Whether we are spending money on technology or using it to make purchases, there have been big changes in the retail market over the past decade – and the devices we use keep evolving to reflect that shift.
From shopping software to review and discount sites, savvy brands have created a comprehensive online marketplace that offers the benefits of the high street, plus a whole lot more.
While we have not yet reached the tipping point between physical and virtual spending, we are certainly heading in that direction.
Below are just some of the ways new technology is influencing our spending habits in today’s online world, with a brief look at what we can expect in the future.
Convenient, fast shopping – the mobile revolution
Mobile shopping is big business, and forms the fastest growing retail sector. PayPal reports that in 2015 alone 28% of the 4.9 billion payments they processed were made on a mobile device. Apple Pay’s soft roll out and Ebay’s acquisition of Braintree to improve their mobile payments offering are signals of what’s to come.
In fact, “Bill Ready, the former CEO of Braintree who now heads up merchant & next-gen commerce at PayPal, says that more than half of all e-commerce transactions come from mobile devices.”
Mobile payments offer many of the same benefits as traditional online shopping – flexible and convenient, with access to top deals. Mobile has an even greater impact on how we interact with businesses, thanks to the growth of mobile applications and the inclusion of location targeting through GPS.
People can now receive alerts about purchase opportunities wherever they are, pick up discount codes when they are near a brand’s premises, and get detailed information about the companies and services in their area.
Search has also changed to reflect these habits. ‘Near me’ searches are rising each year, with mobile customers focusing on area and convenience over specific brands and products.
Consumers crowd-source opinions online before making decisions
Social media is one of the key places where technology can drive spending. Research suggests, “64% of Twitter users and 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online.”
A big appeal of social media marketing is the instant reaction it can produce. Where a TV or print advert requires the consumer to find a store to buy a product, online adverts can be clicked and followed right away.
Similarly, ‘Buy now’ links can be issued in social media posts, encouraging immediate action from a customer who doesn’t want to miss the great deal.
Meanwhile, approx. 40% of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on their social media profiles. While, 70 percent of shoppers will likely visit user review sites or independent review sites before making a purchase, according to a U.S.-based Mintel study. Reviews matter and can sway a buyer’s brand perception and purchase behavior.
Businesses which makes the most of online review platforms and social discovery ‘buy now’ buttons can inspire a whole new level of impulse purchasing.
Spending can be tracked and managed online
A big change in spending habits has occurred since personal finance software become more prevalent.
The personal finance and money management software industry has enabled many people to opt for free web-based personal finance programs in lieu of hiring financial advisors. IBISWorld predicts this sector will continue to grow due to licensing by banking institutions and a switch to the software-as-a-service model.
Today, consumers are using money tracker apps on their phone. These apps can log spending manually, or can be linked to bank accounts for automatic updates. Users can set spending goals and limits when trying to save, or simply log purchases for future accounting purposes.
Many of the influences listed here are driving an increase in spending, but studies suggest personal finance tools are one way our habits are being pulled back in. Of course, if a simple alert is not enough shoppers could always consider wearing a wristband that uses electric zaps to keep wearers from spending too much money.
This device is part of the Internet of Things and connects to applications and services – such as the users’ bank account. When spending limits are breached, the band issues a sharp electric shock to the user – deterring purchase. This may seem a little extreme, especially if you simply wish to cut costs and save a little cash, but for some over-spenders it may be just what they need to curb spending.
Better access to discounts and deals
Back in the early days of internet shopping, consumers made it clear to retailers that price matters. One of the first online auction sites, eBay, snowballed to success and is now worth $27.9 billion, with 162 million active users.
Online marketplaces are also hugely popular, such as global retail giant Amazon, with an est. 244 million registered users worldwide. Many online outlets are able to sell a wide range of goods with vastly reduced overheads, giving them wider profit margins and allowing them to cut prices.
Convenience and price are among the top reasons consumers choose to buy online instead of visiting physical stores. And technology is connecting buyers with the bargains they want – particularly when it comes to acquiring discounts and collecting coupons.
Discount and deal sites like OZCodes collate all the web’s best deals for top retailers, and consumers can simply search for the products they want. Using shopping apps, collecting voucher codes off social media posts and engaging with email promotions are all ways to push costs down further when shopping online.
This article has been edited and condensed.
David Fournier has been a business analyst since 2010 and also involved in the launching of startups companies for over 3 years. He has been writing for small to mid-sized businesses, assisting them with their business needs.