The irreversible effect of technology on shopping

The world of retail has been fast-tracked into the digital age, thanks to the internet and e-commerce. Sales online have surged, and the high street is struggling to keep up. But it’s not just sales that the online world offers, but reassurance – data revealed that for 2015 to 2017, searches for footwear reviews soared by 85%. People aren’t willing to part with their hard-earned cash on the say-so of a company’s promises or a sales assistant’s spiel. They want to hear from people who have already bought the product.

The road to purchasing

Google has shown that our searching behaviour online is becoming more and more refined. Rising search terms between 2015 and 2017 included ‘kids light up shoes’ and ‘men’s Italian dress shoes’. This is possibly because we often know precisely what product we desire and are confident that our search will yield relevant results due to the vast amount of available information on the internet.

We’re no longer restricted to the shop windows for inspiration and knowledge of what’s available. Social media was the first choice when respondents were asked where they get online inspiration from for their purchases. This behaviour has paved the way for social media influencers and celebrity endorsements too. In fact, the search term ‘influencer marketing’ experienced a 325% increase in searches between 2016 and 2017 — demonstrating company and agency interest in the new technique.

Also, it’s not only become easier to buy at the click of a button, but to speak directly to a company or brand. This potential user-to-business engagement allows an individual to connect more with a brand, through social media contact and additional communication channels (such as live chat and 24/7 phone lines).

No place now to “try before you buy”

The high street was, at one stage, struggling heavily due to online popularity. But it seems to be experiencing something of a resurgence, with weekly visits to the high street stores rising by 40% in 2015 and 44% in 2018. This could be due to people using shopping as a social activity.

This gives shops a new angle for their physical stores. Retailers with physical stores have the chance to reduce their stock levels on-site and use the newfound space to create a more enjoyable, sensory experience for shoppers.

There’s also been an increase in smartphone shopping. In fact, statistics show that mobile commerce more than doubled between 2013 and 2018, rising from 7% to 17%. It’s looking likely that mobile shopping sales will soon surpass PC-based buying, which is currently at 20%.

With online purchase though, there’s less scope to “try before you buy”, which is likely why so many are seeking online reviews before committing to buying. The delivery and returns process has been made so easy by many retailers in order to encourage customers to order their products first and then try them at home. Customers are getting used to the convenient delivery service too. In fact, 25% of customers said that they wouldn’t continue with their orders if one-day delivery wasn’t available.

What’s next for retail?

With faster service and a huge range of products available for a wider audience, shopping have undoubtedly been revolutionised by the digital age. We’ve seen the demise of some high street stores as they struggle to keep up with the requirements of consumers of the digital age. So, what does the future look like for the shopping industry? Could we see our online deliveries happening even faster? There is discussion from some online retailers of a 30-minute drone delivery — almost 40% of customers would consider this as a method too! We can also expect to see more engaging stores as companies try to encourage more store visits.

In terms of marketing for retail, it looks like influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere yet. But, due to the rapid speed of technological advancements, it’s hard to predict exactly what’s around the corner.

Frank Wright, footwear retailer founded in 1885.

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