Online vs Traditional Shopping

What are your views on online shopping?

     I mean, let’s look at the conventional way that you would do shopping or the traditional way. It began with open market system. In open market system, you expose your skin to the season, you see the sunlight, you trod along, you find a nice shop to enter to, you interact with the grocer, you interact with the shopkeeper, you interact with the tailor in an open market system and if it rains, you are caught in the rain; a lot of sense of adventure, a sense of confronting hostilities of nature and a sense of interacting with people. That is open market system. The second system of shopping is malls, which is seasoned. It is acclimatized through air-conditioning or heating. It has marble flooring. There is no exposure of yourself to the hostility of seasons, whether there is harsh sunlight or whether there is rain or wind. But then you do a mall walking, you browse through many shops and then you have lot of things to feast your eye on like window shopping, there are mannequins, there are a lot of art work of various people. Everything is artistic. The people there interact with you artistically, the seller is polite, the mannequins are decorated, there are many many professions including window dressing of things which are a profession by itself. And then you, maybe, meet people. You see other people like you doing mall walking, you see the multiple cultural richness of your city when people come together in a mall to do shopping. So there is a lot of added advantage. You go to a supermarket you chose the product from a shelf, you understand that what is the footfall in that supermarket, what is your community buying, what each other are buying. Like you go to buy tomatoes and there are about 25 kilos of tomatoes stored in one shop and may be 100 kilo of ladies-finger stored in the same shop beside the tomatoes. Then you know the consumption style of your fellow people in your same city. So you can make decisions on many many things. You have got much more data to make a decision.
     Now comes the online shopping. So I think you have eliminated the fun part of it of interaction with people. Your understanding of how your society works is no more evident to you and maybe it is not like feet on street. You are not getting used to walking. So you sit in a place and you click a button and perhaps you miss out on educating yourself on all the possibilities of how the inventory is controlled. I mean you get basic ideas on how the inventory is controlled, how the billing system is done with people in a queue, how people behave in a queue. As a social person, you want to enrich your knowledge about your society. I think online shopping eliminates all this potential of learning, potential of fun, potential of touch and feel of things when you purchase. If you are looking for a brand of a perfume in a shop as you walk into a mall, you can touch and feel it; there is a sensor bottle available to you as a sample, the person there educates you on the properties of the product you want to buy, the features, the characteristics. Now, all these things are not evident to you; perhaps the brand may make you feel you know the product because of past purchases but yet you cannot make even a spontaneous decision in an online shopping. We get very detached from the world of sensitivity to people, sensitivity to touch and feel of products and then we start getting more and more confined to indoors and perhaps that lack of activity of interacting with people and exchanging views in many many platforms. I mean you may be able to exchange views in a wedding ceremony and not perhaps in shopping, but the platform in shopping exposes you to many surprise visits, surprise meetings, surprise incidents that could take place and that gives a sense of activity for the mind. Devoid of this the mind goes into severe excruciating pain of boredom, excruciating pain of loneliness, or maybe some kind of depression. So get out; go to the mall, go to the open market, do the shopping yourself, get the touch and feel of the market, meet new people.

What do you see as the future of online shopping?

     I think online buying will be limited on a long term basis because, firstly, the distance that one has to travel to deliver some good will be too much to travel and that will be one of the deterrent for people to be addicted to online shopping. Secondly, it looks lucrative because the investment is not so high, so the return on investment is also standardized to maybe 25% of what is the total investment. But if you are looking to cater on your every rupee 10 times return of investment, that needs scaling up and that scaling up, perhaps throughout the country may not work out because there will always be a local shop that gives a touch and feel, that interacts personally with people, the consumer, that keeps the consumer engaged not just a purchase experience, but also a friendly connect. For example, somebody goes to pick up some ballpoint pens for his son to write in the notebook or look for a gadget. But then that shopkeeper may feel so close that he may divulge some experience of how to buy a house or which school is appropriate for your son or where to get the uniform for your daughter. So this kind of friendly connectivity with the seller in a traditional shop may not be available to an online shopper. So I think online shopping will just become a hobby, it will never become a mainstream shopping or a purchase habit. An online purchase will never replace a mall walk or a visit to the open market. The conveniences, of course for some items, very exclusive items, very secluded items, very niche items, perhaps that does not require one to socialize, one to participate in other activities of interaction with people, there is no fun factor in it; for example somebody is buying a very branded audio speaker system. He may have very exact clarity on what he wants and that could be a one-time purchase things. I think the disadvantage, to articulate it better,is that a daily purchase thing will never come online; a one-time purchase thing may come online

     I mean, I agree that there is some kind of comfort and convenience in online shopping, but come on people you know, there is impossibility of bumping into an old friend, even as a surprise. I mean, just look at the times that you have observed other people, you have bumped into people you wanted to meet, you bumped into people whom you knew surprisingly. All these happened in a mall when you went to pick up things there. Now what is the cost of eliminating all these good times of your life, these memorable times of your life? What is the cost of that just for the convenience and comfort of buying some things, a product or two, online? So I am not a fan of online shopping. I have always seen that feet on street will be the ultimate choice because that has scalability, because every time I knew market evolves or emerges, even online shoppers will be shocked that they may not be accessing it as fast, as trend will start changing. Most probably the shopkeepers will stock more goods, more trendy things than what is available online.
     So, there are so many products in the market. Finally the sellers start competing with each other. It is just that there is so much of product to sell and there is so less demand from people, because some how people have to be kept occupied. Everybody wants to be active. Everybody wants to be kept occupied. Now how do you do that? I mean you know you have a limitation of number of entertainment industry items to do; you watch a movie, go karting, water parks, theme parks, zoo, you go paragliding, you buy some things, you go shopping, you start eating how much ever fancy foods you have, you have comfort food, you have finger foods, you have pastime foods, you have main course, appetizers, desserts. So how much ever you invent more and more things to do, yet people have to keep on doing things. But then how much would you consume and if you do not do things and you have a tendency to be active, I think that is when people become violent because there is a restlessness in them that they want to extinguish by doing something active, by involving something externally to them by producing a product. But when there are no products to produce further, they do not have the capability to produce a new product and they are not able to buy new product, they are not able to interact, transact. So then a sort of violence will dominate and then the violence will begin, because there is no activity; maybe there is no cinema theater, there is no opera, there is no art, there is no music, there is no book reading events. There are so little events in some countries and the restlessness of the mind remains the same that they find no things to do. So then finally they take up some means to fight, to kill each other. So I think, you have to attend to that. So, that emotion of having to create things, finally have made more sellers than buyers, because all the people do not need all the products. So, ultimately, slowly the more number of shops started in the same locality, now that many number of shops are not needed, that many products are not needed. Finally, this value add over the money of the product and the value add will reach into your house. You drop a bucket from your balcony and we will fill that with the products that you need, just tell us on the phone. Now that graduated to - you don't even have to drop a bucket, we will come to your floor and knock you on your door - and now that tendency, because of so many products the seller are now somehow trying to make it more convenient for the buyer to purchase. Now that is perhaps the origin of this online shopping, that the comfort and convenience is enhanced to the purchase experience, that is, one can sit in his lounge, in his room, in his house just lounging watching TV and then the product is dropped to his house. So I think ultimately once you stop producing, because the planet Earth has finite and limited raw material, the consumption will stop. Then once again the sellers will start making it cumbersome or the burden of procuring a product will be on the buyer. See now what I am telling is that right now, we have produced so many things that people are pushing the things into the houses. So online shopping can become little profitable. But yet I don't think a time will come and it will become lucrative.

Go Back

About the Author:
Mr. Vinod Kumar is popular columnist from India who provides amazing insights and perspectives on diverse topics. He is a good writer, motivator, trainer, consultant and a mentor to many. His interests span media, politics, sports, food, travel, leisure, and study of the mind. His articles are provided exclusively on finomenon.org