A shadowy form sat hunched over in a darkened room. His face ghostly illuminated by a glowing screen. He peered into the light with beady eyes, following the white tiny arrow darting across the screen with hawk-like intensity. Finally, he breathed a sigh and wiped his sweaty palms on his shirt. His two-hour long quest had finally reached an end. With bated breath, his finger pressed down on the beautiful green "Buy" button with a satisfying click. He had finally purchased that vintage silk baroque shirt he had been hunting for all week.
Meet Ah Bong; he is your typical online shopper. Like many other Internet users, Ah Bong has found delight in shopping for things like clothes online. Think about it: It is in the middle of the night and you are lazing in bed in your comfiest set of pajamas – where else can you purchase that pair of running shoes that you have been eyeing?
E-commerce has successfully catered to the needs of consumers by providing them with the opportunity to shop 24/7, 365 days a year.
The advent of online retail has come to penetrate our lives in more ways than we thought possible. Last year, worldwide retail e-commerce was anticipated to reach $1.915 trillion. Moreover, double-digit growth is forecasted to continue through to 2020 and is predicted to top $4 trillion. Today, at the forefront of providing sales services that connect buyers and sellers is e-commerce superpower Amazon.com, whose revenue rose 15.8% in 2016 to $82.7 billion. This unprecedented surge in the growth of online retail highlights the popularity of e-commerce in our society.
Back at home, Singapore is reportedly at the forefront of its Asia Pacific counterparts with regards to cross-border online shopping, according to a research done by PayPal and Ipsos. Furthermore, in a report by Temasek and Google, it was observed that Singapore’s e-commerce market will be worth a whopping US$4 billion in less than a decade. This startling amount is on par with the net worth of Singapore’s casino industry in 2015!
Riding on the wave of the popularity of e-commerce, many local household brands like HomeFix and NTUC FairPrice have established their very own online platforms to reach out to and conduct transactions with their customers. The global influence of online shopping is no doubt phenomenal.
With e-commerce, your everyday consumer can also turn into a retailer in less than five minutes! Mobile applications such as Carousell and Duriana are gaining a foothold in the local online retail scene, providing budding entrepreneurs with an avenue to put up their wares for sale. Given the rapid growth and global influence of e-commerce, many sellers are hopeful for the future of online retail and have chosen to hop on the bandwagon. Through these platforms, setting up a company no longer entails going through complicated processes and layer upon layer of red tape; one can simply, as Carousell’s tagline goes, “Snap to sell, Chat to buy”.
However, the popularity and growth of online shopping poses a concern that we must consider. Will brick and mortar stores still survive amidst the pressure posed by online retailing? Or would the extinction of traditional shops be inevitable as they face the danger of being replaced by its online substitute? While the distant future is uncertain, it can at least be said that physical stores still have a place in today’s world.
Even as online retail sites continue to thrive and prosper, shopping at a physical store has its own charm that cements its existence. For instance, a shopper would be able to physically see and feel an item before purchasing it. Online, shoppers are unable to check for flaws or ensure that the product is in the correct size that they want. Shopping at brick and mortar stores bypasses these constraints and provides a different experience. Certain situations such as shopping for perishable items also make it more practical to receive the items immediately upon paying for them rather than waiting for delivery. No doubt online shopping is convenient, but there are certain aspects of traditional shops that make them a permanent fixture in our society.
Another issue e-commerce grapples with is how receptive our (typically less technologically-savvy) silver generation is towards shopping online. The demographic of Internet users with a penchant for online shopping remains to be teenagers and young adults. For some members of Generation X, online shopping may be an unexplored territory: uncharted waters that they might be hesitant to cross.
However, that is not to say that all the elderly are not fans of online shopping. In Singapore, an increasing portion of the silver generation has taken to shopping online after being receiving encouragement from their children. Unlike their younger counterparts however, the elderly tend to shop for home appliances, food items, or office wear. Surprisingly, they are big spenders as well!
On the other end of the spectrum, retailers are helping to educate older shoppers on the know-how of online shopping, attracting more of them to turn to e-commerce for their shopping needs. It looks like online retail is no longer just for the young ones anymore.
The presence of online shopping in our lives is undoubtedly prominent. E-commerce has come a long way since its conception and has evolved in such a way that makes its ubiquity irrefutable. The act of buying what we want or need no longer entails stepping out of your house; all it takes is a mere click of your mouse to add items to your shopping cart, and another to pay for it. Shopping has just gotten easier, and our shopping cart has just gotten bigger.