You’re almost out of shampoo. You’ve got about three days left in your bottle. What do you do?
If you’re like most people who have Amazon Prime, you go online and order some, knowing you’ll have it within two days without paying shipping fees. Many people find this preferable to making a trip to the store, even if there is a slight surcharge on the Amazon order for some items.
Online shopping has changed how, when, and maybe even why we shop; now, we’re spoiled with fast free shipping, and there’s even delivery services that do your grocery shopping for you.
So what does this mean for your business? Let’s take a look at the history and growth of online shopping, why it’s risen to popularity, and how it can enhance your business.
The History of Online Shopping
While we associate online shopping with free shipping and lightning-fast delivery, it didn’t always look this way.
In fact, it started in 1979 as a two-way messaging service “invented” by Michael Aldrich; by 1982, the online service was available through telephone lines. It could be used to do everything from making reservations to making purchases.
It admittedly wasn’t until 1991 that we saw the true birth of ecommerce as we know it today, when we got our first online-only shop from Zappos by 1999. By the end of the 1990’s, we’d also seen commercial browsers (Netscape), Amazon starting to sell books online, comparison sites, and the founding of PayPal.
By 2003, US online shopping hit an incredible $50 billion. We’ve seen a lot of growth in online shopping. Now, we have a shopping economy where people will even use their mobile devices while in a brick-and-mortar store to help them shop; 74% even reportedly used their mobile phone to help them while shopping in-store, and 79% said they made a purchase as a result.
What’s Led to the Growth of Online Shopping?
There’s no doubt that online shopping is a juggernaut in our society, but the question is why? Why are people buying clothes from a retailer, when it takes up to a week to get them and then they’ll have to send them back if they don’t fit? Shouldn’t they just drive ten minutes down the road to the brand’s store, where they can touch the fabric and try them on? Why are we using our phones to shop even when we’re in the actual brick-and-mortar stores?
There’s a lot of factors at play. Let’s take a look at them.
Abundance of Information
While convenience seems like the biggest reason we go online shopping, that top prize actually goes to how much information online shopping can give us. We have a lot more options, sure, which can be overwhelming- but we can look at other customer reviews and do price comparisons to help us weed them out.
Now, we don’t have to visit fifteen stores and try to keep track of all that detailed information anymore; we can actually pull up fifteen similar products from fifteen different stores, and compare each against each other using product details, cost, customer reviews, and information like warranty details.
This is why so many customers are using their phones to help them shop even when they’re actually in the store. That kind of information is invaluable, and decreases the risk that they’ll spend money on something they regret. Since Millennials like to do their research before taking the plunge, this is a big one; 84% of Millennials use their phones for help making buying decisions while shopping in-store.
The convenience of online shopping is second to none; you can purchase something from another country and have it delivered right to your doorstep. If you could order your kids’ Halloween costumes online and get it in two days, instead of having to trek to multiple stores to try to find their chosen item in their size, why wouldn’t you? Even if you want to go in-store, online shopping with the in-store pickup option let’s you guarantee that what you want will be there when you are.
We’re all busy. We’re all exhausted. If you can buy something online in a few clicks instead of having to take thirty minutes out of your day, why wouldn’t you choose that option?
Now, we’re even seeing increasing numbers of businesses offering free returns, or including pre-paid, low-fee return labels with every purchase order. They’re embracing the convenience of online shopping, knowing that if they make returns even more convenient, customers will buy more from them.
If I needed an air mattress (which I did for hurricane Irma earlier this year), I’d go to one store, pick one from the selection, and then buy it. My selection was not ideal; I got a thin-as-a-sheet mattress that made my back hurt so bad I ended up sleeping directly on the floor instead.
Online, you have (almost) every option in the world. You can search “air mattress” in google, and see thousands of results in seconds.
Online shopping lets consumers purchase anything from almost anywhere, and receive it quickly. We have the world at our fingertips, instead of needing to stick to the stores within a small local radius.
Increase of Temptation & Impulsivity
The growth of online shopping has increased the amount of temptation that we have on a day-to-day basis. Now, you don’t have to drag yourself to the store to buy that pair of shoes; you can purchase them in seconds. And, while you’re doing that, maybe you see another pair of shoes for half-off! You know you might want them eventually, and you don’t want to lose money!
To make matters worse, we’re hyper-connected to the brands we love. We follow them on social media and they have our email addresses. As a result, we’re swamped with new products and sales and discounts on every screen we look at. It’s harder to say no and walk away when you constantly see that temptation everywhere.
Combine that with a touch of online shopping addiction- which is a very real thing and very easy to fall into- we can get ourselves in deep waters as consumers, quick.
How This Knowledge Can Help Your Business
The growth of online shopping is only going to continue, and adapting to the current expectations from customers will only help your business. Making your products available to the most amount of consumers possible will be ideal. You can do this by maximizing your brand’s visibility. Do this with a combination of SEO, social media best practices, and utilizing tools and services that help connect you with customers.
It’s also important to acknowledge that while customers love the convenience of online shopping, they want to spend their money with brands they care about and believe in. If you’re able to offer great customer service and show customers that you value them, you’ll be golden.
MergeIn was designed to help fit this need. Using MergeIn, you can use SMS messaging and voice or video call to connect with your target audience. You’ll be able to offer them one-on-one customer service and sales opportunities. They can even purchase right from the app… even if they’re on the other side of the country. We can help new customers discover you, regardless of geographic limitations, and still allow you to build the valuable relationships that used to only be possible to in-store customers.
Online shopping is here, and it’s here to stay. Embracing that and adapting to changes in the industry will help your business to thrive. Customers are expecting the immediate service of big businesses but craving the personal connection from small businesses; keep this in mind. Use tools like social media, personalized suggestions, and MergeIn to offer them a more personalized, unique-to-them experience.
Ready to offer customers the convenience of online shopping combined with the personal touch of an in-store experience? Start your free trial of MergeIn today.