It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Maybe not if you’ve spent any time in a mall lately.
There’s probably a good reason more shoppers are making the switch to online shopping.
Martin Qiu, an assistant professor of marketing at Wilfrid Laurier University, says the online shopping trend is only continuing to grow in Canada. And mobile shopping – shopping from smart phone devices – is quickly gathering steam as well.
“We’re seeing more people switch to the Internet for shopping, a little bit late in terms of online shopping than Americans. But Canadians are catching up. So they spend more money doing online shopping,” Qiu said.
Naturally this affects the offline sales at conventional stores. He says another trend we’re seeing is stores that have their own online stores attracting customers to do the shopping within the physical business. Many stores also now offer online shopping that can be picked up in store rather than waiting for it to be shipped to your house.
“They’re trying to coordinate the online channel with the offline channel to maintain customers, to keep the customers,” Qiu explained.
Martin Lewis Confectionery owner Stephanie Kazdan recently added online shopping to her website, in addition to her downtown Elmira shop, which sells a variety of sweets and treats, many of which are made locally or are unique, hard to find items.
Adding online shopping was always part of the plan when she opened the store. She’s busy updating the website as new products come in every week in time for the holidays.
“I think a lot more people are shopping online, so it’s just to give them that option so you don’t miss out,” Kazdan explained.
Her first online order actually came from a woman in the U.S. who was ordering a gift for someone who lives in Perth for a “Secret Santa” gift exchange.
The online shopping portion of her website is still new, so she’s working to promote it, especially with Christmas right around the corner.
“The nice thing too is there are some premade gift baskets or you can go through and make your own with products from the store,” Kazdan said.
According to Canadian market research company Ipsos, 84 per cent of Canadians shopped online in 2015.
Qiu expects that number to only go up. He says the wide adoption of mobile devices and online shopping will only become more pervasive for people who are using their cell phones to do online shopping because of mobile marketing.
“They just download an app, they order things from their cell phone without using a computer. They can do it anywhere if they have data or Wifi,” Qiu said.
He has some tips for holiday shoppers before they run out or log on in search of the next great deal. First of all, do your homework on the quality of the product and the website you’re buying from.
“When you do online shopping if it’s a website you’ve never heard of, you should also do some research on the website, shipping policy, product return policy, so to avoid those unnecessary risks,” Qiu said.
The next thing to research is the price. Find out whether it’s really a true discount by comparing prices online. And also make sure the product is still eligible to be returned or exchanged.
“Lower price does not mean I give up my right to return or exchange a product, make sure those kinds of things are still there,” Qiu said.
He says everyone wants to be a savvy shopper, especially at this time of year, and a savvy shopper either buys an item because they need it or it makes them feel good. For a savvy shopper, a promotional price is not a reason to buy.
“If it’s the big-ticket purchase, it’s more likely they’re going to do research because there’s more at stake,” Qiu said.
He suggests shoppers who find an item online that they’re unsure about go into the store and try the product, ask the employees any questions they have and then go back online to purchase it for cheaper.
He says people are also more likely to do research online, but purchase in a physical store for items they’re not sure they will keep, for an easier return procedure. The same goes for heavy items that would cost an arm and a leg to ship, like a fridge.
Some stores are finding mobile marketing has helped level the playing field when competing against online retailers. Something as simple as a $3 off coupon increases the likelihood of people shopping at retailers who send out mobile deals, giving an edge to physical stores.
“Some companies in Toronto are testing apps they have on smart phones. If you park your car in a public parking space and you actually use your app to pay the parking fee, but when you’re using the app to pay your parking fee the company knows where you are and it’s a public parking space. So you park your car there, then you must do something, right? Errands or shopping or something. Usually there’s stores around, those stores now get an invitation that there’s a new customer. They can send you something to your smart phone, a coupon or something and you will be attracted by that, even if you have no intention to shop,” Qiu said.