Holiday shopping used to mean a trip to the local mall and a Saturday jaunt out to the outlet center in the next county. But this year, people in the US will be buying gifts from all over the world because they can do it easily and cheaply, from the comfort of their home.
The borderless consumer is just one of the game-changing retail trends discussed at a recent event sponsored by WomenCorporateDirectors.
Instant currency conversion tools, multi-language websites and no-borders web hosts like eBay and Etsy, have made it just as easy to buy a gift from Spain as it is from Kansas.
Not only are geographical boundaries disappearing, but so are the old-school “retail channels.”
Susan Chambers, Executive Vice President, Global People Division for Walmart said,
“Companies can no longer separate their online and bricks-and-mortar channels. We have customers who are shopping at home – getting information and checking out prices. They then come in with a mobile app, and they scan an item in the store. They’re immediately able to get the product information and pricing information and make decisions right on the spot, bringing mobile and social media applications into the actual store.”
This mix of online and offline has made it possible for small companies to have big footprints. I buy a lot of collectibles from a clever company who specializes in my favorite era of TV. Looking at the website, you’d think they were backed by a huge warehouse and possibly a Toys R Us-sized brick and mortar store. The truth is, the whole operation is run out of the owner’s garage. As a consumer, it makes no difference to me, as long as he continues to provide me with cool toys and good customer service at a decent price.
Technology has played a huge part in rewriting the retail rules and now even the rules for buying tech are changing. One of these changes is the reversal of business and home. In the past, tech items were built for the workplace — personal computers, electric typewriters, recorders were all designed to get the job done faster. As those items became more common, they started popping up in homes, too.
Linda Zecher, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector for Microsoft says it’s the other way around.
“If you go into a Best Buy or Walmart on a Saturday morning, you’ll see parents with young children, and it’s the children who are directing what kind of IT they would like to have in the home. Then, on Monday morning, you’ll have the mother or father come into work and say ‘Hey, we should have this kind of technology here.’ The younger generation is driving their parents into new ideas.”
The experts also found that tech is one of those items where the cheapest isn’t always the best seller. Says Zecher,
“Even if you go into some of the poorest areas of Indonesia, India, or Africa, you’ll see people with the highest-end piece of technology that they can possibly buy.”
What this all means is it’s a good time to be in the online retail business. With major chains closing up their locations, consumers are turning to the web to fill in the gaps. They want what they want and they don’t care if it comes from the next city or the next continent so it’s your job to make sure they spend that money with you.