Saturday, March 10, 2012

Will I ever stop going out for shopping?



The Tesco South Korea virtual store is one story that excited me some time back. The technology was simple and not new but the right usage of it made it so big hit that I'm guessing it would kill the brick and mortar super markets in South Korea. Apparently grocery shopping is something South Koreans don't enjoy at all.

Brick and Mortar stores failing infront of online stores is not far away. The closing down of Borders, the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain is just the start. Why do you have to go to a book store and browse through the books and then buy when you can get them on Amazon sitting at home and that too for a cheaper price. Hell, soon digital books are going to kill the real books too. I have already moved to kindle edition books and going forward the world also will. If not they will be forced to move as the digital book stores will take over the world.

Recently over a beer Ram, Aditya and Me were discussing about the grand visions of companies like Google, Apple and Amazon and how slowly they worked towards realizing them. If Amazon's vision (no brainer) is to make everyone in this world buy things only from them, then that would be the death of the brick and mortar stores and high streets as we see know it today. But how much of a possibility is that? We debated. Will I stop going for shopping?

There is a remote possibility of that happening. If I see the history a lot of things that I used to do in the real world before has gone digital and virtual. A lot of industries have got disrupted and destroyed because of the digital revolution. Music is just one example of that in my generation. I have seen it evolving from cassettes to Real Player to MP3s to iPods to Google Play and to recently Flipkart. I know that music as we knew 20 years ago doesn't exist any more. Hip and happening air conditioned audio and video parlours dont exist today. We no more go out of rent videos or buy cassettes and CDs. Why cant this happen to shopping?

I was an early adopter of e commerce. My first purchase from an online store was in 2001 from Fabmart.com. Was a cassette. I used to buy books and CDs from Indiatimes.com. Ordered and sent flowers online to my wife (before marriage of course. I buy kindle books. Not to mention the online train and flight tickets. But I always thought that there were some things online stores wont help me with. But Aditya was questioning me and that made me think.

I recently bought an iPod online coz there was no need for me to go to a store, check the features out and touch and feel it before I buy. I knew an iPod inside out. So is that the breaking point? But I love going to malls and super markets. But is that right for everyone else? In Indian cities this might be valid as there is nothing much for people to do in the weekends other than hopping malls, restaurants and cinemas. We are not workaholics like South Koreans. People in America have a lot more to do and visit than mall hopping. I'm not saying they dont go out for shopping but a recent survey done with our friends in the US said that they thought the best way to shop was to do it online. So what are the chances that I'll also go online shopping full on...

Electronics
Definitely. If I know the exact model number i will order it online. I'll get it cheaper too. Anyway i dont get to own the demo piece i touch and feel at the store. I may actually scout around for something at the stores and then buy it online.

Grocery
As of now in India there are some stuff that are non branded (daal, chaaval) which i would like to buy in person. Moreover i like my supermarket visits. But i think the day is not far.

Vegetables
No, coz i have to make sure I'm buying fresh ones. But its again an Indian thing. I need not worry about this in America.


Food
I do order food at home on phone, havent done online yet, but nothings stopping me. But I think the eat out option will remain as dining is much more than a chore.

Jewellery
Well ahem, I have once bought jewellery online. It was a gift to my then girl friend. But when the ring came the size was wrong and I had a harrowing time in returning it and getting my money back. I haven't bought jewellery much even otherwise, so i don't know.

Clothes
I would like to try it before I buy, so may be not. Also if clothes shopping goes online my wife will go into depression. I have seen these concepts where people try out clothes on a monitor etc. May be it will happen. Btw there is something I buy without trying out; underwear.

Perfume
Again I would like to test the fragrance before I buy. However just now my wife asked me to buy this particular perfume online. I was surprised and asked her how she can buy perfumes online. She replied saying she is well aware of it's fragrance.

Shoes
Again a No from me. But recently I was talking to the designer of Myntra.com and he told me that his site gets a lot of orders from tier 2 towns in India. The fact is there are lot of rich people in these towns but they dont have the high end brand stores there. So they are forced to order it online. Very interesting. Btw Myntra.com is a very well designed site.

Sun Glasses/Frames
No, coz I have to be sure by wearing them before I buy. But again i think its a matter of time. Warby Parker, a new optical frames and sunglasses brand in the US is trying to make this happen. Not only they are trying to make frames cheaper by optmizing a lot of logistics at their end but also by making it available online. They have this 'Home Try On program' where a user can get a maximum of 5 frames delivered at home and have 5 days to return the ones he is not buying. You should check out their site. Pretty well designed.

Furniture and Other curios
Yes I will. We dont have much of these sites in India. But again in America there is Fab.com

OK that's it from my side. What do you think?

PS: Btw its interesting to know that brick and mortar stores are using mobile internet/technology to fight against the competition from desktop online stores. Most of their solutions are to bring customers to their store when on the move. But that's for another day.
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