Absolutely fascinating article from USA Today exploring what may become of the whole shopping experience not too many years in the future:
Some of what Jon Swartz, the author of that piece, notes has been on my mind for a while.
I’m not a huge mall rat, though there was a time I enjoyed heading to the mall and looking in on the bookstores and record/music stores. When MP3s appeared, the record/music stores effectively were done. I still love to purchase music, but I do so over the internet and find this the most effective way of getting my hands on what I want.
Bookstores, similarly, appear to be going the way of music stores. Nowadays, you can purchase almost any book you want (including mine!) via Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. Movies and TV shows, likewise, are appearing more and more online as well, either through pay per view services or instant viewing via Netflix or (again) Amazon.
Purchasing books, music, or movies/TV shows via the internet is incredibly convenient. You don’t have to physically go anywhere and risk not finding what you’re looking for. You also know right away whether something you’re seeking is available and can be purchased. Downloading the material is almost instantaneous. But purchasing a physical copy of said material (ie a CD or an actual book or a DVD/BluRay), isn’t all that hard either. While you have to wait for it to be mailed to you, to me this wait is not a huge inconvenience. In a matter of a couple of days or, at most, a week I have the material in hand.
Which brings us to what else is sold out there. Most electronics are available online and I’m certain many people try them out in stores and may search online for the best price for items (there’s even a term for that: showrooming). Clothing, I suspect, will take a little bit longer to enter the internet purchasing sphere. You can buy items, but part of purchasing clothing is seeing how it looks on you. And how can you sample clothing via the internet? The article does provide a glimpse into that process, and chances are that this too will soon be something people search for on the internet. The same goes with jewelry, although in that case and because of the cost one often wants to see the actual piece they intend to buy.
Food stores I suspect will survive the digital age. We all make our trips to supermarkets for the week’s food, and while online services will offer this for some, I suspect many shoppers want to see the food they eventually pay for. Bruised bananas are not an option! As for restaurants, there will be more and more online ordering, especially for chains that specialize in “to go” foods like pizza. However, I suspect people will never lose the urge to go out of the house now and again and spend a couple of hours in a restaurant eating a good meal.
Another store that will probably continue to exist is the hardware store. Not only will people always head to such stores for home improvement products, but there will continue to exist moments when such products have to be bought right away and cannot wait for the mail to deliver them (from emergencies involving plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems to simple things like needing new lightbulbs or air conditioner filters).
What all this means, in the end, is what the above article notes. The days of the shopping malls and strips malls may be coming to an end. There may come a time when small “satellite” stores are the norm, where people go into those shops to see the individual items they want to purchase and examine them but do the actual purchasing over the net and get the items delivered to their house.
The world is indeed changing.