The Internet Will Close the High Street
Since the advent of the internet and interpersonal networking it was always known that this technology would become a part of our everyday lives. Advertisers and marketers have always tried to find new ways to bring their products to the eyes of the general public. One of the most profitable ways they have accomplished this is by implementing the concept of online shopping. Online shopping is a form of electronic commerce used for business and consumer transaction. In this an individual can buy products from a virtual online marketplace without physically having the need to go to a store. Today with 1.6 billion users on the internet and 390 million of those users are in Europe internet shopping has become a worldwide phenomenon (Internet World Stats, 2009 ). According to a research study online U.K retail stores earned 42 billion pounds in 2007 with more than 26 million consumers online, a rise of 3500% since 2000 (Mail Online 2007) (Adrian 2008). The profits for the online retail market were 13 times greater than the overall U.K retail sector (Mail Online 2007). This article will attempt to prove a hypothesis regarding how the internet might lead to the closing of high street with the aid of primary and secondary research.
E-commerce today has become such a streamlined affair for people everywhere around the world. All that is required to partake in online shopping now is access to a computer, an internet connection and a debit card.
Arguments Supporting the Hypothesis
Online shopping not only gives consumers a wider choice of items. It is in fact quite simple for anyone who can use the internet the internet to bargain hunt for the best prices. Oftentimes companies will charge less for an item on their website than their own retail store. And even provide a special offer if you buy it online (Jarvenpaa and Todd 1997).
It also makes it easier for suppliers to provide them since they do not need to have a physical space to display the product leading to a lower overhead when it comes to staff. Since the supplier saves money by having an online presence, he can give the savings to the consumer. Oftentimes if a customer buys a large enough order, especially from an electronic site the shipping costs to the individual becomes nullified. Additionally with this system the merchants do not have a danger of being exposed to theft since their product is not in an actual store. Rather it is stocked in a warehouse.
The biggest advantage of this system is the convenience offered. Anyone can order off the internet 24 hours a day from any location and the items ordered can be delivered to any location specified. Additionally in the U.K if a customer chooses to cancel an order the online shop is not allowed charging them by law (Office of Fair Trading 2007).
Another advantage to online shopping is of course gaining information on the product itself. This is especially helpful in the case of electronic items as there are several forums and review sites on the internet which can offer a much more honest and unbiased opinion as when compared to store employees. Even videos of the product may be available as well as how to guides walking the consumer through the products paces. People may also wish to avoid physically going to stores as a means to save on petrol or to avoid dealing with sales people. There is also the risk that a person may arrive at a store and find that the item he requires is not in stock. The benefits of this system is especially apparent around holiday shopping times when individuals may want to avoid the hustle bustle of Christmas shopping and simply order online from the comfort of their own home (Harrison, Leach, and Miller 2007).
Arguments Disproving the Hypothesis
In terms of drawbacks shopping online has much greater security concerns than offline. Consumers are at a greater risk of fraud on part of the merchants. The possibility that the supplier may not deliver their products is the least damaging scenario in this case. The greatest danger is one of identity theft. There are now some storefronts online which act as legitimate businesses however they seek to manipulate consumers into giving them their credit card information for their own use. Additionally hackers can also bypass the security measures on the merchant’s websites and steal consumer information. Thus, merchants and consumers have to take extra precautions in the form of increased online security and ant viruses (Office Of Fair Trading 2007).
In comparison high street store fronts are more catered to deal with customer security issues. There is less of a chance of customer fraud when they are on location. Additionally, the consumer can physically inspect the product and even take it for a test run. If there is any defect in the product stores will usually exchange it for the same item or another similar item in stock. In terms of delivery there is also a requirement for the customer to be physically present to receive the package which is usually during business hours.
In terms of merchandise though there will of course be certain stores which will continue to perform well despite the online market. Restaurants, bar and coffee shops will continue to do well. Clothing stores and shoe stores will also not lose profit since consumers will want to physically use the product before buying. However, electronic items however such as music, movies, televisions, video games will of course be preferred online with prices being as competitive as they are. Independent stores who do not have an online presence will of course be the worst hit. There are many book stores which closed around London due to online shopping culture that has developed.
A research survey was conducted at Oxford Street in order to discover the opinion of the general public in relation to this topic. The survey was conducted between the hours of 9 A.M and 8 P.M on 24th April 2009, Oxford Street, London. A simple random sampling was taken from which 100 responses were received. The responses received from the survey indicated that 62% of men ages 17-30 preferred online shopping to retail shopping in comparison to 31% of the women. Among the group the most sought after items at retail were clothes at 72%. Music and DVDs were the items most bought among men and women online at 31%. Tickets came in second at 27%. 17% of the sampling said that they had never shopped online. 78% of the respondents said that they believed online shopping was a secure experience. Overall, the study showed that the respondents preferred shopping online to retail shopping.
It is difficult to imagine that the days of customer merchant interactions may be coming to an end. It is inevitable that shops and businesses will move to where the money is however it is saddening to think that the de-personalization of our society has gone this far. It is equally saddening to think of the businesses that will be lost due to this shift in trends. I only hope that retail shopping will find its niche by catering to those customers who prefer the experience of personal interaction rather than the calculated words written on a computer screen.
List of References
Adrian. (2008, November 8). Christmas Online Shopping Trends – 2008. [Online] Available from Impact Media Limited: <http://www.impactmedialtd.co.uk/blog/internet-news/christmas-online-shopping-trends-2008> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Harrison, D., Leach, B. and Miller, V. (2007, December 24). Online shopping puts high street in its place. [Online] Available from Telegraph Media Group: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1573490/Online-shopping-puts-high-street-in-its-place.html> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Internet World Stats. (2009 , March 31). INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS. [Online] Available from Internet World Stats: <http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Jarvenpaa, S. L. and Todd, P. A. (1997). Consumer reactions to electronic shopping on the world wide web. International Journal of Electronic Commerce 1 , 59-88.
Mail Online. (2007, August 9). Online shopping booming while high street dwindles. [Online] Available from Mail Online: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-474328/Online-shopping-booming-high-street-dwindles.html> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Office of Fair Trading. (2007, April). A Short Guide for Business on Distance Selling. [Online] Available from Office of Fair Trading: <http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft913.pdf> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Office Of Fair Trading. (2007, November). How to Protect Yourself While Trading [Online]. [Online] Available from Office Of Fair Trading: <http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft959.pdf> [Accessed on April 24, 2009]
Primary Research Survey Questionnaire
4. Have you ever shopped online? Yes or No
5. Do you prefer shopping at retail stores or shopping online? Retail or Online
6. What item do you most buy in a retail store?
7. What item do you most buy online?
8. Do you believe that shopping online is a secure experience? Yes or No