Consumer virtual shopping is reaching a critical mass and this has come about due to the pervasiveness of mobile technology (smartphone and tablet), third party apps supporting location based and enhanced search capabilities and changing consumer lifestyles. In addition to each of these capabilities, the key is the consumer comfort and embrace of eCommerce purchasing and virtual shopping capabilities. These capabilities allow consumers to experience a personal shopping experience in the virtual realm that they have been missing in the physical world of shopping in malls and department stores and consumers have embraced and even extended these virtual capabilities through word of mouth promotion and personal experimentation.
In my own experience and interaction I have evangelized the virtual shopping and eCommerce purchasing capabilities with friends and family and even just acquaintances in shopping. What I find in my personal physical shopping experience is that I struggle in finding the product; whether the size, color, condition and even finding the product at all. Then in the virtual shopping I run into just the opposite challenge; I find the product easily and then I spend more time in selecting different variations of the product. I find this experience especially true with uncommon or unusual products that would normally require a great deal of searching in the physical shopping experience. The second most common reaction is the convenience of virtual shopping and eCommerce and this too is expressed universally in my conversations. In fact, more and more of my friends and family are completing their shopping online or performing a greater majority of their shopping online.
From the shopping perspective, again I have found that Amazon leads the way with television shopping via shopping networks such as QVC or HSN coming in second. I don’t believe that my personal priorities are very much different than others and I find that I don’t have the time, or the desire for that matter, to go to the mall for shopping. I find it much easier to perform shopping in bursts online at the time when I think of the perfect gift for someone. I find this single capability to be the most compelling in my shopping; I can shop virtually at the time when the gift is top of mind and don’t need to make a trip to the mall! I find this to be a common perspective when discussion eCommerce and especially Christmas shopping.
Retailers must realize that they have lost control of the shopping experience and must account for virtual shopping practices. I think this is beginning to happen as you see traditional mall retailers beginning to shrink their presence due to decreased sales. However, I think that big box retailers are overlooking a great advantage over virtual shopping and that is the ability to touch and try on the product. Retailers must shift their strategy and encourage consumers to shop in the mall and ship their purchases to their home. This will allow retailers to take advantage of their physical presence although it requires a dramatic shift in costs and sales measurements.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?