The Cyber Shopping Experience

The Cyber Shopping Experience

Has the excitement to line up in front of stores in the wee hours of the morning to get the best bargains on “Black Friday” died out? With the endless selection and easy comparison shopping available online, many bargain hunters have switched from waiting in front of stores the morning after Thanksgiving to shopping for gifts from home. Not only have many shoppers found making purchases online convenient and time saving, but more retailers are taking advantage of the newly coined “Cyber Monday,” and joining in with other retailers in running their best deals of the year on Cyber Monday.

According to a study by ComScore, a digital market research organization, “Cyber Monday reached $1.028 billion in online spending, up 16 percent versus a year ago, representing the heaviest online spending day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar threshold.” The chairman of ComScore, Gian Fulgon, noted that the increased online spending trend is largely due to the fact that many Cyber Monday shoppers were buying while at work, which is confirmed by a National Retail Federation survey that found more than 70 million office workers planned on taking advantage of sales on Cyber Monday.  Fulgon cautioned that the increase in Cyber Monday sales was largely due to “the result of retailers’ heavier-than-normal promotional and discounting activity at this early point in the season…only time will tell if overall consumer online spending remains at the elevated levels we’ve seen thus far.” Even if the statistics for online consumerism do not remain as powerful as they were the week after Thanksgiving, it is safe to say that online holiday shopping is a valuable tool for retailers to utilize.

Not only are the online sales drawing in shoppers, but since sales tax is not typically charged on online purchases, and free or reduced shipping rates are becoming more common, shoppers are finding more reasons than ever to shop online. Amazon.com consistently offers free shipping on orders over $25, Zappos.com is offering free standard shipping on everything through the 23rd of December, and Overstock.com always offers free shipping, except for media items such as games and dvds.

Many online retailers have addressed the concerns of shoppers who are wary of purchasing clothing and other items that typically need to be tested or tried on in the store. Zappos.com, a popular shoe retailer which also sells clothing, watches, and houseware items offers detailed product info so that shoppers can accurately assess what size they need with a measuring tape. Emily Van Dyke, a Junior at Providence Christian College (PCC) bought dresses online during Cyber Monday and found product descriptions and user reviews extremely important in making the decision to risk buying clothing online without trying it on.

Although many people love the deals they can find online, for many, the aesthetic experience of shopping in store still draws many people to physical stores. Providence students Emily De Boer and Shelli Cammenga both expressed their appreciation for what in store shopping offers, especially around Christmas. De Boer said that she enjoys in store shopping, saying, “you can enjoy the time more, and can interact with what you’re purchasing by touching it, trying it on, and testing the quality.” Cammenga added, “I can see it alongside other options and carry it physically out of the store knowing I have exactly what I wanted. I also love the aura of Christmas shopping, the Christmas music, the sales, and the hustle and bustle!” A study by Millward Brown, a global marketing agency, shows that this nostalgia for in store shopping is still shared by about half of American shoppers. According to the study,

  • 49% of participants said they appreciate the ideas they get while browsing;
  • 42% of those surveyed said they enjoy the atmosphere of stores during the holidays.

It remains to be seen if the economy is a temporary driving force behind half of Americans leaving stores for the deals that can be found online, or if it is a trend that will only increase with each coming year. With Americans almost evenly divided between online and in store shopping, there may always be room for both methods of holiday shopping.