It’s that time of year when two distinct shopping tribes emerge: those who are going to flock to the malls for their Christmas shopping, and those who are going to avoid them at all costs. The avoiders (and I count myself in this group) are not only crowd phobic, but more importantly hyper allergic to the fabricated festive cheer that engulfs shopping malls at this time of year. For me, it’s not so much the garish decorations and fake snow that offends, but rather the soundtrack that malls feel they have to bombard the shoppers with: an incessant loop of Christmas carols, with a track or two of Boney-M thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, that brings out a Scrooge-like reaction in many people.
However, for the “bah humbug” shoppers there is light at the end of the tunnel – or rather a touch screen. Online shopping is evolving at an incredible rate, and while retailers started out looking at the online vs offline shopping experience as two separate entities, it is becoming very clear that it is going to be a hybrid of the two shopping experiences that is the new emerging trend.
Online shopping will continue to grow, and increasingly it will service the shopper looking for convenience: ie – replenishing non-perishable groceries, and buying items like home ware, gifts and books. In a country like South Africa, where clothing sizes are not uniform, and where shoppers still like the social as well as tactile element of shopping, the bricks and mortar experience is here to stay. However, the loss of foot traffic, and therefore sales, from online shopping has already started to affect the bottom line for many retailers. They not only have to up their game in terms of providing a “retail theatre” experience, but also keep a close watch on a new retail trend: the touch screen shoppable window.
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