Some thoughts on the rise of online shopping

We live in an amazing time. Right now, we’re witnessing the rise of ecommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba. Thousands of entrepreneurs are making their fortunes selling on online platforms such as Shopify and Etsy. Just over two decades ago, Amazon was just one man’s idea to sell books over the internet. Today, that man is the world’s second richest man. It’s no secret: online shopping is exploding.

In fact, a recent survey by SwiftMoney found that 32% of people prefer shopping online. That’s more than a third, and doesn’t even count all the people who shop online! While online shopping has become very much entrenched in our developed world, let’s not forget that developing markets are still ripe for internet and digital penetration, which should see the online shopping space grow even further.

I recently spoke to an elderly friend of mine who couldn’t fathom why anyone would buy stuff online. You know the type – he’s deathly afraid of owning a cellphone, thinks that he can break the TV by pressing a wrong button on the remote, and holds a deep distrust of providing any sort of personal information online.

He kept on asking, “how do you know what you’re getting if you can’t see it, can’t feel it?” Then he asked if I had ever been scammed online. Unfortunately, I did fail to receive a lock picking set (purely educational I swear!) after paying nearly a hundred bucks of it online. I hated that it only seemed to prove his point that buying stuff online was unsafe.

It really got me thinking about how we’ve gradually and naturally developed a life online without really thinking about it. The internet is making identity theft so much easier. Have we really fallen into a trap without realizing it?

Recently I was trying to get a particular item online. It wasn’t easily available. So rare that I actually had to visit 4 or 5 sites in order to get it. At each site, I ran into problems. The site would either not accept certain methods of payment or would just not move forward in the buying process. However, before I ran into those problems, I had to provide my name, shipping details and card number to each of these sites. And heck, I didn’t even think twice about providing all this information. For all I know, it could be a sham site that’s collecting credit card and billing information.

It was only after the fact that I realized that I had given my details to 4 or so dodgy sites. I’m not losing sleep over it right now, but it did make me think about how easily we give information away when we do shopping online.

Another big issue that I noticed with online shopping is impulsiveness. Especially with information products. I can’t count the times I’ve bought something with Amazon’s one-click purchase. With kindle books, the problem is even more acute. I just have to click a button, and the new book arrives on my device in less than a minute. More than half the time, I don’t even finish reading the book. I merely bought it cuz the cover looked interesting and it had good reviews.

I’m starting to believe that in this age where everything is instant (think about how you can get the answer to almost any question you can think of in Google), it’s important more than ever to exercise delayed gratification. I think back to times when my wireless goes down and I am furious, as though instant and unfettered access to information and entertainment is owed to me.

This was a bit of a rant, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on online shopping. Always remember to stay safe when providing your details online, and do remember to exercise some self restraint every once in a while!

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