Are there fiscal and social implications of my online shopping [borderline] obsession?
This is a question I ponder sometimes, as I browse through fifteen internet shopping tabs on my phone; all various items I could definitely find at my local shopping centre. Even though I can probably count on one hand the in store purchases I’ve made this year, and my bank statement shows I have been shopping up a storm, I refuse to believe I am addicted to online shopping.
However, there is that niggling feeling in the back of my head that says it’s a little bit TOO easy to online shop… It’s the same voice that that says I should ‘shop local‘ and ‘support small business‘…
At first, no one wanted to shop online… “What if it’s the wrong size? What if I can’t return it? What if it never arrives and I’ve funded a scammer?!” and all that jazz. But nowadays, big shopping companies are closing because – allegedly – they can’t compete with the online market: think Toys R Us versus Amazon.
More than ever, consumers want convenience and value-for-money, regardless of whether they’re buying groceries at the local supermarket, or purchasing a new pair of shoes online. Take self-service for example. The self-serve checkouts at supermarkets were a much debated novelty when they were first introduced, however as a society, we’ve grown to accept them and embrace the speed and control they give to our weekly [sometimes daily] shop.
The convenience and value-for-money need has also brought us all closer to the world of online shopping. NAB bank estimates the total worth of the Australian Online market to be $22.74billion as at last year, 2017. Like me, many other Australians also prefer to shop cellularly and at night time: Australia Post division StarTrack recorded a 52% increase in online shopping orders being processed over mobile device, and reported 30% of all online purchases are made in the three hours between 7pm-10pm.
Why Is Online Shopping Such Big Business?
55% of shoppers said the low-cost of items kept them coming back to online retail, while 20% reported that convenience was the real draw. The introduction of payment options such as ZipPay and AfterPay also have us reaching for the credit card online.
The premise of AfterPay is attractive to consumers as they hope to make more money from increased sales, than they lose on increased fees using the service.
A Left-Of-Field Economic Cost
A recent article found more and more Australian workers are ‘fessing up to internet shopping while on company time. While this might sound either a. obvious and/or familiar, or b. unimportant, the loss in worker productivity results in $31.3 billion in wasted wages per year to the Australian economy as almost half of us stray to non-work-related sites during work hours.
An Even Stranger Cost…
Finder.com.au recently conducted a survey of online shoppers and found that 1 in 5 Aussie’s have made online shopping purchases while under the influence. While this may not seem like a lot; that’s $2.34 billion drunken dollars spent across Australia.
Find “27 Funny, Random, And Bizarre Things People Have Bought Online While shopping Drunk” HERE.
How is the Shopping Landscape Changing?
While online shopping is increasing at a faster rate than physical store shopping, “it’s worth noting that traditional retail is still a huge industry in Australia”, compared to the online market harvesting $22.74 billion last year, the ‘traditional shopping sector’ brought in a whopping $306.9 billion dollars in the same time.
A lot of bricks and mortar stores such as Myer, David Jones, Kmart, and Coles, now offer online consumers the opportunity to click and collect. Arcing back to the necessary convenience factor of shopping, click and collect has the ease of the online, with the security of the store, so the consumer saves time looking through seven levels of department store to find the item, and can also return it right then if they don’t like it.
Other companies have made the jump online, for example JB Hi-Fi has successfully introduced the e-market to its customers, and enjoyed an over 30% increase in profit since. Shopping centres are also under pressure to step up to what the online market has thrown down, with innovative new designs, expansions, and increased pop-up space normalised in the hunt for the ‘wow factor’.
However, these are all ‘big businesses’, so how will the little guys fair against the online revolution? MYOB completed a survey of small businesses just last year and found that while 27% are concerned about international online companies, 26% are feeling positive about the competition it will bring.
The Amazon Effect
While it’s [sort-of] good to know that Toys R Us had a history of poor business decisions to blame for its downfall [it wasn’t 100% Amazon squashing the beloved toy sellers], the forecast for the Australian retail space following Amazon’s infiltration are concerning:
While this is all about big business, small businesses will likely be hit even harder as prices are pushed down, Amazon offers free delivery, profits are minimised, and staff are axed.
Is It Safe to Shop Online?
It’s taken me a long time to trust eBay again after my very first purchase went awry…. I bought a pair of translucent tie up boots [yah, I was SO ahead of my time] with my very first debit card from an international seller on eBay because *cheap!* and also *fashun!*. 14-year-old me was very excited. 14-year-old me was then devastated when no boots arrived, and the seller advised they would blacklist me if I contacted eBay.
In hindsight, I should have just followed the resolution process, however [without revealing my age] internet shopping was still relatively new and I did not know I had consumer rights. Currently, 81% of millennials shop on eBay, so they must be doing something right!
If you’re still in the dark about your rights as a consumer, watch the below video where the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission uses memes to explain….
Social interactions dictate the risk and uncertainty shoppers feel when spending up online; so says a business journal article published late last year. This makes sense when you think about it; buying a $100 dress from UK store Marks and Spencer? No problem; there’s a solid AU-UK trade relationship and a common language in common. Buying a $200 game console from a China based Amazon store? Not so sure; Amazon has a great user interface but you just won’t have the same control over the transaction as you would if you purchased the same item for $400 from say JB Hi-Fi. It’s consumer discretion that just might keep the little guys [smaller bricks and mortar stores] in the game.
Real talk: while online shopping is probably helping me take ‘treat yo’ self’ to the very limit, I am well and truly converted and couldn’t imagine my consumer life without it. The internet brought shopping to our finger tips and like anything, has good and bad aspects. While it is somewhat comforting to know that bricks and mortar stores won’t be going anywhere any time soon, [phew!] I for one would be devastated to see them go, and will try to spend more thoughtfully in future. It might even be good for my bank balance!
Shopping is all about value for money and convenience which, lets be honest, online shopping provides; but the shoe still has to fit, right?