I just listed something on eBay, and it reminded me about this post I wrote a couple of years ago. So, I've dusted it down and re-published it today.
Internet Shopping - Two words that you either love or hate.
Once upon a time, we got in the car, or on the bus, and took a trip into town. We walked the pavements, looking for what we wanted, made our purchases and carried them home.
How times have changed.
Why do we shop via the internet?
I believe there are 3 main reasons:
Internet shops, by virtue of their location, have lower overheads, and this means they can pass the savings on to the consumer.
The fact that you can shop from the comfort of your home or office, and have the goods delivered to your door, is also an appealing factor. Especially as the winter weather sets in.
It doesn’t matter where you live. If you have access to the internet, then you’ll have exactly the same choice as everyone else. From books to flowers, theatre tickets to airline tickets and insurance to banking. It’s all available online. You can even order your car tax disc online!
However, for all the benefits, there is one, rather large risk involved.
How safe do you feel entering card numbers into the online store and pressing 'Enter'? Who might intercept the information and 'kazam!!' our money is gone. As well as all the credit!
Since the beginning, online stores have had a mountain to climb, to ensure us that our security was their number one priority. Credit card companies even offered internet shopping guarantees, should anything happen.
Nowadays, the security of the systems is pretty strong. Yes, there are horror stories of databases full of card numbers being sold or stolen. These are very few and far between. Your security is so important, big steps have been taken to secure the information, with encryption, separate systems and the like.
One good example of this, is the introduction of PayPal. Owned by eBay (the online auction company), PayPal allows you to set up an account with a pre-paid amount, or a card number, and when you want to buy something, you just login and confirm payment. This means your card details are not sent every time, and reduces the risk to you.
Another important factor is customer satisfaction. In fact, the whole experience of shopping online.
Early on, it was all about ‘bums on seats’. Getting people to buy, and forget the customer service.
Now that has been, mostly, turned around, to ensure the experience on line is similar; if not better, than buying in a real store.
One of the largest internet 'shops' is Amazon. From the early days of selling books from a garage, to a multi-million dollar business, where you can buy a great deal more, Amazon has traded on customer satisfaction. That includes price promises, returns guarantees, help, advice and support.
I use Amazon frequently, because I know that when I order, the item will be delivered quickly; and if I have a problem it will be dealt with quickly and efficiently. In my experience, anyway.
Another example, I mentioned earlier, is eBay. It’s the famous auction site where you can buy almost anything. There's an element of the unknown here, as your purchase is usually with an individual (although many companies now use it as an alternative outlet for their wares). If you’re lucky you can bag a real bargain, and if you want to, you can join the fun and start to sell your own things – you never know who might want it.
Internet shopping is a phenomenon all of its own.
In 2008, 73 per cent of individuals said that their household had ordered goods by internet, phone or post for delivery, with 37 per cent receiving deliveries at least monthly. In 2002, the respective figures were 64 per cent and 27 per cent. (Figures from the National Travel Survey)
On the other hand I also like to visit retail stores. Take a trip to the Trafford Centre (it’s all undercover, so the weather isn’t an issue!) Mooch around, see what there is, touch the merchandise and check the prices…
…then go home and order it more cheaply online!!
Will the shopping centres go the way of the traditional high street?
Will we see tumbleweed blowing through the malls, as visitor numbers drop?
We’re constantly being tempted, through sales, vouchers, incentives, so I’m sure they’ll be around a while longer.
Only time will tell.