The popularity of online shopping has been seen by many as a threat to the existence of traditional shopping. Their argument is based on the recent widespread closure of established brands like Sears and Best Buy. But can we really say that traditional shopping is dying?
In 2011, even though the U.S economy was sluggish, shopping grew by 15% over the previous year. In addition, about 35% of Americans now have smartphones which enable them to purchase goods and services over the internet and this figure is expected to rise significantly in subsequent years. In actual fact, about half of smartphone users have used their phones for one purchase or the other. On Christmas day of 2011 alone, about 6.8 million iOs and Android smartphones were activated. Top internet retailer, Amazon, recorded a whooping net sale of $48.08 billion in 2011 which represents 40.6% increase over $32.20 billion recorded in 2010. This figure is expected to rise in 2012 and subsequent years. What then is the implication of all these to physical retailing?
Since many people now decide to shop over the internet due to the benefits derivable in doing so like convenience, easy access to market, price comparison, avoidance of crowd, better prices and so on, can we really say that that the traditional way of shopping is being threatened? In my own opinion, technology will enhance the traditional method and not kill it. The popularity of video cassette recorder (VCR) in the 80?s was seen by many as a threat to movie theaters then, but today, the film industry has been strengthened by the new technology and the demand for films has increased.
Moreover, when the email became very popular, a lot people thought that the traditional postal service would die, but today, it is waxing stronger. The point I?m driving at here is that, if traditional shop owners can embrace new technology, shopping on the internet would not be a threat to them but a blessing.
If physical retailers can monitor shopping behavior through the use of Wi-Fi signals from smartphones, they would be able to compete favorably in a fast-changing world. They can use technology to measure loyalty, make better staffing decisions, improve store layouts, reduce wait times in checkout lines and so on. Online shopping has come to stay but it is not a threat to traditional shopping because many consumers still value some of its features like quality of customer service, the experience of trying and buying products, how products are displayed and so on.
Olushola Otenaike is an online shopping expert.
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