Back in the day you had to plan your shopping trips from groceries to furniture.
Now, online retail has changed the way we approach shopping. There is an engaged escalation of buying all kinds of products (and services for that matter) online. Consumers are getting comfortable with making daily purchases online. Even the rare person that does not buy online surely has someone in their life that brags about how easy and convenient it is to purchase online. A Pew research report shows that eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online (published 12/19/2016).
Our mobile devices allow us to purchase all sorts of things on the go. I just saw a commercial where it happened in the middle of the desert (and was delivered the same day). What about the ability to quickly and accurately do a competitive price check without getting in-and-out of our cars? Purchases can also happen from the comfort of our own home, or office. Definitely different than my Mother’s shopping trips back in the day.
While all of this is true online retail sales still only represents a small portion of total retail sales. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that consumers spent nearly $350 billion online in 2016; that’s up double digits from the previous year but only 12% of total sales.
I believe that online shopping is elevating the consumers experience in-store because brick and mortar retailers know that they have to compete. They compete on merchandising, on customer service and you can name whatever physical in-store shopping benefit is important to you. It's new to them but they are fighting to understand it, figure it out and gain more customers for their stores through the online retail marketplace. Each shopping experience educates the shopper and makes us better customers for all types of retailers. How retailers embrace our shopping behavior and leverage our preferences to create loyalty is up to them.
Please do not get me wrong. I am not pushing online shopping. I am merely stating the obvious that shoppers are benefiting from the evolution of retail. And, most shoppers, like myself, find it liberating to have choices. For example, I love shopping stores and experiencing the merchandising, lay-out and customer service. Sometimes I just need to see it, touch it and talk face-to-face with a floor salesperson. Other times, I like shopping online. Whether it is an easy buy and I need it in a hurry; or, I do not have the time or energy to run from store-to-store. So, I order it online. (I confess I have ordered a couch or two online). It is nice to have options.
So, I wonder how my daughter’s era (who are referred to as digital natives) and history will look back to our days and refer to our retail shopping experiences? This is surely just the beginning of the evolution of retail. I am sure I will fondly remember this time and refer to it as “back in the day”.
Sonya Ruff Jarvis, is the Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants and Founder of the eRetailer Summit. Sonya has extensive experience in creating original innovative solutions to overcome major business challenges. Sonya has spent most of her career visiting headquarters across global industries and has built strong business relationships across diverse brands.
Sonya has a M.B.A. in Marketing. She is married and has a daughter and they live in Fairfield County Connecticut.