How much have your shopping habits changed since Amazon, eBay, Etsy and shopping at online supermarkets?
A report published by eMaketer shows that the way you shop probably hasn’t changed all that much. Of course the perceived wisdom says that things are never going to be the same again now that you can shop the world online, that with PayPal and credit cards every shop, from the artisanal jeweller to the biggest retailers is available to the canny shopper the high streets are an urban wasteland patrolled only by late night booze crews fighting one another and vomiting in gutters and those who don’t have Internet access by day.
If you have any kind of business today you’ll almost certainly be available to find on Facebook as well as your own site selling your goods direct to the public. But will this really be the demise of the retail outlet? Well, it seems not. In the survey which was originally conducted by Colloquy it appears that even those tribes who are regarded as most media and tech’ savvy, the 18-25 years bracket still regard face to face recommendations as their favourite method of finding out about new products and services.
This shows a trend in internet shopping which is becoming prevalent as people are more aware than ever for the need to find a bargain and how they can use multi media to find it. Recently, while shopping for a high spec’ camera I visited a retail outlet where I could play with various pieces of equipment, compare their relative attributes, thanked the shopkeeper kindly and then returned home, compared the online prices against performance and bought the best fit, for a discount, online. Perhaps I’m contributing to the death of the high street retailer but that’s no longer a consideration I can afford to make.
When I spoke to colleagues about how they shop for high end consumables it transpired that this was quite common.
For social media this is a good sign, although the conversion from follower to buyer is relatively low. Some findings show that sites like Facebook can drive an average of 3% of business toward a site, much of which fails to convert, having a profile here means that you can add to the conversation, that people can discuss with one another on your wall, and with you through messaging what they want from you. It may not be face to face exactly but it can be defined as word of mouth, one of the strongest reasons people site for making a purchase.
But does the traffic travel in the opposite direction? In the Twenty First Century we’ve become very accustomed to instant gratification. Some blame the entire global recession on our inability to cope with deferred gratification any longer. We put everything on credit rather than save for it. By the same token, it is perfectly possible that people see what the chat is all about online and then, unable to stand the weeks of waiting for delivery, they rush out to the shops and buy right away.
Unfortunately there is, as yet, a way to glean figures on this type of shopping behaviour. People buy from people so pragmatism is in competition with changing expectations from the market. Some commentators feel that until a far greater proportion of the population who use tech’ as second nature it will be very difficult to identify exactly how far social media will lead retail and vice versa.
The future for social media marketing is assured already but how far will it affect the independent retailer? In many communities the homogenisation of the high street is all but complete with some towns having nothing but an out of town supermarket and every shop in the town centre being a part of a national chain. The independents and family owned businesses have been consumed leading to greater unemployment and loss of traditional skills.
The entire landscape for retail has been changed irreversibly, by how much depends on where you want to spend your money.