The retail industry has changed over
the years and will continue to do so.
Just 20 years ago, the first verified sale at an online store was made. According to Internet Retailing, the item purchased was Sting album Ten Summoner's Tales. Since then, the music industry has changed significantly - CDs and cassette tapes are obsolete, with most people listening to digital files they download from eCommerce sites or even simply streaming their favorite tunes from sites such as GrooveShark.
As Internet Retailing noted, the eCommerce industry - much like the music sector - has changed significantly over the past few decades and is poised to continue to do so moving forward
. Here are a few of the major trends and shifts noted in the retail sector:
1. Greater consumer confidence shopping online
It wasn't long ago that buying products online warranted a few raised eyebrows from prospective customers. How could customers trust these digital websites? Were they even legitimate businesses, or were they run out of some basement in the middle of nowhere? Was it safe to give these organizations sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or billing addresses?
How the times have changed. One recent report from software consulting firm Software Advice suggested that people may be more cautious about making purchases in-store due to some of the recent reported breaches
. Meanwhile, new payment solutions and encryption technology have improved the perceived security of shopping online as well.
"Many consumers are more hesitant to swipe a card in person than online," Craig Borowski, managing editor at Software Advice
, told Internet Retailer. "It seems now that the brick-and-mortar stores and traditional point-of-sale software need to catch up to the level of security seen on most online retail sites."
2. Not one or the other, but both
When online shopping first gained traction, many retailers treated their eCommerce operations as being completely separate, to the point of even having completely different management staff, offerings and prices. The thought process was that each person probably had a preference of either shopping online or offline. Even until more recently, there was intense competition between Web-based and brick-and-mortar merchants, with some big-box retailers blaming online stores for stealing sales.
Over the past few years, however, that mindset has changed considerably. Merchants realize that people use a smattering of different buying avenues to make purchases, which has led to the rise of omnichannel retailing
. Retailers are no longer asking themselves whether they want to operate online or offline, but are wondering how they can better use both options to serve their customers.
"Many high street retailers continue to thrive and understand how online shopping can complement in-store shopping and not compete," Roger Brown, chief executive officer at personalization specialist Peerius told Internet Retailing. "Ultimately online is a digital store and is working towards the same business goals - to deliver an engaging shopping experience and drive sales."
3. Instant gratification
Two decades ago, shoppers had few expectations when it came to receiving their orders. It wasn't unusual to see shipping take a week or longer.
Now, shoppers are demanding faster delivery times. Even just a few years ago, two-day delivery would have been considered fast. Services such as Amazon Prime have made that the new standard, and now every retailer is rethinking the different ways they can get purchases to customers as quickly as possible.
Even same-day delivery
is becoming a real possibility, with big merchants opening order fulfillment
centers in major cities to facilitate faster deliveries. In the future, it's not inconceivable that retailers could even have pilotless drones that fly around cities delivering packages within 24 hours of ordering.
Despite eCommerce having only been around for a few decades, it's changed radically and that growth is expected to shift even more in the near future as new tools and technology are unveiled.