In 1995 people were amazed at being able to join an online chat room from their mammoth desktop computer. Fast-forward 20 some odd years and people are walking around with tablets and stepping into virtual realities with their phones.
One of the most dramatic shifts has been how consumers shop. Almost overnight an entire world of shopping opened up to consumers that weren’t afraid to input their credit card information. But even that process seems antiquated these days.
The Internet has forever changed the way we find products, make purchases and receive goods. We’re continuously progressing towards a time when everything and anything you desire is just a few clicks away. With today’s technology, you don’t even need to make a trip to the store for essentials like food because you can buy groceries online and have them delivered.
Here’s a look at what the online evolution of buying has produced and where it’s heading.
New Level of Comparison Shopping and Deals
The Internet has given consumers more power in one distinct way – comparison shopping. Being able to compare pricing across a number of providers gives consumers more assurance they’re getting the best deal, which is usually the deciding factor for most people. Today, businesses have to factor in people’s ability to price check items online.
The rise in comparison shopping has coincided with an increase in online deals. Some companies will match the price of the best deal online, while others offer online-only deals of their own. Industry authorities have also gotten in the mix by creating compilations of all the latest deals, like the CNET’s deals section. There are also sites that are the equivalent to virtual coupon clipping without the paper cuts.
All in all, online shopping helps consumers save money and make more economical buying decisions. But there’s a drawback, you may be tempted to spend the savings rather than put it in the bank.
24/7 Buying Cycle
Consumers are no longer bound to a store’s operating hours. The Internet and millions of e-commerce websites are available 24/7. This has dramatically changed last minute shopping. A lot of holiday shopping is done last minute. Instead of sweating crowds and lines, consumers can shop from the comfort of their home and get it shipped overnight wherever it needs to go.
Impulse buying is also on-demand as well. As noted above, virtually everything is available to purchase any hour of the day. If you have an itch to shop you can scratch it at a moment’s notice.
The 24/7 buying cycle is a blessing, but could be a curse if you lack self-control as a shopper.
New Ways to Pay
As online shopping has evolved so have the ways we can pay for things. Namely, businesses want to make paying for goods online as easy and secure as possible.
Decades ago you had to enter a credit card number and pray the website didn’t get hacked. Today, PayPal is used by millions of people to facilitate secure online transactions without inputting payment information. Apple Pay and Google Pay can be used to make a purchase with your phone, and Square can turn a tablet into a cash register. There’s even Bitcoin, a virtual currency that people pay for.
The increasing number of online orders is forcing companies to make shipping and delivery a priority. As a result, businesses are coming up with new and innovative ways to ship products right to your door.
Amazon is a prime example (pun intended). The e-commerce giant recently created their Flex program, which is tantamount to Lyft for package deliveries. In addition to this new fleet of freelance delivery drivers, Amazon also wants to have drones doing the work in some areas. The company recently received a patent for drones that deliver packages with a parachute.
VR – The Future of Consuming
Many marketers, cultural scientists and virtual reality innovators are predicting that virtual reality (VR) will be the next new avenue for shopping. Imagine going well beyond looking at a product image online. With VR consumers can pick a product up and look at it from all angles.
Now in the early stages of adoption, marketing and buying hasn’t yet become a part of the virtual reality sphere. But just as the social media platforms and apps that have come before it, consumers can expect purchasing to become a part of the virtual reality experience.