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The Advantages of Online Shopping

The Advantages of Online Shopping

Is “the Girlfriend Gene” a thing of the past?  Is mall-culture gone forever?  Will browsing an aisle of laundry detergents soon be a memory? Every now and then something comes along to revolutionize the way people shop – and with online purchases now accounting for 8% of all retail sales and the increased security that online payment systems provide - the advantages and convenience of online shopping have changed the habits of consumers forever.

Driving this growth is the proliferating use of smartphones and tablets because they increase the amount of time that we are able to shop. Why buy online?

- Saves time and fuel
- Easy to compare brand prices if you have the item/model number
- You can shop 24/7 without standing in lines
- It’s easy to send gifts
- Technical product specs are often listed
- Customer Reviews can provide candid information
- Online coupons and codes

These are significant benefits which can outweigh concerns about shipping fees, re-stocking fees, delivery wait-times, the inability to pay with cash and being unable to try on clothing.  Online shopping is also making it easier for entrepreneurs with new ideas to get ramped-up - because lower rent, staffing, and inventory costs require fewer rounds of seed money. All of this increases the categories, breadth, and depth of goods for sale online.

So is there a downside to online shopping? Is this just channel-change, or is there something more afoot?

Just like in the brick and mortar world, you should always check the seller’s return policy. And it’s a good idea to keep in mind that Brand Matters, especially if you are purchasing from a new company selling its own private label goods, because in the online world a merchant who may not even know what a two piece collar is – can be presented as an accomplished shirtmaker!  But an item from a known Brand instills high confidence because it will be the same quality whether it is purchased online or offline.

Another aspect of online shopping is its exuberance. But are the lengths some e-tailers go to in stuffing your inbox (the gamification, the meme votes, the galleries of cute pet pics, etc.) in order to secure you as their new customer - really much different than what has come before?

Harry Selfridge, author of The Romance Of Commerce,  whose story of founding the iconic London department store is currently being chronicled in the new Masterpiece/PBS miniseries, Mr. Selfridge - is a seminal figure in the history of modern merchandising and was like the Steve Jobs of his time.  He is reported to have come up with the slogans “Only xxx Shopping Days Until Christmas” and “The Customer Is Always Right.” More than a hundred years ago, he knew about “the Girlfriend Gene” (and set-up his selling floors to maximize its effect) and his vision was transformative (= ‘disruptive’) because in Edwardian times, goods for sale were not on display. They were kept hidden off the selling floor. A shopper would describe the item that was needed, and then a salesclerk pulled it out of a back drawer or stockroom. He changed all that.

"I want merchandise people will desire. I want merchandise people don't even know they will desire until they see it right in front of them."

And talk about using unique tactics to attract new customers – he even had the first plane to cross the English Channel put on display in the center of his main floor! And although he paid keen attention to the sales attendant process that is so important in the shopping experience, such as avant-garde window displays, a knowledgeable sales staff, price-breaks and press relations – he knew that the only thing which could sustain his business was the excellence of his products. Therefore he paid a dozen of the world’s most seasoned buyers for a year in advance as they secured merchandise of extraordinary caliber. One can only imagine what his website would be like if he was still in business today!

Online shopping does pretty much the same thing that Harry Selfridge did -  because it puts irresistible merchandise right in front of consumers. An online retailer of shoes isn’t really so much of a tech company that sells fashion.. .  as it is a fashion company that sells through a tech channel.  And in the end, it doesn’t matter if a shopper physically hand-picks or electronically clicks in order to make a purchase. It only matters that the product was great and the experience was, as Mr. Selfridge would say, thrilling!

What is the best online purchase you've ever made? Are you already purchasing your household's 'staples' online?

Happy Shopping to all our SheSpeaks Members!

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  • jemappel By jemappel
    04.04.13  

    That is fascinating that shoppers used to not be able to see the merchandise and a sales clerk had to go get everything from a stock room. It seems so obvious now that you should let the shopper see the items to tempt them to buy. What an interesting nugget of history.

  • npsems By npsems
    04.04.13  

    Online shopping is so convenient for me, especially at Christmas. Being unable to leave the house it's great!! No sales people hovering. Plenty of time to decide between one brand or the other. You can look at reviews and do your research as well, instead of grab and go.

  • creative By creative
    04.04.13  

    I only shop online, for clothes shoes and everything else. I only shop stores that have free shipping or shipping under $1.00. And eBay is my favorite store to shop online because the majority have free shipping and no tax. Best way to shop , once you try it you will never go back to store shopping again.

  • GG_shopper By GG_shopper
    04.04.13  

    Nice article. My take? Well, I don't think folks want to go back to the days of the Wild West or Wilderness living where the only way to obtain a new dress was with the pony express and you shop for a new house by the Sears & Roebuck catalog for per cut/measured/formed houses. Yes, I've seen some in Wilmington, NC that were catalog houses from by-gone days that are still in fairly good shape. But is that what folks want to get back to. It is basically the same mind-set, shopping/merchandising plan that online shopping is. Look at a picture. Read about it. Order it. Wait. Receive and hope for the best. Of course, today it is much easier to return-to-sender what we don't like, but do we really want to do that?

  • GG_shopper By GG_shopper
    04.04.13  

    2nd half of my comment.... I see online shopping as another venue and a good option in some cases. But nothing quite takes the place of strolling through a store, catching a glimpse of something appealing, touching it, holding it up and appraising the quality, trying it on for size, and making your choice right then that "I want it!". So we may see a decline in some areas of marketing but I don't think the "shopper stroll" type of shopping will cease to exist. I also don't think the plan of a store in Australia to charge $5 to view the merchandise, stroll through the store, etc. will fly either. Do I and will I continue to cruise the internet for bargains? Yes. Do I and will I continue to stroll the shops for pleasure and for shopping? Absolutely!

  • deann1548 By deann1548
    04.04.13  

    I do like online shopping for the convenience but I will still do my girlfriend shopping days! Those shopping days are awesome and online shopping won't take that away!

  • GG_shopper By GG_shopper
    04.04.13  

    I liked this idea for discussion so much that I've written my "comments" plus a bit more and added to it a "Poll" on my blog http://chatwithvera.blogspot.com/2013/04/an-end-to-mall-culture-shift-to-online.html . I hope some of you will give your take on it yea or nay, etc. on the poll. Then I'll share it back here. I'll link this article on SheSpeaks on my blog, too.

  • linda_answer By linda_answer
    04.04.13  

    I think online shopping will get more and more popular. With people pressed for time more than ever, the cost of gas, and sometimes crowds (during the holidays) it is so covenient to shop online. At first I started out just getting clothes and smaller things online. This past January we bought a TV online, and shipping was free. It came right to our front door. Very convenient! What is there not to like?

  • mallgirl By mallgirl
    04.04.13  

    Noooooooooo! I love mall shopping. I don't usually go during the holidays, because, as so many have written, it is crazy. But during the rest of the year, I love to go window shopping and walk around. I think it goes back to my childhood. Some of my favorite moments with my Mom were when we went window shopping at a mall. We'd stop for lunch at one of the ladies' luncheon rooms at a department store (very few of those exist, sadly) and many times we never bought anything. It was just great time spent together. I do like to research products online. But I want to look at something and touch it. Also, in my neighborhood, a lot of packages that are delivered by UPS are left on the front porch and are stolen. Our local UPS and USPS deliveries come damaged. So, it is just better and more enjoyable for me to go shopping at my favorite malls.

  • onlyme212529 By onlyme212529
    04.04.13  

    Even though I do love online shopping because its convenient,saves on fuel,and I can easily find things I'm looking for without having to go to 10 different stores,I would not stop shopping at retail stores. At the stores is the where I find the best deals. No online store has "closeouts" or "clearance" sections(at least not like the regular stores do). I don't know how many times I've found laundry soap marked down to almost nothing and had a coupon and got it for barely $2 (and we are talking the big sized laundry soap). Plus I have 5 kids and those grocery store trips save my sanity sometimes :)

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