It’s no secret that over the last decade, online shopping has evolved in ways we (millennials) could not have imagined. Growing up in what may now be classified as the “Digital Age”, technology has allowed eCommerce to virtually customize the way we shop.
Looking back, I remember driving to the mall with my friends to try on clothes and sending them pictures on my phone to ask them for their opinions. Now, I can upload an image of myself to try on a piece of clothing or pin to my “on fleek” board to purchase later. We millennials have not only conformed the way all generations have learned to shop online but we’ve also forced industries to adapt this new transformation. For example, if I wanted to go to the mall and buy makeup I would have to physically try it on, see if I like it, and then buy it at the store. Now that millennials have eclipsed all generations from the way we communicate, access information, and live our lives on a daily basis, cosmetic etailers and app providers have even gone as far as offering facial scanning programs; allowing consumers to fill out a form based on their skin type and face shape. They even offer certain brands and products based on the user’s characteristics. If this is the new face of online shopping, it makes me wonder…what did online shopping look like before the connected consumer era? So, I decided to investigate.
eCommerce sites continue to improve in user experience and lifestyle. Current e-commerce statistics state that 40 percent of worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online via desktop, mobile, tablet or other online devices (Statista, 2016). This amounts to more than 1 billion online buyers and is projected to continuously grow. Let’s be honest… “ain’t nobody got time to go to the mall and shop!” It becomes time consuming and you are never guaranteed to find exactly what you are looking for. Been there, done that. What did people do before online shopping existed?! (cue the eye rolls from Baby Boomers, GenX, and GenY).
Through a Millennial’s eyes, here are “5 ways millennials have helped change the way we shop”.
1. “We Know Everything” – Shoppers know as much as Salespeople
I can’t tell you how many times I hear… “Millennials think they know everything”. Well, maybe we do!
Then: When going to the mall to shop was the only option people had, they relied heavily on the salesperson’s expertise to advise them on what they needed to buy and all the features of items offered in that store.
Now: With the magical power of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other wonderful search engines, we have the option of doing our own research and have become “smart shoppers”. We have the potential and capability to know when we are getting a good deal. After all, every moment in a consumer’s purchasing decision journey matters.
2. Retailers now know everything too!
Then: Apparently, the introduction of retail began with retailers and shopkeepers getting to know their customer’s preferences and needs based on face-to-face interactions. Sounds a bit horse and buggy to me. (more eye rolls from Baby Boomers)
Now: In the world of connected commerce, a phone, tablet, or computer can do just that. E-Commerce sites, such as Amazon, integrate customization features that recommend products based on your interests and your online behavior paths. Ultimately, these features allow e-commerce sites to appropriately offer suggestions and get to know their customers more personally based on things they like.
3. Mobile devices drive foot traffic to stores
Then: Finding the right stores with the right products you needed was either based on familiarity or luck.
Now: It’s much easier nowadays to find a product in a specific store you’re near, right at the touch of your fingertips. Most retail websites such as Target, have features that allow customers to find a store near them that carries the product they’re looking for, pay for it online, and pick it up in-store. Mobile makes it much quicker and more efficient to find exactly what you need while also providing store location information and a product finder all in one.
4. Nothing wrong with a little bit of gossip!
Then: Word of mouth influenced purchase decisions and most retailers relied upon these in order to boost sales. Personal references help, but the retailer could not directly influence.
Now: Word of mouth is a very influential factor. We share our thoughts, opinions and reviews on products within our YouTube, Instagram and Twitter community. This has affected the beauty industry tremendously with the boom of famous beauty gurus uploading “Hit or Miss” tutorials, giving their honest opinions on products and whether they are worth the price or quality. This could affect the reputations of cosmetic brands, if they have bad reviews. It can also provide them with major opportunities to position their brand towards specific targets. I’ve seen products literally fly off the shelves because of these YouTuber’s influence and the “must-have” opinions they give.
5. Products jump off the screen at you!
Then: Paper advertisements and the internet gave an image of what the product looked like but nothing can replace the actual physical feeling of a product and seeing it right in front of you.
Now: Personally, I believe there is still truth to this. Even today, a lot of sites have really stepped up their game when it comes to displaying what a product looks like before you purchase it. Products now have live 360° videos and imagery and zoom capabilities giving the shopper a better sense of what the item really looks like (Think with Google, 2014).
As you can see, we’ve come a long way since the introduction of the internet. As a result, retailers have undergone a digital transformation to meet the needs of today’s online shopping. Living through the differences in what it “used to be” compared to “now” makes us think about how much we rely on technology when it comes to shopping. E-Commerce has revolutionized the way we buy and provides shoppers with a more convenient and personalized way to access what they need. At the end of the day, great shopping sites exist because of advances in technology and companies who have conformed to provide accessible, reliable product information to consumers as and when they need it.