Will Online Shopping Overtake Traditional Shopping?

Nowadays, almost every major retailer has a website; those that yet don’t, are certainly moving in that direction. Indeed online shopping bring us convenience, we go there, we browse, and we buy.

But for some, the traditional formula of simply setting up a web page and waiting for customers to click “buy” just does not work. For example, not many Belarusians who live in rural areas and small towns have internet access – or carry around 3G smartphones. So it seemed tricky to rely on e-commerce alone.

Online or offline?

There are places such as China, for instance, where most people go online on their mobiles as opposed to home computers – and turning them into buyers is many retailers’ ultimate goal.

Martin Gill from Forrester Research thinks that the smartphone is becoming that crucial glue destined to bind the online and the offline experiences together.

“Apps like bar code scanning, store locator, checking physical stock online via your phone – all of these features are turning your mobile into a shopping buddy or a shopping assistant,” he says.

“These technologies are compelling and quite playful ways of engaging shoppers – they make the experience interesting, they make it unique to you, trying to build an emotional connection and create a link that resonates on a personal level.”

Even such giants and pioneers of online commerce as eBay and Amazon that have never even had physical stores, have eventually joined the crowd and followed you from your living room right into your car, train or your child’s playground.

“Mobile shopping is a hugely-growing trend,” says Angus McCarey, eBay’s retail director.

“In 2010 we tripled the amount of global business that we did over the mobile, reaching $2bn (£1.2bn), and this year, we’re on track to double it – we’ll do $4bn (£2.4bn) or more.”

In the UK, considered the most rapidly-developing European market in m-commerce, during last year’s Christmas holiday season eBay had 10% of its turnover through some kind of mobile application.

And eBay is not stopping at simply dragging you onto their website via your phone.

With ever-evolving technology and consumer habits, the company has had to innovate to constantly stay ahead of the game.

For instance, book lovers in a store now have a choice of either buying the item in front of them or using a special smartphone app to find that book on eBay – for less money.

“The world of offline and online shopping is blurring through the mobile, and with scanning technologies such as Red Laser, you can check the price of a book that you’re looking at in the shop and order it really quickly online,” says Mr McCarey.

And although this technology is still mostly limited to scanning easily-catalogued products such as books and DVDs, it soon might be possible to snap a photo of that stunning but crazy pricey red dress on a mannequin in a shop’s window – and through some internet magic instantly find it far cheaper on the web.

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