Fourteen years after the start of the millennium, many countries have invested in developing infrastructure for marketing activities over the internet (Ah Keng Kau et al, p139). Online shopping is one of the developments that have been on the rise. Almost all products and services have an online scope. The internet has enabled easy access and created a common platform between service providers and customers. It has dominated the market though it has its own benefits and disadvantages, which should be taken into consideration before shopping. Most of the online shopping is done through online stores. Online stores have been in existence since the invention of the internet in the late twentieth century. They offer an opportunity for consumers to browse and search for items. Another good feature is that they contain reviews by people who have already bought and used the products advertised. They include Amazon, eBay, Groupon among others.
Apart from offering an opportunity to shop online, some online stores also provide auction services. They give the consumers a chance to bid for their dream items in online auctions. The auctions are less risky because once a consumer does not receive an item won in an auction, the online auction site refunds the money paid through means like PayPal. This is because once a bid has been made, it cannot be retracted. The online store provides more information about items for sale than what one would get from the traditional brick and mortar stores (Ah Keng Kau et al, p152). They give a detailed product description that those operating a physical store would find it hard to disclose because of the fear of malicious organizations developing counterfeits. Therefore, before settling on buying a particular product, one can read the information provided to help in the decision-making process.
Online stores tend to be cheaper than other physical stores. This can be attributed to the lack of many retail market outlets. Retail outlets usually make an organization incur an extra expense of rent. However, in an online store, despite the decentralized stores, all the sales are centralized, with relatively cheaper prices. Most in-home shoppers are after convenience and online stores provide that in a number of ways. First, there is reduced shopping time, with enough flexibility because the stores operate twenty-four hours a day. In addition, online shopping saves on the physical effort of traveling to get a product because the goods can be delivered to the doorstep. They are also proper in advertising and the consumer is granted the chance to engage in impulse buying (Ah Keng Kau et al, p141).
Online shopping also has disadvantages. One of them is that some goods cannot be purchased before the first-hand inspection. Online advertisements always display what they think is best. However, some goods like clothing need the presence of the person buying. Relying on the size specifications given can be tricky because of a mismatch in units. In addition, the contrast of the display can be far much different from the consumer’s expectations. There are some online retailers that do not offer free shipping services. An additional cost should be included when submitting the order to cater for shipping services (Ah Keng Kau et al, p149). The additional costs, on top of the original price in the invoice, can add up, especially for bulky goods that are transported over a long distance. The extra expense can be too much that it even surpasses the pricing in locally available physical stores.
Online shops rarely offer instant delivery of goods. The consumer is required to wait before the item arrives. The time span of delivery is dependent on documentation procedures and the company’s policy. At times, the consumer has to wait for several days, weeks, or even months for the item to reach a household (Ah Keng Kau et al, p145). Therefore, online shopping is not reliable for items that are to be used urgently. The retail landscape has experienced exponential growth since the invention and integration of online shopping. Most businesses have been forced to adopt the new model of retailing or else they are faced out in the competitive market. The growth in online expenditure can be attributed to the entry of more online retailers. In channels where retailers do not exist, manufacturers have been forced to go direct to the consumers.
Once the retailers get into the market, they have a tendency of expanding the products and services they offer to online shoppers. Consumers have also been an integral part of facilitating the expansion. The existence of smartphones that are portable has maintained solid momentum in the growth of online shopping. Smartphones and other mobile devices have been used to browse and purchase products anywhere and anytime. The growth and usage of the online channel to retail purchases has been facilitated by many factors. Online stores offer greater value for any purchases made. Therefore, the widespread use of mobile devices has enabled ease of access to the market (Frost & Sullivan, p67). Most businesses have also shifted to the use of social media in marketing, which has created more awareness because of the big population using social media.
With substantially lower pricing from retailers, the local physical stores that have multiple channels before reaching the consumer have been faced out. This is because, with multiple channels, there is a tendency for higher prices because of the various modifications that a product undergoes in each channel (Ah Keng Kau et al, p138). Therefore, retailers have been forced to give more prominence to online channels through various marketing efforts. Demographic variables and the stage of development in a country significantly affect online shopping. Computer literacy is mandatory in shopping online, and the variation of online shoppers is dependent on their literacy levels. The disposable income of citizens of a particular country also affects their approach towards online shopping and the type of products that they purchase.
There are a number of things that should be done when shopping online. Once the seller of the product of interest has been selected, one should straightly go to the retailer and avoid different brokers available. Most brokers are untrustworthy. When using a credit card, one should check the accrued bill frequently to avoid credit card fraud. A debit card can sometimes be used in place of a credit card to settle some of the costs. When shopping online, one should avoid the use of applications on most mobile devices. The applications require the entry of a lot of personal details that can easily be accessed by other manufacturers (Frost & Sullivan, p34). In addition, not every deal that appears on networking websites is trustworthy. Some deals can tempt a consumer into bogus bargains which might end up in the invoicing and payment of products that are not delivered.
Online shopping decision-making includes information seeking, comparison of alternatives, and choice making. Any factor that affects the decision-making process has a direct influence on the purchasing behavior of a consumer. However, most online shoppers use a two-stage process when coming up with a shopping decision. First, they look at the variety of products offered to identify a subset that suits their needs. They then evaluate the subset through various comparisons in order to come up with a final purchase decision. Consumer satisfaction after attempting an online purchase affects their subsequent shopping. When the first shopping experience meets their expectations, there is a tendency of developing trust in the retailers (Zhang, p508). These expectations influence their attitudes and intentions to shop at a certain internet store, and consequently their decision-making process and purchasing behavior.
The level of trust of a consumer towards an online merchant may be affected by the prior attitude they have toward the brand associated with that merchant (Zhang, p510). A positive attitude towards the branding of a specific company predisposes a positive attitude towards the company’s advertisement. Most researches prove that consumers tend to buy from trusted retailers. Therefore, the development of trust is one of the aspects of marketing that should be considered by online retailers. Although delivery has represented a significant barrier for the uptake of online shopping, recent improvements in the local delivery services have also instilled greater confidence among consumers. This has been facilitated by the efficiency of logistics providers like DHL. The logistics providers have invested a lot in developing their infrastructure on delivery processes to avoid unnecessary delays.
Advancements in technology have also been important in bridging the gap between shopping online and the use of brick and mortar stores. Technology has incorporated the use of high-resolution imaging and the development of video content. It also provides detailed information of a product, reviews, and recommendations from customers who have purchased and used the product. This has helped a lot in luring consumers into purchasing a specific product. Many retailers have now started a journey of increasing investments in support of technology, infrastructure, and cooperation (Frost & Sullivan, p74). The consumer is also changing because of the invention and adoption of new mobile devices. The rate of growth, both at the consumer and retailer perspective, should be at par to enable customer satisfaction and comfort. Therefore, the rate of change has presented itself as a challenge, more so to retailers as they attempt to meet the demands and engage with consumers
With online retailing now a mainstream sales channel, new competitors entering the market are being forced to use competitive measures to gain consumers who are easy to be swayed (Frost & Sullivan, p145). The use of multiple channels in marketing has now been placed at crossroads because all companies are being forced to adopt the global trend of online shopping. Online shopping is a multidimensional and multidisciplinary phenomenon. Online shopping companies and online stores should develop a positive attitude and behavior among consumers. This will help a lot in developing the components of the online shopping process
Ah Keng Kau, Sanjoy Ghose, Yingchan E Tang. “Typology of online shoppers.” Journal of consumer marketing 20.3 (2006): 139-156.
Frost and Sullivan. Australian shopping market and digital insights. London: PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2012. Print.
Zhange, Na Li Ping. “Consumer online shopping attitudes and behavior.” An assessment of research 1.2010 (2010): 508-517.