Let me state from the outset that I love shopping – it doesn’t matter if it is in a store or online. I don’t know how many hours a year I spend shopping, but I know it’s a lot. The next question you might ask is what do I buy? The answer is simple – depends on my mood (and available cash!). But don’t confuse shopping with purchasing. I often “shop”, but I rarely buy on impulse.
The reason I am writing this blog today is that I am keenly following the growing number of articles that predict the retail sector is doomed and that all shopping will one day be done online. What will happen to customer service? What will happen to the staff, and the stores? Will the shopping malls become museums?
If you have any doubts as to the short to medium term viability of retail shopping, I suggest you take a trip to my local mall in Melbourne – Chadstone – and see for yourself. Last week, as I drove around looking for parking, I had the thought that someone has forgotten to send the several thousand shoppers the “retail is dying” memo. I am not making light of those retailers doing it tough – there is no denying suburban shopping strips are suffering trying to compete with the malls, or that people are using the shops to gather intelligence to do their competitive shopping online.
The reality is the market is changing – and changing fast.
Take the banking industry for instance. Who would have thought ten years ago that banks would be open on weekends, have a team of “mobile bankers” who will visit you in your home or office at a time suitable to you, use a service counter or desk rather than a security cage to serve you, and encourage online banking rather than face to face visits?
With the explosion of online stores, the affordability of smartphones, and the desire to do something else with your leisure time rather than battle crowds and traffic jams, online shopping is a logical progression.
Major grocery chains are now promoting online shopping – including either in-store pickup or home delivery. Major department stores are promoting online Christmas shopping. This could be viewed as either a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, or a proactive response to market changes. I believe in most cases it’s the latter.
I receive six different shopping website emails daily – and that’s before I check eBay. What do I purchase? Usually electronics, sometimes music or ebooks. It’s amazing how you can easily justify any and every purchase as something you always needed, and never had until now! I definitely book travel online, but still use a chequebook for a lot of payments (guess it’s a sign of age).
I still go in to a store to purchase clothing. I have been tempted to buy shoes online but chickened out at the last moment as my finger was poised over the “buy now” icon.
Is online shopping secure?
Are you one of those people who will happily pay for a taxi with a credit card, yet won’t enter your credit card details online to make a purchase?
Here are a few security-related considerations to think about if you are going to shop online.
First and foremost – keep your personal data safe. Be wary of “free offers” – if you haven’t initiated the request for information, think about how and why the unsolicited offer is being sent to you. Remember, banks and utilities do not correspond to you via email asking you to update your details. These are usually scams. My advice – if you get one of these and don’t know if it’s real, call the bank or utility and ask them.
When making a payment, check that the site is considered a secure one – this is often represented by a padlock icon on the bottom of the screen.
Consider having a specific, low credit card limit for online purchases – separate from your other cards and accounts. This will ensure you don’t overspend and may put your mind at ease with regards to anyone getting access to your information.
Only buy from reputable sites. Check with your friends and family as to who has had a good or bad experience with certain sites. Make sure you understand their returns policy – and check that your financial institution’s policy on credit purchases covers you for non-delivery for example.
Know your prices. There is an old adage – people go broke saving money. Just because someone says it’s a “special”, it’s best to do your homework and see if it really is the best price. Don’t forget to add in the cost of delivery. I have seen $10 items from overseas sites that had delivery charges three or four times the purchase price!
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do believe that retailing as we know it today will be vastly different in 10 years. The store will be a live catalogue. There will be virtual changing rooms to try the latest fashions – where you stand in front of a range of screens (replacing mirrors) and select the items you want to “try on”. Supermarket trolleys will actually travel in the direction you are pushing them, as they will be device driven and go to the items you have preselected. Cash will be an exception – every transaction will be through your electronic wallet.
Don’t be……much of this exists today – it’s just waiting for us to embrace it.