With online shopping taking more of the market share year on year, RetailandFashionjobs.com asks will it mean the end of retail as we know it?
The internet has seen exponential growth from Tim Berners-Lee’s dream of the World Wide Web which saw fruition in the 1990s. It escaped the realms of geekdom to spread unabated around the globe and is now as much a part of family life as that other miracle of modern science – the television. Following the first online retail transaction in 1994, the unstoppable juggernauts Amazon and eBay were born in 1995 and the rest, as they say, is history.
The internet shopping phenomenon or e-tail (electronic retail) as it is sometimes known, shows no sign of abating as it goes from strength to strength and continues to take bigger bites from the market share of the more established physical retail stores.
It is somewhat ironic that bigger stores in the sprawling out-of-town retail parks are looking over their shoulders nervously at the growth of online shopping. It was their own boom that saw the death of town centre shopping up and down the country. Smaller independent stores were going out of business because they simply could not compete in a price war with the big boys. With lower overheads internet stores can offer more competitive pricing. As the saying goes: what goes around, comes around!
Shopping on the internet may put some off: it is not a hands-on experience; you cannot see what you are buying except in photographs and descriptions of the object. Some consumers are still nervous of cybercrime and are unwilling to use their credit or debit card online. This is, of course, still a problem wherever you use your card and no matter how safe websites claim to be, a hacker will always find a backdoor.
Yet the advantages of buying online are manifold. Expert and user reviews are readily available, as are trusted opinions on social media; not only for the product itself, but for the shopping experience as a whole at any given online store. Another advantage is the opportunity to compare prices without the need to traipse from shop to shop and back again. Online shopping saves time and effort and, these days, time is a valuable resource.
What does this mean for physical retail outlets and their staff turnover? Surely if online stores are cutting into their profits to such an extent then there will inevitably be job losses? Not necessarily. The big stores have adapted and evolved. They have recognised what their customers want and have moved to meet that demand. They all have a substantial online presence and a huge marketing budget in an attempt to retain their market dominance. The big supermarkets might have empty shelves in their out-of-town behemoths but they also have a fleet of vans ready to bring your shopping to your door. While you’re getting your weekly shopping they want you to stay on their site for your clothes, books, music, electronics…
Online shopping will (probably) never completely replace the real thing, shopping is after all often a social experience in itself, but it will continue to grow. Retail companies see the future and are embracing it. They see the opportunities and are adjusting their recruitment accordingly. For every shop floor job lost, several more appear in its place as the need grows for staff in the warehouse, delivery drivers and, of course, in IT.
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