Online shopping is a growing market with more than three billion people connected to the internet and counting.
In the near future, complex purchasing decisions, such as scheduling an entire date from booking a fancy car pick-up to a reservation for dinner at the most exclusive restaurant in town, will be easily achievable.
In a 2014 report by Sensis eBusiness, 77 per cent of Australians now own a smartphone which is an increase of five per cent over the past 12 months; plus 53 per cent of Australians have access to the internet. This means that people are absorbing more information than ever before. Instagram, a social media company, is taking advantage of this and has introduced a ‘shop now’ button for products shown in the user-posted photos.
Adam Sarner, a web analyst at technology research firm Gartner, said that by 2016 more than $2 billion will be spent on online shopping and done exclusively on ‘mobile digital assistants’.
Mobile digital assistant technologies, such as Google Now, Siri and Cortana, are already tapping into preferences and they are connecting the dots between need and want.
But not everyone finds this new feature useful. Maddy Harris, who has 18,000 followers on Instagram, told The Newsroom that she uses Instagram for browsing photos rather than for shopping.
However, according to Mr Sarner, it is precisely this casual act of photo-browsing that “companies believe will encourage online shopping”.
A Sportsgirl store assistant, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Newsroom that it is important to stay relevant by: “keeping up to date with the trends going on around the world and at other retailers and fashion brands.”
“Everything is happening online.”
But the store assistant said that at the end of the day, the online retail platform is secondary to the brand’s brick and mortar sales.
“Online shopping wasn’t about moving to another store. It was about creating a platform which will benefit retail in stores.
“A lot of people do shop online but most people prefer to try it on in store. Online [shopping] is just another way of getting our brand out there to customers who may not be close to stores or might just be browsing online.”
In comparison to buying items on social media or websites, shoppers can buy items on eBay which involves more interaction with the seller.
To learn more about eBay’s buying policies, I spoke to their customer service team. The representative, who only wanted to be known as Rex, said that, “When you have bought an item or commit to buying, you should pay for the item within four days through your card and after you have paid for the item, the item will be delivered.”
Rex said that buyer and seller interaction was pivotal in dispute cases, as this would affect the shipment dates.
Mr Sarner is certain that “traditional marketing means are becoming less relevant for shoppers”.
“Current techniques such as asking for social likes, buying pop ups ads or creating blast email campaigns will not win over a mobile digital assistant,” Mr Sarner said.
A customer supervisor from Target, who only wants to be known as Hayley, told The Newsroom that even the long-standing discount department store has made the decision to move online.
“Normally our old competitors were just Big W and Kmart. But now we are competing with David Jones, Witchery and all the other department stores, who have also moved [their focus] to online shopping.
“[It’s] just to make us more competitive.”
Amanda, Glassons’ in-store supervisor, who does not want to reveal her full name, told The Newsroom that the retail market is orbiting towards the virtual realm and that it is where the fashion brand makes the majority of its sales.
“That is how the business grows,” she said. “We had The Iconic approach us the other week because they want us to collaborate with them. And it is just where everything is going – everyone wants to online shop, more than in-store I think.”
The Iconic, a clothing and accessories store, has taken advantage of the growing number of people online by being available only online. Power Retail, a website providing reviews for retail companies, stated that the number of visitors to The Iconic’s website grew from 2.5 million in January 2014 to 4.3 million in April this year. The Iconic CEO Patrick Schmidt, told the Australian Financial Review that it’s planning to deliver purchased goods by drones and it could happen within two to five years: “Delivery via drone is not yet regulated, so it probably depends on the legislators on whether that would be possible … but in the technology space, things happen fast, so you never know.”
The role of online shopping and the technology within it, is set to grow dramatically. Forbes contributor, Lauren Heller, wrote: “Shopping online is about to explode. Retailers of all types are expanding product offerings, adding in-store pickup, free shipping and experimenting with social media.”
As Mr Sarner said, this will create tense competition between businesses.
“Businesses will need to take a fresh look on how to influence, market and sell to these key decision makers.” – Nadya Joun
Top photo from HebiFot’s Pixabay Photostream.