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Imagine A Mall Without Any Stores: Will Online Shopping Make Retail Units Obsolete?

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The number of people who shop online is increasing year on year. In 2016, shoppers made 51 percent of purchases online, and this is a trend that has been developing and gathering speed over the course of the last five years. With Internet shopping on the rise, is it unquestionable to think of a mall without any stores? In years to come, will the idea of going shopping with friends or indulging in retail therapy involve gathering around a screen or discussing purchases and swapping photos on an instant messaging group?

The rise of Internet shopping

Research suggests that the popularity of online shopping is growing all the time. There are more sites out there, there’s more choice, and people are increasingly reliant on convenient ways of shopping. While there’s still a strong case for physical stores, especially during peak periods, like the holidays, there’s no getting away from the fact that more people are choosing to use the Internet rather than visiting a store. Trends show that it’s also not just a case of shopping on your favourite store’s website. Online-only shops are also beginning to dominate the market. According to data from the Office for National Statistics in the UK, businesses like Amazon and Asos are building their client base on a daily basis. In 2015, these online-only stores took almost 50 pence out of every pound spent online. This is a significant increase from 41 pence in 2014.

Online shopping is more accessible than ever before, and it’s available 24-hours a day, almost anywhere imaginable. In 2017, 96 percent of Americans shopped online. Although most purchases are still made offline, the gap between the web and physical stores is closing all the time.

What’s so good about online shopping?

Online shopping offers a range of benefits for consumers, especially those who don’t have the time or energy to hit the shops. With an Internet connection, you can browse, choose an item and pay in a matter of seconds. Time is of the essence for many shoppers. Although some enjoy moseying around the stores and trying things on, shopping is not everyone’s idea of fun, and online shopping can make the experience much less stressful and time-consuming. You can order what you want or need at the tap of a button from anywhere you like. You can shop in bed, on the train or while you’re sipping a cool drink on vacation. There are virtually no limits when it comes to online shopping due to advances in connectivity and the widespread availability of wifi networks and 4G. The Internet also makes shopping accessible to everyone. If you struggle to get out and about, you have health issues, or you don’t drive, getting the items you want doesn’t have to be a military operation. You no longer have to worry about getting public transport or asking for lifts. You can shop from the comfort of your own sofa.

Internet shopping is not just advantageous because it saves time and effort. You can also access a much wider range of goods online, and the web can also open you up to new shopping experiences. If you’ve ever used auction sites, for example, you may understand the thrill of winning the contest and securing a product at a bargain price. Online shopping gives you the chance to switch up the way you shop and find out more about different techniques and experiences offered by retailers. The rise in popularity of online shopping has also prompted retailers to work on their USP. There’s a huge amount of competition out there, and this benefits the customer. Companies are building on existing ideas and models to make them better. If you’re looking for an example, check out this article entitled Here’s How DealDash Is Revolutionizing The Online Auction Industry, and take note of the differences between these auctions and traditional pay to enter auctions. As a consumer, competition brings new opportunities and enhanced experiences, which you can’t enjoy when you trawl stores at a mall. There’s also the small matter of money. When you go shopping, it’s not always possible to see how much the items you want cost at different stores. With online shopping, you can compare prices in seconds. This means that it’s easier than ever to get more for your money.

Another advantage of online shopping is the ability to learn about products before you buy. In a store, you’re probably not going to have a load of reviews posted on the shelf below a TV, a laptop or a garden furniture set. If you’re online, you can read independent reviews and customer comments before you make a decision.

Are there any downsides?

Nothing is perfect, and if you surveyed a group of people about their online shopping experiences, there are bounds to be gripes and complaints in there somewhere. Perhaps the most significant difference between Internet shopping and traditional shopping is the inability to enjoy the experience of going into a shop, interacting with assistants, trying the products for size and taking advantage of that personal touch. The online experience is very different. It’s faster, it’s more clinical, and there’s always an element of risk involved. Some stores offer free returns to eliminate anxiety about what happens if a product isn’t suitable, but this isn’t a universal perk. There’s also a chance that you’ll end up receiving something that looks completely different to the product you thought you’d ordered. We’ve all seen hilarious examples of online shopping gone wrong in the papers, but this is the risk you run when you haven’t got a product in front of your very eyes.

flickr/usmarshalls

Although we laud online shopping for its convenience and speed, it can still be a more time-consuming process than going into a shop. If you want something straight away, buying in-store is almost always the best option. Even if same-day delivery is available, this is likely to come at a cost, and you’ll still have to wait hours rather than seconds or minutes.

So what does the future hold for the high street?

If you listen to broadcasts or read the news, it’s not uncommon for high street giants to report losses. The trouble is that it’s hard to ascertain the causes of slow sales. In the UK, some retail magnates are struggling, but is this purely the result of rising online retailers? It’s unlikely that the popularity of online shopping is the sole cause, especially as many of the companies that are hitting the headlines have a strong online presence. There are many factors at work, including political change and uncertainty, and some businesses are going through a period of adjustment to try and cater to new consumer trends.

The key to surviving in any business is being able to adapt to a changing environment. Time brings change, and in this case, retailers who are used to packed shop floors need to adjust to new ways of shopping. Many are stepping up their online game to attract new customers, but it also makes sense to try and make traditional forms of shopping more appealing. The aim is to enhance the experience so that customers enjoy the time they spend in-store. If they have fun, they’re impressed with the service and the shop looks the part, this is going to make them want to return and also encourage them to recommend that store to others. From installing DJs in a trendy clothing store on a Saturday afternoon to providing interactive displays featuring products on sale in a tech store, there’s a lot to be said for actually going into a shop still.

What factors affect your decisions?

When you think about shopping, what factors influence the decisions you make and ultimately, make the difference between shopping online or visiting a store? Do you prefer the personalised experience on offer in a shop or do you enjoy the speed and convenience of shopping from your living room? Sometimes, the type of products you buy makes a difference. You may feel much more comfortable ordering books, games or films online than you would a wedding dress, a state of the art TV or a new pair of shoes, for example. There’s also the question of time. If you’ve got spare time, perhaps you’d like to spend it perusing the shelves. If, on the other hand, you’re in a mad rush, you probably don’t want to contend with traffic, finding a parking space and waiting in line for the fitting room. There’s also the issue of accessibility. If you can walk to a store in five minutes, this is going to save you more time than it would to place an order and then wait for delivery. However, if you don’t drive, you work shifts, or you don’t live near a shopping centre, online shopping is a much more attractive proposition. Everyone is different, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Choose how to shop based on what you need, how much time you have and what kind of experience you’re looking for.

There’s no doubt that the Internet has changed the way we shop. With online shopping on the rise, it may seem likely that retail stores are doomed, but there’s every chance that many will adapt and adjust effectively. We may be fans of online shopping, but don’t write off your favourite high street stores just yet.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.

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How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Customers

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As a company owner, you should always be aiming to improve your business by whatever means necessary. After all, when your business evolves over time, it means that you are adapting to consumer habits and staying on top of current trends – giving your business the longevity it deserves. Thankfully, there are also various ways in which you can go about improving your business. For example, this could include: 

  • Hiring new staff with innovative ideas.
  • Retaining staff who make a real difference in the workplace, reducing employee turnover rates.
  • Investing in new employees by offering unique training programs or giving them a chance to develop new skills. 
  • Developing new products or services that cannot be purchased elsewhere. 
  • Moving from working from within your home and opening up a store or office space. 
  • Updating your business plan regularly to account for your growth. 
  • Brushing up on your finances, ensuring that you stay within budget and spend your money wisely.
  • Reaching out to investors who can help you take your brand to the next level.
  • Introducing a new marketing campaign to increase your brand’s visibility. 
  • Developing a better relationship with your customers. 

While any of the above suggestions are a great way to go about growing your business, the most important is developing the relationship you have with your customers. After all, a business without customers will struggle to stay afloat for more than a few weeks.

With that in mind, here are some ways in which you can begin to develop a better relationship with your customers. 

Know who your customers are. This is perhaps the most obvious ways to improve your relationship with your customers – and it doesn’t mean that you have to memorise every name or face that comes into your store. Instead, you should ensure that you have a clear understanding of your target audience and demographic. For example, while you may have a vision of your typical customer in your head – you need to ensure that this is reflected in the people that actually purchase or use your products/services. There are various ways in which you can achieve this goal. For example, you could: 

  • Monitor consumer habits
  • Host focus groups 
  • Ask for customer information when making a purchase
  • Studying analytics on social media. 

Remember, your target audience may be defined by the following characteristics: 

  • An age group.
  • A gender.
  • A geographical location.
  • Special hobbies.
  • Skills and Interests. 
  • Careers.
  • Lifestyles.

Once you have a better understanding of your target audience, it will be easier to ensure that you are providing them with everything they need. As a result, they will develop a closer affinity to your brand as they feel as though it was made just for them!

Make them feel important. Studies suggest that customers are happiest when they feel important. Therefore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by simply ensuring that you make them feel special. For example, you could attach a note to each order that thanks them for their purchase. Alternatively, you could put a loyalty scheme in place or offer discounts to returning customers – which can help you win over new customers while retaining your old ones. 

Make it easier for them to communicate with you. The key to any relationship is being able to communicate freely with each other. Therefore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by making it easier for them to reach you should they have any questions. For example, in addition to a telephone line, you should give your customers plenty of different ways to contact you. This could include: 

  • A postal address.
  • A customer service specific email.
  • An online chat function.

However, managing multiple different channels like this can prove to be a challenge if you don’t have the right technology at your side. For example, you could use dashboard software, such as those provided by Click4Assistance, to monitor different chats and calls simultaneously. For more information, visit this website

Furthemore, you can also improve the way in which you communicate with your customers by being active on social media. Not only does this mean that your customers can contact you through direct messaging or comments, but it also puts your brand on the map by making you visible to a much wider audience. When curating your social media presence – you should ensure that your content reflects your brand. Don’t focus on overly professional language – instead, try to be as approachable and friendly as possible – as this will help customers relate to your brand. When customers find you approachable, they are more likely to make a purchase. 

Another way in which you can better communicate with your customers is by setting up a mailing list. While they may seem outdated in the world of social media, they are a great way to keep your customers in the loop and let them know about any upcoming product releases. 

Admit your mistakes. As a business owner, how others perceive your brand will likely be incredibly important to you. As a result, this means that you may be keen to bury any mistakes you make so that they cannot tarnish your reputation. However, this is not the right attitude to take on if you want to develop a relationship with your customers – as simply ignoring complaints or negative reviews will only drive them away. Therefore, you should ensure that you respond quickly to any negative complaints and reviews – and work with the customer to resolve this issue sooner rather than later. This also means that you need to be honest about any mistakes that you may have made in the past. Holding yourself accountable will actually make yourself more attractive to potential customers. 

Focus on innovation. If you want to retain customers, you need to ensure that you continue to provide them with new goods or services. After all, it’s unlikely that they will continue to buy the same product over and over again. Therefore, you should work hard to ensure that you remain on top of your game – introducing new and innovative products to the market as often as possible. While this doesn’t mean you should rush to launch a new product or service every month, you should always have a new plan or idea in the pipeline. Furthemore, you should also ensure that the products/services you are working on align with current consumer trends. 

Get online. Another way in which you can develop your relationship with your customers is by making your business more accessible. For example, while many customers may visit your store to make a purchase – others may prefer to shop online. In this case, you need to make sure that your website is up to scratch and easy to navigate. The easiest way to draw in new customers online is by improving the user experience of your website.  For example, a broken link or malfunctioning site does not necessarily make your brand appear trustworthy – while a seamless and functional website will demonstrate your professionalism and help you connect with a global audience. 

Furthemore, you should also ensure that your website is as accessible as possible. For example, you could add audio descriptions of products or text so that those who may be deaf or hard of hearing can navigate your site freely. You should also ensure that you caption any videos or add alternative descriptions underneath images. 

Be great at what you do. Perhaps the simplest way in which you can improve your relationship with your customers by being great at what you do – and providing them with the consistency they require. For example, you should ensure that every aspect of your business is always up to scratch – from product development to administration.  Being great at what you do means that your customers will always stick around and invest their money into your brand. 

Similarly, you should never underestimate the importance of good customer service skills – and you must ensure that every employee is trained within the area. For example, they should be bright, friendly and ready to answer any questions that come their way. This means that they need to develop excellent skills in communication alongside a lot of patience and intuition. This is particularly important when dealing with difficult customers who always complain -but will also allow them to develop lasting relationships with friendly customers too. 

In short, there are various steps you can take to ensure that you improve your relationship with your customers – many of which simply revolve around adopting a ‘customer-centric mindset. By making important decisions regarding your business with the customer in mind, you’ll be able to emphasise the fact that they are at the core of everything you do – thus making your brand appear more attractive and improving retention rates. Furthemore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by making it abundantly clear that you care about them and want to provide them with only the best. Doing so will make it easier for customers to trust you and purchase your products or services.

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What Is Cryptocurrency And Why Is It So Volatile?

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Cryptocurrency has recently made headlines, exploding into the spotlight with the same relentless intensity that characterises its value and demand.

However, as they become more mainstream, they may become confusing. It’s money, but there’s no bank looking after it or controlling it; it’s an asset, but it’s not backed up by anything tangible.

Here is a brief overview of cryptocurrency and a quick look at why it is so volatile.

What is it?

In a nutshell, it is the digital equivalent of money. It is designed to function in almost the same way: users have wallets in which they can keep money, which is used to symbolize value in the economy and can be exchanged for goods or services with others.

Cryptocurrency, like much money in today’s traditional banking system, does not exist tangibly; instead, it is recorded as figures in a database that signify how much of a particular cryptocurrency a certain person has.

However, in contrast to today’s banking system, is decentralised. Rather, it is recorded in the blockchain, which is distributed throughout the network and records transactions in a transparent and verifiable manner that belongs to no one individual or organization in particular.

The first of them was bitcoin, which was developed in 2009 by an unknown individual known only as Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, a slew of new cryptocurrencies has sprouted up. These include ethereum and dogecoin. It is interesting to look into the background of these, and ask yourself who created Dogecoin?

Why are there so many?

A cryptocurrency can hypothetically be created by anyone; at their foundation, they are just software, therefore anyone can create one. There is no authoritative body that decides what is and isn’t a cryptocurrency.

As a result, dozens of new cryptocurrencies, known as altcoins, have emerged. Some of them have grown into consistent performers, leading to predictions that they could turn bitcoin on its head and become the most valuable cryptocurrency.

Some of these altcoins aim to provide innovative answers to problems that exist with large players like bitcoin, such as making transactions easier or more efficient. Others, such as Dogecoin, which originated as a joke, are developed solely as alternatives.

They sometimes move in sync, with the entire cryptocurrency market fluctuating in response to certain pieces of news. However, traders occasionally switch between currencies, as when the price of dogecoin soared thanks to the support of figures such as Elon Musk.

What makes cryptocurrency so volatile?

Unlike traditional financial assets like stocks and commodities, cryptocurrencies are not valued in terms of what they can be used for; in theory, they are a bet on a company’s future profits or the usefulness of a given material, but cryptocurrencies are primarily a bet on how interested people are in them.

Cryptocurrencies, unlike traditional fiat currencies, do not have a central bank entrusted with employing monetary policy to keep their value from fluctuating too much.

As a result, the value of cryptocurrencies varies dramatically, frequently and without warning, and without always being linked to evident world events.

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Marketing Practices That Could Remain After The Pandemic

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The global pandemic has changed businesses in many ways, and marketing, in particular, has seen a lot of developments over the last year. Businesses have had to adapt to digital practices quickly, which has changed the way they promote their activities. It has also changed consumer behavior, meaning tactics need to change to reach them in new and innovative ways.

While businesses are beginning to revert to some sort of normality, there are some practices that will continue even after the pandemic is over. Discover some of the marketing practices that could be here to stay.

A greater focus on retaining existing customers

The global pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s shopping behaviors. It’s no secret that brand loyalty has been in decline over the years, largely due to consumers’ preference for convenience – especially in the digital age. But the pandemic has made this even more apparent, with many consumers switching brands as a result of supply chain issues and more. For businesses, putting your energy into retaining your existing customers could yield better results than trying to win over existing customers. 

The resurgence of the QR code

Just over a year ago, people might have turned their nose up at the idea of using a QR code in a marketing campaign. Did people know what they were? What did they achieve? Well, thanks to the pandemic, QR codes have had something of a resurgence. Exploring QR code APIs can help you work out how they can be used in your marketing campaigns effectively to bring the best results for your business. QR codes are capable of generating some great data, helping you measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Localized marketing

The pandemic has shifted a lot of people away from busy cities and urban areas, and into more rural neighborhoods. This has meant that businesses are having to change their marketing tactics to provide a more personalized, local feel that better aligns with changing behaviors. People are choosing to shop locally and choose local-based businesses, and you’ll need to think carefully about how you can form better engagement with those audiences to help spread the word about your business.

Bigger budgets for social media advertising

With people spending more time at home, they are more active online watching box sets, shopping, gaming and more. This means they might be less likely to see more traditional advertising such as billboards and subway signs. Social media advertising can help you reach those audiences, providing a great ROI compared to other forms of advertising. Ensuring social media is a firm part of your marketing strategy can help you reach your audiences where they are, and even save money compared to your spend on more traditional advertising. 
Change is nothing new for the marketing world. The pandemic has seen some major developments, and as we enter the ‘new normal,’ it will be interesting to see what comes next. Staying up to date on current marketing trends can keep your business relevant, and help secure the best results for your business – no matter what’s happening in the rest of the world.

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