With the economy bad, personal earning power tight or declining, and gas prices fluctuating, many consumers and shoppers are looking to their home computers for purchasing, particular for durable goods and luxury items. Additionally, many consumers are taken more advantage of online codes and coupons, driving business to specific websites to take advantage of purchasing.
Free Shipping Counts
One of the big game-changers in online shopping in 2011 has been aggressive courting of retailers to consumers. Free shipping has been the big player in these schemes. A common pitch involves free shipping on any orders over $50 in aggregate. An alternative option involves shipping to a nearby brick-and-mortar location of the retailer, again for free. Both have attracted consumers otherwise deterred by shipping costs that nullified perceived savings in product pricing.
A factor that has thrown a damper on continued online shopping growth, however, has been the inconsistency of shipping. In some cases, retailers have offered enhanced shipping time for an additional, but this comes across almost offensive to consumers who are already price-sensitive in tough times. Those retailers who have mastered the consistent delivery time problem, however, have seen significant growth and are now branching into larger market shares. Diapers.com is a perfect example of this scenario. Originally only offering baby products, the company now offers household cleaning products and just launched a new expansion into online grocery shopping, the ultimate challenge of timely delivery for online merchants.
A frequent benefit cited continues to be the ease of shopping when convenient for the shopper. 24-hour access allows consumers to buy when it suits them. With more people working odd hours or day and night, in some cases two jobs, frequent runs to physical stores during business hours are now much harder. Online shopping makes this problem easy to surmount as long as the consumer has Internet access.
Large Items Now Moving
New retailers are also finding traction in sales that previously and historically remained brick-and-mortar markets. Furniture sales is one example. Ikea, fashionforhome.com and Target are all seeing opportunities in selling home furniture online. In previous years, consumers were hesitant to such large products, wanting to physically see and try them first in a store. However, younger generations who are far more savvy and familiar with computer buying are gradually making their mark. This generational tidal wave is causing ripple effects in consumer behavior, in which online retailers are now seeing the benefits.
Customer Service Matters
Ultimately, customer service separates the online giants from the weak players. The traditional size of a company no longer matters in the virtual world. Online shoppers gravitate towards those companies that consistently provide what customers want and solve problems without fighting it out. Textbook examples of outstanding online customer service has been seen in shoe-seller Zappos.com, 2 seater sofa from fashionforhome.com, bargain finder Overstock.com, and handbag seller eBags.com. Each company figured out the classic rule early: happy customers produce revenues and sales.
The Future Fog
Going into 2012, online shopping will likely continue through the Christmas season and then take a dip in the spring as the credit card bills and deep winter hits. Then will come the tax refunds in April and a new splurge of shopping. However, this assumes the economy doesn´t bring further bad news. The cold water of more job cuts and possible higher taxes or Internet sales taxes can kill off an economic return quickly, even on the Internet.