The future of ecommerce and the Shopping mall

The future of ecommerce

Having just attended a Bangkok networking event where the CEO of Lazada, an online shopping portal, told us nothing else in his twenty minute talk but of his excitement of the growing trend across Asia for ecommerce, I decided to have a deeper look and try to give you lovely readers a few tips, which was really what I was hoping for from the talk at the event, but was left feeling somewhat short changed.

The advocates will tell you the future is online shopping all the way. This graph (source) tells of the growth of online shopping, till 2016  from the 205 million internet users from the big six South East Asian countries:

Biz-find articles | The future of ecommerce

Biz-find articles | The future of ecommerce

Just as it seems so clear cut; then I think to myself of the Central group’s massive expansion across South East Asia and the thirst for more shopping malls.

Investing in the future should be as much about common sense as it is about statistics and experts opinion. I think how busy shopping malls are in Bangkok every single day from 1PM. Mind you saying that; if you are quite a solitary person and you would like a whole shopping mall to yourself visit any mall in Bangkok at ten AM!

It is apparent for anyone visiting that the malls are slowly becoming more about restaurants than the shops, and if you were to survey the vast number of shoppers you would probably find most of the shoppers have , during their mall stay, sat down for some kind of refreshment with a food or beverage vendor. Yet I do not see the end to the actual bricks and mortar shop in a mall, I think the writing is on the cards for the small community shops, but for the malls I can’t see them just dying out in the next twenty years at all.

What I think the ecommerce people are forgetting is the emotion behind a sale, as in the enjoyment people get from actually getting out of the house and getting an instant thrill form making a purchase, as children we sit in the restaurant with our folks and our whole universe is swallowed up in our new toy our folks bought for us, smart parents knew how to keep us quiet whilst they ate and had a chat! The same emotion cannot really be as powerful receiving a box of a driver.

 It could also be summed up in the reason why cinemas are thriving, they told us 20 years ago DVD and home cinema would kill ‘going out to watch films on the big screen’, yet Cinemas bounced back with ‘the cinema experience’  and the fact that people need to get out and that is part of what makes it special.

Buying music online is still an enigma to us 40 something’s who will never ever forget buying their first LP album, taking it home pulling it out the sleeve and oh so carefully placing the stylus on the groove and then the euphoria as the music started! Then inviting your friends around to talk about the album cover and listen together for hours. The emotion has shifted to a very solitary purchase and there cannot be as much of an emotional experience as those of us who were lucky enough to live in the generation of vinyl records.

This retail therapy is very much what the smart shop owners should be concentrating on which is their strength. It’s as much about going out and getting the real shop touch and feel and the:

 Receive there and then experience.

 This feeling is somewhat lacking in the online shopping experience.   

As a Social media marketing consultancy in Thailand and UK I try to get my pupils on my web courses  to understand the emotion behind any sale, and regardless of what it is they sell, they must try to understand what the person ‘feels’ when they are making the purchase, as this is the vital ingredient in the success. This feeling must then be expressed and put into their blog writing and shared to social media to be successful sending targeted traffic to their site.

Starbucks became successful selling an experience, I still go to Starbucks because I feel relaxed in their cafes, I don’t care much for their coffee, there job is done as far as they are concerned, they got my money for a bottle of water!

I believe there will always be a place for the shop and the shopping mall, if they concentrate on their main selling point which is the experience and feeling and the instant gratification of the impulse purchase, how can you have an impulse purchase of a smart phone? 

There will be a levelling off soon in the growth in online buying and it will I believe remain constant, not sure when, probably not for another -10 years, but the retail shop in a mall will always have a place in all societies, as they will always be driven by our need to eat out and the malls will cater for our insatiable palates and smart retailers will create environments that people will feel is just an important as the actual purchase.

If I was advising investors I’d say go mobile NOW as the growth is unmistakable, well at least for the next decade,  I would advise bricks and mortar shop owners to think about ways to make their environment more relaxed and more of  place to stay inside of, AND go mobile, but don’t close your doors just yet.