Where do you buy your apple (the fruit)? And why do people shop?
Recently, I have come across this question while doing some future trends research on shopping experience. As we are talking right now, there is a transaction happening at the same time. It intrigues me about why people shop and why in certain ways.
If you google why people shop, surely you got abundant of information, but it still feels like a bit of myth to me after reading. There are interesting viewpoints on shopping psychology, what stands out to me is the relationship customers have with the sales person.
It is almost true that customers start from a position of distrust, and therefore business have to do more to grab customers attention and interest. This may just explained why people opt to shop online more to avoid the hassles of sales pitch. However, when I asked a bunch of people on why they shop, none of them mentioned about the interaction with sales person. So what does that mean? Would future shopping experience becomes less of me-you experience (human interaction) and more me-it (product interaction) experience?
To explore further, I had conversations with a few people around me at that point of time, and here are some summaries of what we discussed
Necessity vs Non-necessity, and those in between
When we look into the things we’ve bought, they seems to fall into 2 categories in a broad sense. Imagine 2 circles with some overlaps: People shops for necessities, shop to sustain. Or People shop for desire and fun, shop to improve their lives. An Example of necessities is grocery shopping and non-necessities is fine dining. Sitting in between are the things you can go either ways, such as homewares and clothing.
Where do you buy an apple? Online shopping vs Offline shopping
Literally I started the conversation with that question. A few people said online, but most people said either local fruit store or coles/woolworth. So this leads to the other discussion, why people buy online and why people buy in store. Surprisingly, regardless their preference, both side said their choice is an easier process in terms of shopping.
Those people who said they prefer online shopping really emphasize on efficiency, omnipresence and price. So why online shopping offers these traits and why people seems to make buying decision quicker? It is quite obvious to say we expect online shopping to offer better price when all else is equal. And that implies there were something already meet our benchmark, so we moved on to the price point. What exactly did we bypass unconsciously? I conclude 2 words “ Prior Experience”. Because you have eaten an apple before, you know how it taste like and look like, buying the apple online becomes more acceptable and quicker. Also, you will be able to open up multiple tabs and compare the apples from different stores, which helps you make a decision in 1 step instead of multiple steps in a linear way.
However, the same object, some others choose to buy it in store. So where exactly are the differences? People who said they shop in store told me they are looking for shopping experience. So why people search for shopping experience and what does the experience represent? I concluded it 4 magic words “lack of prior experience” ;) The prior experience entails what is known to you, which is represented by the quality/textile of the product, the perceived process and assumed experience of consuming it.
In this experience (if whatever you are buying is physical), you are probably looking for some of below if not all
Trouble shooting process
So when you are making a buying decision, it is not just about the moment you consume it, but also the moments after. Through this experience, you assess what are the benefits of consuming it, assure yourself of its quality, and understand what is scarified. Remember the feeling when you bought something very expensive, while you can get the same thing for low to free price? That unexplainable feeling of differences is probably “opportunity cost”. So $400 shoes values to you as $200 Jeans and $200 shoes you could have bought.
If the difference of online and in store shopping lays mainly on prior experience and lack of it, does that mean once the experience gap in bridged, we blurred the line of physical and online shopping?
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other tech that blur the physical vs virtual line
Following on the thoughts of blurring the line by bridging the experience gap, I looked into some tech trends and found something interesting.
With Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Holograph, are we close enough to confuse ourselves about what is real? So what are the difference and similarity to them and how would that changed our lives by making us feel the same as physical experience?
If I compare AI and IOT, this is my understanding: in IOT, the objects are linked together and it seems each of them has life (like a pet). For example, your carpet talks to vacuum for regular cleaning. AI is a creation that feels like an equal to yourself and is constantly learning (like a friend).
If I compare virtual reality and holograph, this is what I see: in virtual reality, we enter into the virtual world. With holograph, the virtual presentation comes to our physical world.
Future shopping experience
Let’s imagine how all of these together will change our lives in terms of shopping experience. Imagine, the train is no longer just a vehicle for public transport, but a moving mall. Each carriage can represent different themes, there are music carriage, book carriage, clothing carriage. All the products are represented in holograph so it doesn’t take up space and you can interact it in 3d. Maybe the AI can recommend what suits you and window/glass/mirror is connected to product catalogue, so you can “try” on the clothes by moving around and seeing the fabric movement in your reflection. You love the clothes and made the order, by the time you got home, the drone has delivered the cloth to your front door.
Your choice, lies with uniqueness
Let’s come back to reality and talk about the apple again ;) I asked people who prefer to buy apples in store why they won’t buy it online. And this is the answer: “I just want that one”. We conclude: sometimes you want THE ONE, instead of a version of it. Every decision we made represent part of us. And our life journey seems to be the process of shaping our identity and uniqueness.
So, at the end of day, did we choose the apple? Or THE APPLE chose us? (can’t help with this creepy joke ;) Happy Reading.