The social act of shopping is disappearing. And it’s happening quickly.
Just a decade ago, it was common for Olivia and her “mothers” to make shopping trips to regional retail locations. She and her mother, godmother (aunt) and grandmother all hopped into one vehicle and made the enjoyable one-hour drive together. Looking back to that time, nobody would be able to remember the purchases that were made. It was the windshield time—the chatter and storytelling—that was valuable.
Multi-generational shopping trips are diminishing. Instead, we have Amazon.
In CNBC’s 2017 All American Economic Survey focusing on holiday shoppers, it found that about half the consumers in this country do the majority of their purchasing online. Of that number, a whopping 75 percent shop on Amazon most of the time. Online purchases through Walmart ranked second—at a distant eight percent.
After online sales, big box retail stores came in second and department retail stores were third.
Brick and mortar businesses have an immense challenge before them. It will be interesting to see the adjustments these businesses must make to stay profitable ten years from now. Many are already choosing to partner with Amazon and make their products available online through this colossus. For businesses like Toys R Us and Younkers, it’s too late.
Online shopping is pervasive, and it’s here to stay. In fact, it’s already morphed into another creation with online personal shopping services like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. Personal stylists use information from your completed questionnaire to regularly choose and send clothing items to you.
Now, we don’t even have to “shop.” All we have to do is “get.”
Still, there’s no need to resist or protest all this online business. There are a lot of benefits to online shopping, and you can’t stop progress.
Consumers point to efficiencies and time saved as one reason to shop online. That’s understandable, as long as time saved is time spent in another social manner. In other words, we’re saving all this time—but for what?
If it’s freeing up your time for more interpersonal relationships—face to face time—that’s a good thing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s 2015 American Time Use Survey found that average, daily time spent socializing is 41 minutes.
That doesn’t seem like very much time to make personal connections with others. Texting, tweeting, emailing, Snapchatting and Facebooking don’t count. Social media and all digital communication is useful and has its place. But there’s no comparison to being fully present with the person in front of you versus making and receiving electronic comments.
Olivia is grown now and on her own. Her mother recently needed a dress for an upcoming wedding, and it would have been great fun for them to go shopping together. But the mother, one Saturday afternoon at home and alone, decided to spend a good chunk of time searching online for dresses. She found one she liked and screenshot it so she could show it later to her daughter.
On a summer day on a historic hotel porch with rocking chairs, she pulled out her smart phone and showed her daughter the digital dress desire. The daughter approved. The shopping is likely done. They shared a laugh about the new, and now much shorter, mother-daughter shopping experience.
But then they left their cozy, white-washed porch and headed out. They were going to see a play that night.
Still having adventures together—just not as many shopping ones.