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.

Things You Should Never Buy Online

‘Have money, will spend’, is the mantra of today’s consumers. They have become savvier. They believe that money can buy happiness, and turn to retail therapy very often. Bummer, I know! But this is the truth, and with the boom of eCommerce, shopping has become very easy. No more trying out clothes or those nosy salespeople. Just pure indulgence without burning a drop of fuel.

But there are some things which cannot be bought through the virtual window, and you will have to visit a brick and mortar store for such items. You may ask ‘Why’? Well, it is because, at these stores, you physically get to see, touch, and feel the products, and even can haggle a little. But with online shopping, you miss out on this experience.

I agree that ‘most’ of the products that you get online most probably have a better price. True! But most, not all! Therefore, to save you from the pitfall, Buzzle has made a list of things you should never buy online.

Clothes

Shopping online for clothing can really be a bad experience. You don’t get to see the actual colors, you don’t get to feel the material, you cannot try out the outfit, nor can you bargain. I don’t see any point in giving up all these experiences, just to wrestle with an online-ordered pair of jeans that won’t ride up past the knees. Apart from the humiliating feeling that the ill-fitting clothes leave us with, there comes another ‘easier-said-than-done’ task of returning the clothes and getting the money back.

I won’t say that you will run into bad or badly-fitting clothing every time. Some websites are authentic, and provide ample information so that you can make correct choices. But picture this! You walk into a clothing store, and just walk out with the first pair of jeans you see. Does this happen? Absolutely not! You go through a strenuous process of choosing the perfect length, width, and fit, by trying them out. I’m left with no choice but to wonder, how this process can be bypassed with a click of a button.

The above-mentioned scenario is applicable for all types of clothing. But I would like to make a special mention for intimate clothing. They are meant to fit snugly, and can be quite a nuisance if they don’t. Therefore, when it comes to clothes, as far as possible, try to stay from online shopping.

Footwear

Footwear is something that can make or break your entire look, and is really tricky. You need to have precise judgment of the correct size. While choosing the correct size of footwear is important, comfort level is also equally essential. These are the two determining factors for choosing the right footwear.

When surfing through shopping websites, you may have come across conversion charts for sizes, as they are used in different countries. You know that your shoe size is 8. But what you may not know is that, shoe size 8 with one brand can be 8½ or 7½ with another brand. And you would only come to know about the ½-inch difference, when you receive the big box in your mail. The ½-inch difference would be nothing less than torture, when you stand or walk in your brand new shoes.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that footwear should be tried out properly before purchasing. Through the virtual shopping screen, you can only ‘see’ the size and ‘guess’ the comfort level, right?

Makeup

While most websites promote clothing and footwear as their primary selling points, makeup comes in as a close third. Makeup should always be tested for the correct shade or the right color, before finalizing the deal. And this is especially true for the cosmetics that are required to be applied on the face. If you select a shade of foundation that is either too light or too dark, you may end up looking like a painted stork. The idea is to look natural and not made-up.

Secondly, if you see a new product and order it, chances are, the product may not suit you. Your skin may break out into a reaction or allergy. This is the main reason a patch test is always recommended. While there are policies where you can return the product and get your money back, the discomfort caused to the skin cannot be compensated.

The only case where you can safely grab a deal is, when you know a particular brand and a particular shade suits you properly, and you have used it before.

Big Brands

Flaunting a ‘Givenchy’ clutch or a ‘Dolce & Gabbana’ tote gives a boost to the ego, and you feel as if you are on top of the world. But these brands are ridiculously expensive, and owning them is a pain. But what if you get a ‘non-Saint Laurent’ bag in less than $200, which would pass off as an original? You would quiver with joy and order it impromptu.

The same rule applies for luxury brands in perfumes and sunglasses. You can never make out the difference between an original and a knock-off. The reason I’m saying this is, if it was an original, how would something that costs $1,600 be sold at just $160?

But as I said earlier, not all websites are misleading. Many of them are authentic. If you are planning to buy a luxury brand, make sure you visit their official website and order from there. Do not opt for third-party websites. But the best bet would be visiting a store in person, and buying it directly.

Electrical Appliances

Large and fragile, that is what they are! Electrical appliances usually cost a fortune, and imagine spending on something that you haven’t seen or even touched. One more thing that needs to be kept in mind is, if you would be using the appliance everyday, it should be tested before it reaches your doorstep.

You also need to be aware of the fact that, if the website is cutting down the price on a product, it may make up for it by including an exorbitant shipping and delivery charge. If you must buy online, select trusted websites, and check the reviews of the product. Also make sure that you inquire about the ‘damage during transition’ expenses, and the ‘return back’ policy, as some websites do not cover these.

Heavy Items

When I say heavy items, I want to include all those products which you plan to spend the big bucks on. Furniture, cars, and all other heavyweight items that are difficult and expensive to deliver, should never be purchased online. Furniture needs to be checked in person, and a car should be test-driven before purchasing.

There is another drawback with heavyweight items. If after getting it delivered, you find that the product is damaged or faulty, you can return it and get your money back. But what you will not get back is the shipping charges. Therefore, if an item is expensive to get delivered, and equally expensive to return, you will incur a loss and have nothing left in hand to show for.

Medicines

Even if you go wrong with the above-mentioned items, the mistake wouldn’t be as major as the one that would occur if you go wrong with medicines. Buying medicines online is a complete no-no. You are going to risk your life if you do so.

There is just no way to ensure their safety, the seals could be broken, they could be tampered with, contaminated, or even fake. Worse still, the website selling these medicines could be unlicensed. You never know what you may be consuming, and from where they are coming.

Your browser can buy medicines, but it doesn’t have the degree. So, let the doctor and the local medical store be the best option. Bottom line-never purchase medicines online, even if they are over-the-counter drugs, and you are very familiar with them.

Online shopping need not be stayed away from completely. This write-up is only to encourage you to think twice before finalizing a purchase, and be very certain of what you are buying online.