Living on campus, I’ve made many trips to the mail room in my first few weeks back at BC. It’s amazing how many boxes are back there and the main reason for this…is online shopping. Especially on a college campus, where so many students don’t have access to cars, students rely heavily on Amazon among other online outlets for all their basic needs. Amazon locks you in the minute you receive your .edu email and can register for 6 months of free prime.
It’s amazing how we can simply look a couple images online, read a couple product details, and make a purchase instantly– and with Prime barely 48 hours later and the product is in our hands. After interning at a software startup this summer, I learned all the effort that brands and retailers have to go through to keep this information consistent and updated. For example, we expect certain information when we search for a product online, but different sites might have different images or details for the same product. As a consumer this can lead to us preferring certain sites simply because of the additional information they provide us with before we make the purchase.
See below comparing buying the same pair of Nike’s on Nordstrom and Bloomingdales:
On the left we see that Nordstrom’s offers a high quality image of the shoe, but that’s it… only one image. Whereas Bloomingdale’s shows us many different angles of the shoe that consumers may want to view before deciding to buy it.
The most interesting thing about this is that if both websites are offering the same exact product then I can research it on one site and buy it on the other. Although I would argue Nordstrom’s has the weaker product information, they are offering the shoe at 25% and free shipping… so I may find the item on Bloomingdale’s, but decide to buy it on Nordstrom because of these perks. This means that there’s more pressure on retailers to offer incentives for you to purchase the product right then, before you have time to snoop around on competitors websites to ultimately buy the product. This urgency for you to convert before looking elsewhere has led sellers to try to find ways to capture you in your weak, impulsive moment.
A feature that has become increasingly popular among online outlets is offering free shipping and free returns. This feeds into our likelihood of impulse buying something. If all you have to do is click a button to make a purchase and the company is telling you if you don’t like it you can put it in the mail for free— then what’s the harm in clicking?
All in all it seems like between one click purchasing, 2 day shipping, and free returns the impulse buy is rising in popularity. Making purchases has become so easy and convenient for consumers in a large part because of the amount of detail we can instantly learn about a product. As this content continues to improve and shipping times continue to decrease it’ll be amazing how the online shopping experience will change.