The future of shopping is mobile

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People are swapping shopping malls for online and virtual stores at a faster rate than ever before. Combine this shift with our increasingly compulsive and indecisive nature, and you can see why online retailers are frantically coming up with new ways to entice people, so they can linger on their sites longer.

One way they are doing so this is by focusing on our closest companions: our mobile phones. This echoes one of my favourite lines from Irish comedian Dylan Moran: “I don’t know what I want, but I know that I want it now.”

Mobile apps: having a shop in your pocket

With the number of smartphone and tablet users increasing, ecommerce sites are forced to re-think their strategies. Fewer people are now logging onto their desktop computers or laptops, because downloading apps and searching on mobile phones has become easy and convenient. That is why entrepreneurs and owners of online shopping outlets like Gilt are changing the ways they represent their virtual stores.

Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, the founders of Gilt (the “darling of luxury-obsessed bargain hunters”) reckon the future of ecommerce is mobile: “You’re going to have to do a much better job at putting forward your products and services in a more simple way so that people can experience them quickly and purchase. It means that with an iPad you have to invest a lot more in photography, zoom into the smallest stitching detail.”

They believe that because everything is so immediate these days that it’s less about reading, but more about what a good picture can tell you. They are driven by the same goals that so many other e-retailers are striving for: “you see it and within a click or two you buy it.”

Google Wallet

Apart from Apple’s Siri and Google’s new Project Glass, the thought of purchasing products with a swipe on your phone using apps like Google Wallet is still something that people are getting used to. In 2011 Forbes listed its 10 trends to watch in the future of online shopping. Mobile apps are listed at number three. The news outfit said: “Smartphones are the dominant cellphone and apps for all platforms are growing. The ones that allow for price comparisons or send out coupons are already among the most heavily used with good reviews, but we’re just getting started.”

With all the change going on around us, slowly but surely we are settling into these changes, and it is these companies’ job to lead their customers effortlessly through it.

Ebay recently opened its first shop in Soho, London, where customers can go in and purchase items without any cash registers. Scanning QR codes inside the shop is done quickly and easily, after that you just wait for your purchase to be delivered.

Not quantity, but quality

Sites like Amazon or Kalahari are centred on having as much choice as possible. I, for one, feel a bit overwhelmed with so much choice when I’m in a rush to buy a present and the thought of entering a busy mall seems even more daunting.

So, if I am going to use my phone to browse an online retail store, I don’t want to be overwhelmed like I would be at a dreaded mall. I want to browse quickly and efficiently. My search results should be to the point and of good quality. That’s why stock needs to be neatly displayed with excellent visuals to make the searching and buying experience pleasant and easy.

The reason shoppers are flocking to Gilt for example, which has 3.5-million users in the US, is because it recreates what one would find in reality. Just like sample sales of luxury goods are done by invitation only, the Gilt website is run by invitation only, mimicking sample sales and giving customers first pickings of top designer labels with discount. Merchandise is displayed, as an editorial in a magazine would be, with all the accessories used to construct a complete look, instead of a pair of shoes or outfit photographed separately. A lot of effort is put into the overall look.

Making the virtual feel real

Even though we live in a technologically driven society, people still want a sense of the real. Even if you do all your shopping online, the experience should still be authentic and give you the feeling that you are spending your hard-earned money on something worthwhile. One way online retailers are doing this is to include videos and connect through social media platforms, which are conveniently and readily available on any smartphone.

However you prefer to shop, whether it is at your favourite local market, store, mall or online retailer, technology is shaping how we spend our precious dimes. Even if you haven’t converted to online shopping (yet), let’s hope ecommerce sites will continue to make the experience worthwhile by changing their strategies according to our needs and not necessarily our wants, because for now it seems the future of shopping isn’t just online, but mobile.

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