The future of online shopping: customer control and offline [Net Prophet]


“A new retail is emerging — it is consumer driven and tech-enabled,” says Jody Ford, VP of eBay Marketplaces.

As our world keeps evolving technologically, so the way people want to shop is evolving too. According to the eBay VP, we are likely to see more change in the retail business in the next three years than has occurred in the last 10 years.

Retail is likely to benefit most from current technology platforms that rely on creation of consumer service and demand. He reckons that consumers are deciding how technology is being used rather than the creators.

“Mobile is changing everything. It is our remote control for our lives,” he says.

He argues that the retail business has gotten its biggest innovation from the evolving sophistication of the mobile device and the early days with WAP didn’t deliver this reality in 2004.

“People don’t like being disconnected from their mobile, it is an intimate device.”

What do we understand about users and their devices?

The average user checks their devices 40 times a day, for at least two minutes. People check in, they reach out to other people. They also want to get the news and current affairs. There are three key things that people are using their devices on a daily basis: gaming, shopping and life management.

“These are things that people are doing everyday with their phone,” says Ford.

What does it mean for retail?

Retail used to be once-in-a-while event, argues Ford. Then the desktop was introduced, online shopping began to creep in during lunch breaks. Now it is the age of mobile and there is an opportunity to shop 40 times day.

“In the world of mobile you have to try and sell to people 40 times. How do you produce engaging content to be relevant to all the other pieces of content?”

The beginning of ecommerce and the world of online shopping began with the early adopters and niche products, which were expensive and clunky. Then there was the time of selection and availability with improved onsite experience and value competition. Then it was end to end service — where people expect better service online than offline. Now we are in the age of online/offline crossover shopping: people buy online and pick up in store.

“This trend is fundamentally shaping how retail will evolve in the next five years. People want what they want when they want want.”

Everything you want is 15 miles away

Around 75% of total retail spending occurs 15 miles from people’s homes says Ford.

“This means that most of the things people want to buy are already only 15 miles away from them. So how do we make it more engaging to the consumer to buy online?”

In the United States 39% of customers pay online and pick offline. “Retailers did not see this coming, says Ford, and the they found themselves asking ,”why do costumers do this?”

According to Ford, is is about control. Consumers can decide immediately and then pick up later. They avoid charges and get more value.

The future is… in-store pick ups connections and offline retail

According to Ford, three key things will shape the future of shopping: in-store pick ups, connecting users to products close to them and offline retail.

“eBay has worked with larger retailers such as Best and offer free in-store pick up. You can also buy from other sellers and pick it up from Argos, a UK retailer.”

The service has also launched eBay Now, a realtime service that connects consumers with products around them and the ability to deliver it immediately.

The idea of offline retail is giving users the ability to buy something online in an offline setting. “An interactive store front that allows users to shop and get products delivered to them within moments in the same location,” explains Ford.

For him, the key lessons for eBay around the future of shopping is that consumers love to control things, the way they buy and how they get it. For retailers it is the technology: retailers want to find ways to partner to create great experiences for their consumers.



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