This Christmas I achieved a personal first – I did all of my Christmas and January sales shopping online, every single thing. And, judging by the stats, I’m not alone.
The UK has the highest value of online sales in Europe and it’s predicted that by 2017 online sales will account for around 16% of all retail in the UK. Personally, I would expect it to be higher, since m-commerce (purchasing from internet enabled mobile devices) is still relatively new and having a major impact on online sales, having increased 300% in the past 12 months alone.
In previous years I’ve bought both online and in-store, after researching online and spending time wandering around the city centre and shopping malls before finally making a decision. More often than not I would have bought online, for the ease of having everything delivered to my home rather than having to carry it around with me. And of course, when all the parcels arrive at your home it’s like getting a gift for yourself too, even if it is someone else’s present that’s arrived.
The biggest drawback to buying from a website is you miss out on that tactile experience. When I’m shopping I like to be able to pick up what I’m buying, feel the quality, the weight and size, the softness of the fabric and online you can all too often miss out on this sensory experience. That’s why I’ll always believe there’s a place for bricks and mortar retail. But when you already have a sense of what you’re after, and if it’s done well, online shopping can be just as satisfying, if not more so.
Brands which are doing online retail well are creating fantastic websites. Sites with as much product information and interaction as possible, engaging and emotive video, lifestyle photography, product reviews, 360 degree product images and zoom functionality. Done right, you get as much from the shopping experience as being in store, but the key is “done right” and that’s why some brands’ retail websites are excelling, while others are merely surviving.
That’s why the major retail winners this year will be those that focus on making their digital shopping as good as, if not better than, their in store experience. Consumers need to get the same emotional response from what they purchase while sitting on their sofa in front of the TV as they do from engaging with the sales teams. They need to feel excited about the products, satisfied in their decision, confident in the purchase and reassured by the website that they’ve shopped at the best retailer.