Like every new technology, when online shopping was introduces in the late 90’s, it was met with a good amount of opposition – Ifs and buts. Experts shunned it away saying it wouldn’t work as projected. Nobody will reveal their identity online, let alone shopping – said gurus. Fast forward to 2012, Online shopping has been growing at a rate speedier than ever, especially post 2000.
The experts were probably right then.
At the time when online shopping was introduced, it was a new experience to us. It was the age of forums and scams on the Internet. It was a shady place, wasn’t it? Who’d trust it? I for once knew that I’m not giving my credit card details to any website, thanks to the Nigerian king. Today, I’m not even sure how many databases has my name and credit card details on. I’ve been buying stuff off Flipkart, Amazon regularly and many other places for one off purchases. I still don’t like the idea of giving access to my credit card, so I have a dedicated account for online use. But I do realize that my thoughts regarding online shopping has changed – dramatically that is.
I have begun to either trust or don’t really think its a threat anymore.
Back in 90’s I never trusted websites. Today, I have a better understanding of how things work. I have begun to trust some of them. Or at least, I have begun to think that its no big deal. Since I have a dedicated online shopping account with limited funds available anytime, I don’t really care if someone hacks into it. Well, not so much like how I used to be scared earlier.
My first online shopping experience was with Rediff.com when they opened up COD (Cash on Demand) purchases. I remember it was a T-Shirt with some cheesy lines on it. It was more like a test dose. I didn’t really believe that someone would ship it to my home for free, all the time with the uncertainty of me not purchasing it. But it was a good ice breaker. It felt good after the first purchase. Like I felt more confident about it.
Well, things have definitely changed a lot since then, and online shopping is more a habit than a luxury for most of us. But it still has a long way to go.
Here are ten things I think online shopping sites should introduce so people like me can buy more.
1. Same day shipping at no extra cost, should be standard.
I’m sure they are working on this already but this should be standard. There must be no or very minimal difference between shopping from my grocery across the street or Amazon. Sounds like too much a thing to ask, but this I think is one way of minimizing the difference between online shopping and “regular” shopping. It means a better, larger and efficient distribution system for the retailers. Oh well! Amazon Prime is close enough.
2. Loyalty Programs, if you want me to buy in more frequent cycles.
I shop regularly at Aeropostale, be it Dubai or US, for two reasons. One, I really love their stuff. Two, they have the best loyalty program. Like, they always let you know if new stocks have arrived, give discounts on repeat visits, additional discounts on foursquare check ins and they make me feel good by customizing my experience. Basically, I feel closer to the brand. We like that, don’t we? But in online shopping, I still haven’t come across a good to trust, reliable, sensible loyalty program. There are loyalty programs, but they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. They don’t offer user customized experiences. I wish if they did, and I’d gladly succumb to the temptation.
3. Customize the shopping experience for me.
Some sites like Amazon does it well. Most of them do. But how relevant is it, at this point? I’m unsure if its closer to what it was supposed to be. The difference is the thinking and the pattern analysis. At this point, what most online shopping platforms do is cater you more suggestions based on what you’ve already bought or searched for. This is only step 1 to customization and retail stores do it anyways. I would like a better pattern analysis here, like suggest me new styles based on my taste and liking including online technologies. Like, if I’m buying clothes from Zappos, I wouldn’t mind giving them my body measurements, complexion, taste, style etc and I wouldn’t mind getting suggestions from labels. Its the online world, and we could use the technologies available to cater a better tailor made experience, can’t we? Today, we’re trying to match up with the retail experience, wen we can actually make it better. Remember Ray Ban glasses, Augmented Reality app?
4. Give me credit for what I’m worth
Online shopping sites should start rolling free credit accounts for credit worthy folks, even if I haven’t bought anything from you ever. Get me to break the ice with a trial. May be I’ll continue with it – it is not cutting it away anyways. Imagine Amazon opening an invite only free credit account feature where you apply and they approve you based on credit score, and you get to shop right away at discounted prices? I wouldn’t go anywhere else – would I?
5. Bring the Social thing on! (Read use peer recommendation engine.)
Why not? The only reason why I would pick that expensive pair of Beat audio headphones is because I know its cool with my folks (They’re good quality by the way). People like to show off that kinds stuff. We are using social in a very rudimentary form today, but I’d like to see it take over. It would be fun to get recommendations from my friends as to what is cool and what not. Today our social experience with most shopping sites end with liking a product or sharing it on facebook. A clever, deeper integration? Come on!
Okay, I might have gone over the top with some of them, but you get the idea. Open up a little bit, make it a little more fun and better an experience, wed buy more.
What are your thoughts? Why would you buy more from online shopping sites?