Online Retail

For many of you reading this, Internet shopping is already here.  When eighty 16–18 year olds were sampled recently, sixty of them (that is 75%) admitted to buying something online.  In the same survey eighty adults (aged 24–60) were sampled and only 17 admitted to buying something online.  The young people went for music, DVDs and the top buy was hair straighteners.  The adults’ top buy was holiday-related items.

Regular and repeat orders were for grocery shopping and books among the adults whereas the young people tended to make one-off purchases (apart from some games and skateboard-related merchandise).

Why the huge difference? What is happening to our traditional shops?  It appears that many on-line shoppers buy goods they find difficult to source.  It has been suggested that the shopping malls have fuelled the on-line frenzy.  If the national chains, which make every shopping centre almost identical, do not carry what someone wants then people now turn to the web as their first port of call.

There are recognised advantages and disadvantages to the consumer and the retailer.

Advantages for the consumer

• More choice of goods on-line
• Cheaper prices
• Home delivery – grocery shopping on-line very useful for young families

Disadvantages for the consumer

• Often long delivery times
• Temptation to spend more than intended
• Social isolation (supermarkets are the new social scene)

Advantages for the on-line retailer

• Can reach a far wider audience
• Don’t need expensive showrooms
• Don’t need to employ trained sales staff

Disadvantages for the on-line retailer

• Must spend money on a website with a secure payment system
• Must accept a high rate of returns
• Never meets customers

The changing relationships between retailer and customer Internet shopping has changed to a large extent the way we shop, and the relationship between retailer and customer is changing too.

As shoppers we are becoming intolerant of goods being unavailable or out of stock and very wary of over-pricing.  If you live in a rural or even non-Central Belt city in Scotland you will have heard the phrase ‘Oh it hasn’t reached here yet I’m afraid.’  Wherever you live you may have heard yourself utter the words ‘How much? It’s half that price on-line’ or ‘Out of stock and it will take three weeks to get it – I’ll go on-line and get it in three days’.

As consumers we are far more willing nowadays to go on-line and order from whatever retailer we find with our favourite search engine.  Of course, you need a credit card to buy on-line so that cuts out all the under 18s buying goods without their parents’ consent (or at least credit card) and we seasoned Internet shoppers know the stress of waiting for goods bought when presents fail to turn up on time.

We still maintain relationships with local newsagents, corner shops, post offices and specialist butchers and bakers; but we never really know the staff in the local supermarket even though we have a loyalty card, trading a few points for all the information they want to know about us.  And some customers who buy their groceries on-line and have the same delivery driver every week often build up a good relationship with the driver.

Some retailers have a very positive relationship with the Internet, with staff at both national electrical retail stores often telling customers that it will be easier and cheaper to order goods from their website rather than place an order at the shop. Similarly a bookshop chain’s staff will search really hard to find a particular book, and if they can’t find it they’ll happily just refer you to Amazon.

Although the relationships between retailers and customers has changed, there is a feeling that the two types of shopping can complement each other, opening up new markets to specialist retailers and giving more choice to customers.




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