E-commerce, better known to consumers as online shopping, has exploded in popularity over the past decade and a half. According to research carried out by Mintel, “Buying gifts over the internet has grown from only 17% of adults in 2005 to approaching 40% in 2009. More than four in ten adults (21 million) use the internet to browse for gift ideas.”
Online shopping as a whole also continues to gain in popularity. The IMRG-Capgemini e- Retail Sales Index reported that in April 2011 UK online retail sales were up 19% year-on- year to £5.2 billion.
But what has fuelled – and continues to fuel – this surge in popularity of online shopping and online gift stores?
1. Increased Security
When online shopping first became a possibility, people were discouraged by fears over security. Many shoppers were unhappy about using credit cards to buy products over the internet, and this prevented them from making purchases.
Over time this perception has changed. Although some people are still concerned over security issues, the growth of online banking and the rise of large and trustworthy online retail stores like Amazon has made online financial transactions more commonplace, and as a result more people are comfortable with the idea of shopping online.
2. Greater Portability of the Web
One of the reasons online shopping has grown in popularity is due to the fact that the internet has become increasingly mobile over the years. The initial attraction of shopping online was being able to shop from the comfort of home. Now, the boom in smartphones and tablets has allowed people to take the internet with them wherever they go so that they can purchase products online wherever and whenever they want to.
Recent research has shown that tablet owners are particularly keen to use their devices to shop online, even more so than smartphone owners, meaning the growth in online sales is expected to increase further with the growth of the tablet market.
3. Growth of Price Comparisons
Over the years, comparing prices on the web has become easier than ever. Consumers are now wise to the fact that they can visit multiple e-stores and quickly compare prices to find the best deals. This has become easier still with the growth in price-comparison websites which has become a major feature of buying online and has increased consumer confidence.
4. Rise of Social Media and Reviews
Social media has seen a massive surge in popularity over recent years, and this has affected online shopping habits. Consumers can now get easy access to reviews of products before they buy them, and reviews from contacts in their social networks are especially powerful when making informed decisions.
Also, there is now more opportunity to purchase goods directly from familiar websites. Companies are starting to make more of a presence for themselves on social networks like Facebook, and this all makes the online shopping experience more familiar which leads to increased popularity.
5. Busier Lifestyles
As we continue to lead increasingly busy lifestyles, we constantly demand more flexibility and choice. Online shopping provides a quick and convenient shopping experience where consumers can make purchases 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. This perfectly suits our increasingly hectic lifestyles so it is no surprise that online shopping has grown in popularity over the years.
The Future of Shopping is Online
The online gift shop and other forms of e-commerce have grown in popularity over the years largely to the above factors. As lifestyles continue to change and consumers begin to rely on the internet for a greater variety of services, it can be safely assumed that online shopping will continue to grow in popularity over the coming years.