Online shopping is either a serious threat to stores — the physical kind — or a driver of their potential commerce-model evolution. The masses are moving online to shop, and starting to shop offline with digital cash. Table stakes for national retailers is transactional agility: the ability to work both the real and virtual economies and, especially in the latter area, figure out what people want. That includes free returns, same-day shipping, and maybe even the occasional drone delivery.
A new study from communications firm Walker Sands takes a look at some of these trends, and what people think about them. The second annual Future of Retail, which the company says is based on a survey of some 1,400 consumers on their online shopping habits, finds that people are going online for more than shoes, iPads, books and entertainment. Groceries, luxury goods, and beyond are in play now.
The study says 68% of U.S. consumers shop online at least once per month, up from 62% a year ago, and 28% make web purchases at least once per week. And four out of ten of the people this study talked to said they are open to buying just about any type of product online from either retailers or third-party websites like Amazon. But they still trust Amazon more than retailers in over 90% of product categories.
According to the study, three-quarters of consumers would be happy to spend more than $100 on a product without seeing it first. That isn't groundbreaking. I have done that several times over the past couple of years, including a piece of quartz-powered wrist candy sight unseen. Yes, it was a mistake (it was about three times larger in real life; I either look like a rapper or a blind man), but that won't stop me from doing it again. I'll just take the specs a lot more seriously.
Nearly three times as many consumers said they would purchase a product costing more than $1,000 without seeing it beforehand in the flesh, if free returns were offered (27% versus 10% who said they would not). Only about a third of respondents said they would never buy luxury goods online.
And, as I can attest, a solid virtual experience of the product is likely to be a big sales driver, which is why automakers, to cite just one example, love getting their cars into digital games. I suspect this is going to be especially important in the luxury-goods category, and for high-ticket price goods in general. The study found that more than a third of consumers would shop more online if they were able to try on a product virtually using a product like Oculus Rift. I know I would.
Oh, and drones? Almost 80% of consumers Walker and Sands surveyed said they were willing to pay for drone delivery with about half saying they would pay at least $5. For the chance to see my neighbors gawk as my new watch descends from the sky? That would be priceless.