I found this article by architect and town planner Richard McLaughlin about retailers and changing shopping habits interesting. He discusses three kinds of shopping: warehouse, amenity and discretionary. (Basically: stuff you need, stuff you convince yourself you need, and stuff you buy -- or just look at -- for pleasure.) It seems likely that e-commerce will gobble up more and more of the first two categories, which could have consequences for big retailers whose businesses are primarily warehouse and amenity shopping. If you think of the Web as an exercise in big-box retailing and ruthlessly efficient distribution, which will become most critical for established retailers: Concentrating a lot of stuff in one physical place, or creating a brand whose real-world hallmarks can continue to support that business online? Pottery Barn and the Gap have brand identities that work online -- or at least they do for me -- but is that true of Wal-Mart or Target? And how will any retailer make up the money they make on impulse purchases? What's the cyber-equivalent of an endcap or the stuff you wind up grabbing while in the checkout line?
Discretionary shopping is where things could get really interesting. If warehouse and amenity shopping become largely online activities, discretionary shopping will feel quite different than it does today. Looking around in physical stores will be a big change from clicking, paying and taking deliveries, and customers will soon demand a different experience, one that feels unique and can't be replicated online. We'll expect better customer service, individual attention, coffee and snacks, in-store entertainment -- all in pursuit of crafting unique, real-world brands that portray themselves as lifestyles, not just retailers.
-- "A Sea Change in Shopping," WSJ, Dec 4, 06
Emphasis on the three types of shopping mine, because I always find attempts to define and impose taxonomy interesting.
As a side note to Jason Fry's column where he asks about how Target or Wal-Mart will fare online, an observation: I was flipping through the sales circulars in the Sunday paper yesterday, and I noticed that the middle two pages of the Target circular were devoted to showcasing sale specials that were available with free shipping from Target.com. Also interesting: these were big-ticket goods like flat-screen TVs.
I thought it was an interesting strategy. You've got your readers who are in a discount frame of mind, probably tallying their "savings" with all the sale items they can pick up, and nestled in the middle of the bargains is ... another bargain! Along with free shipping! Oh, to be able to find out how effective moving these items via circular and free shipping is.
Anyway, I have a lot to say about how e-commerce has changed my shopping habits. But what about you? How do you shop differently now than you did ten years ago?