Over the past decade we’ve become an increasingly digital society in nearly all facets of life. Part of that transition has been a shift in shopping at brick and mortar stores to shopping online. Now, more and more people are shopping online for a variety of reasons. I used to strictly shop at brick and mortar stores, even as the popularity of e-commerce grew. I felt the need to see things in person, touch them, and try them on. At one time, I could never have imagined converting to a life of online shopping.
Since college, travel has become a huge part of my career and life. Between jetting around for work, maintaining a long distance relationship, and visiting friends and family, it seems I’m rarely in one place for an extended period of time. This lifestyle has made me become an avid online shopper because I no longer have the luxury of time to go out and spend a leisurely Saturday shopping at brick and mortar stores. Over the course of my transformation into an online shopper, I’ve become skilled at examining products and assessing them for their fit and quality without the in-person sensory experience. I’ve also realized one of the major benefits of shopping online: price comparing and finding the best deal. It’s online shopping (in combination of many years working in wholesale and retail) that has made me vow to never pay full price for anything. Now, I can’t imagine going back to my old brick and mortar ways.
So, what is the future of online shopping? We’ve already seen strides in e-commerce as social platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Polyvore have integrated shopping into their experience. Advancements like this will hopefully continue to grow and evolve. There’s also talk of two other digital shopping game changers on the horizon: the e-commerce giant, Alibaba, and the latest retail technology innovation, Beacon.
Alibaba is the leading e-commerce site in China. Imagine Amazon meet ASOS on an even larger scale. Let me give you an idea of the scope of Alibaba. According to Forbes, the site handles more goods than eBay and Amazon combined, and on it’s busiest shopping day last year, Alibaba sold three times as many goods as were bought in the United States on Black Friday. Alibaba is currently preparing for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange that is estimated to raise $15 billion. Later this year, the company plans to enter the U.S. market by launching a new e-commerce site, 11 Main.
Beacon technology is blurring the lines between shopping online and offline. Online shopping allows retailers to gather a wealth of information about their customers and track consumer behavior. Web cookies track our every click and the ability to login to sites with social media accounts is just another way to collect more personal data. Retailers with brick and mortar stores want the same ability to gather and track information about their patrons. Beacon technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy to connect to devices like your smartphone when shopping in-store. Currently, the downside of Beacon technology is that it requires retailers to have the hardware installed and users to opt in. However, there are benefits for consumers who elect to participate. For example, Beacon offers hands-free payments. Beacon technology may also help shoppers navigate a store to find what they like best. Most recently the personalized fashion marketplace Lyst has partnered with Paypal Beacon. When Lyst users enter a store that uses PayPal Beacon, they’ll be alerted of brands they follow on the app that are available in the store and have access to current inventory information. Because the technology is still in the very early stages, the possibilities for its application in the future are truly endless!