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Shopping: offline vs. online

According to Sequoia Capital, Americans spent $4 trillion on retail shopping last year – 95% of which was still done in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. I’m actually a bit surprised by how high this number is. I would have thought that a larger percentage of people would be shopping online.

For me personally, I’d say that my split might be close to 50/50. From furniture to clothes, to even a new bicycle, I buy a lot online, come to think of it. Part of the reason is convenience, but the other reason is that I like having easy access to a broader selection.

About the only thing I really prefer buying in person is groceries. However even there I’ve been exploring ways to regularize shipments of the items I typically buy. I can’t recall where I read it, but I remember seeing something about less than 1% of groceries in America being bought online.

Intuitively, the percentage of online sales is only going to rise, particularly given the shift to mobile. Consumers can now shop anytime, anywhere. Real estate companies and retailers certainly need to pay attention.

But just like the internet didn’t make cities irrelevant, I don’t think it’ll make shopping in person completely extinct. As Sequoia Capital points out in its article, mobile phones are creating new opportunities at the intersection of online and real world shopping.

So while I don’t know what the future online/offline split might be, I suspect that the two worlds will continue to blur together. I might buy a bicycle online, but when it comes time to service it, I’d like to be able to bring it into a store.

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