The mighty family of online shoppers

Are you part of it? The increasingly astute buyers navigating comfortably through millions of products, vendors and options, scrutinizing carefully listed criteria and making determined choices?

It is the new “walking”. It is not the knowledge of the few but a necessity similar to knowing how to type or use a phone. The zesty, tingly feel of pleasure that shopping generates is now hooked to the couch and glued to your fingers. Nobody can escape the mainstream of e-shopping. It has gone viral.

Photo courtesy of Feeestocks from Unsplash

Little did we know a few years back that 2020 will make us, the ones that did not shop online yet, tackle the home computer with same vengeance as friskily walking from store to store in the mall. As pandemic hit us, online sales went up by a whopping 76% and we’ve helped big time.
E-commerce business is big business but it has not always been so and its beginnings are quite interesting.

Made-to-order furniture for selective buyers

Courtesy of Dochia interior design

Conventional, old-age shopping is largely four-tier: you have the producer of raw goods, the manufacturer that uses them to generate an item, the store that distributes it, and the consumer that buys it. Over the years this system of distribution has reached out with prowling tentacles and the business of setting up intermediaries in-between these tiers has boomed. With all of that, however, the end interaction, the one between consumer and store has remained intact.
Until airline travel came along when in the mid-sixties, the tourism industry produced a little innovation that paved the road for online shopping.

Photo by Afif Kusuma

American Airlines and IBM put together a linked computerized system that allowed surfing of data, processing and purchasing of airline tickets at various locations. It essentially centralized data and created a virtual assistant. More importantly, it built an intermediary between the store owner and the purchaser. This did not eliminate the agency that sold you the tickets but created a germinal, behind the scenes distribution link at the secondary tier level. And the agency was still there, selling to the public.

Photo by Brooke Lark

What made the final point of sale go away was quite unexpected and still, pre-internet. In 1972, Stanford University students used an engine called Arpanet to sell and buy marijuana. According to multiple researchers yes, this seems to be the first product bought and sold without a shop, without walk-in, source to user, completely virtual through computers.

Then came the internet which essentially gave everyone access to sourcing everything and anything you can think of.

Photo by Laura Chouette

But that still left the business of expanding the use to proportions that go beyond artificial intelligence university labs or focused user groups. And that happened slowly.

Popularity and use continuously expanded increasing both organically and with strong advertising. It is not easy to change people’s buying habits. That is, until a pandemic hits. And willy-nilly as it did, we needed to change habits no matter what. This was, and still is, the golden opportunity for directing mainstream shopping to online streams.

With the many shops that closed physical gates and opened virtual portals, we are ready to push the switch, kick back and relax and get ourselves our shopping fix from every corner of the house. The downside? Exercise will need to be covered in a different way since doubling up on shopping/walking is no longer a given!
All the rest is fun and the more knowledgeable you are, the more fun it becomes. I’m in!

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