of fuel, the problem of parking your car somewhere, and various other issues. When you shop on the Internet, you don’t have to actually plan your shopping trip as such. If it’s something urgent, you can order it when you’re in office itself!
– When you visit a particular store during your shopping trip, you see the amount of clothes that are possibly going to fit in that store. Any store, selling any number of brands, can sell so only for a limited number. On the Internet, you have unlimited variety and unlimited number of those items too. There is no such thing as ‘out of stock’ on the Internet. If it is shown on the website, it’s available. There is no limited shelf space as such and thus, there is no disappointment.
– When we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of Internet shopping, we have to talk about this one particular advantage. If you have to buy a pair of pants, you will go to the mall and check out a few stores. When you visit the first store, you like what they have to offer but you think you can get better. So you travel some more and visit a few more stores. In the end, you realize that you have to buy from the first shop itself as those were indeed the best out of the lot. This advantage of easy comparison is possible only when you’re shopping online.
– Agreed that you can exchange and return your clothes if you shop from a mall and even if you shop online, if obviously the policies allow so. However, there is no way you can exchange or return what you buy on the days when the stores are closed. This again, you don’t have to worry about with Internet shopping. The exchanging and returning can be done almost anytime you wish to.

Disadvantages:

While talking about these advantages and disadvantages from a customer’s perspective, it’s very important for you to know that there isn’t any grave drawback of Internet shopping. Yes, it does get boring when you shop alone, and have no opinions when you just need them. Or the fact that you will always need a computer to shop online.

– The first thing we need to talk about here is the disclosure of private information. It is very difficult to convince people when it comes to this. You have to shop with your debit or credit card, and have to provide your card details when you shop online. This information is available to the company from whom you buy. Though hardly any companies are frauds, it’s still some valuable information.
– The next drawback of Internet shopping (only in respect to clothes) is that of the fitting. There is no way you can be absolutely sure about how a particular dress or shirt will look on you in reality. There are virtual models on almost each website, but you just can’t ever be sure. This problem doesn’t come in the picture when you talk about shopping other stuff on the Internet, such as airline tickets (which also happen to be one of the hottest selling items on the Internet as of today.)
– It is said that Internet shopping has just started affecting the employment of people at malls and individual stores as well. The problem here is that the forecast says this effect will increase in impact in a few more years. There will be high unemployment in this sector due to Internet shopping. You don’t need people to show you around or to help you select a particular item you need to buy.
– Another drawback here is that people have to pay extra costs for ordering items from another state of country. These include shipping costs too. In most eastern countries, not all the luxury brands are available. People have to pay extra to order them from abroad. Sometimes, there are taxes applicable on these transactions as well.

These were some of the advantages and disadvantages of Internet shopping, that tell you how it isn’t very unsafe to shop on the web. Problems prevail everywhere, even when you shop personally at a store. The convenience and the variety are the two biggest advantages you need to focus on. After all, if you don’t get your stuff anywhere but from the Internet, you surely can’t let go of it, can you?