New shopping technology is quickly and undoubtedly changing the way consumers make purchases. For instance, delivery services like Stop & Shop’s Pea Pod allow users to order groceries directly to their doorstep. Comparison shopping websites and mobile applications reduce trips around town, and mobile shopping makes it possible for shoppers to buy goods right from their phones without ever stepping foot into a store. There can be no doubt that these advances have the potential to save shoppers a great deal of money, but do they also save time?
Depending on the type of consumer you are, the answer could go either way. Since all shoppers behave somewhat differently, it is impossible to say for sure whether the advent of shopping technology decreases the time spent shopping or actually increases it. However, you can determine the impact technology has had on your personal shopping habits by considering the issues below.
There are many ways in which online shopping technology can save you time when compared to a weekly or biweekly trip to the grocery store. In the case of delivery services, the most obvious time-saving benefit is that you don’t actually have to go to the store. Take a second to think about all that is involved in going grocery shopping. First you must drive to the supermarket, perhaps stop for gas on the way, find a parking spot, and locate a cart whose wheels don’t stick. Once you’re inside the store, you must navigate through poorly organized aisles and shelves, find every item you need within the building, double check your list, and then wait in line to check out. If the store is busy or there aren’t enough clerks on duty, you may be waiting in line for an incomprehensibly long time. Once your groceries are finally on the conveyor belt, you must take the time to pay, load the bags into your cart and then unload them into the car, return the cart, and then drive home and unload the bags again. This entire process can sometime take hours, and that’s excluding the possibility of traffic.
Compare that scenario to online grocery shopping services. You sit down, do all of your shopping from the comfort of your computer chair, avoid stressful lines and traffic, and pick a delivery time that’s convenient for your schedule. Websites such as Vons.com even offer users the ability to save their weekly shopping list, allowing them to place the same order as often as they want, with just a few quick mouse clicks. The groceries are then delivered right to your doorstep at the time and date of your choosing, saving you the trouble of having to pick them up and schlep them all over town.
So with so much involved in going to the grocery store, it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that these services might, under some circumstances, actually waste a shopper’s time. However, carefully looking at the user base of services such as online grocery shopping quickly reveals a possible problem. AllVoices.com recently published an article discussing the growth in popularity of these online sites and reported that, somewhat surprisingly, 99% of the users were elderly. This user base is most certainly attracted by the convenience and relative ease of doing grocery shopping online, but it’s probably also fair to assume that a good number of them are just becoming acquainted with new technology and the Internet in general. Confusion over the navigation, privacy, security, and usage of online shopping services could result in much more actual time being spent on grocery shopping, although it’s arguably still beneficial and more convenient for most seniors when compared to going to the store itself.
But it’s not just the older shoppers who might lose time with online shopping technology. We at Milo have experienced several instances when buying our groceries online proved to be more of a hassle than it was worth. Whether it was only getting a fraction of the items we ordered delivered to the office, or having produce arrive that we would have never ourselves put in our cart, we have found that online grocery shopping suffers from both inventory and quality issues that will take time to sort out. While it still makes sense for our bulk office purchases—we’re convinced that one of our engineers keeps Nature Valley in business—there are certain times when going to the store itself is certainly preferable.
It used to be that in order to find the lowest price on goods, shoppers had to travel around from store to store searching for sales and good deals. This long process could sometimes take an entire day, depending on how long and far the bargain hunter was prepared to search for the item and price that he or she wanted. With new mobile comparison shopping technology, the old days of comparison shopping are no longer. The modern shopper can accomplish Internet-wide comparison shopping, or even local comparison shopping, right from their mobile phones or home computers. For example, by using websites like Milo.com, shoppers can find prices for the items they are looking for at various stores right in their local area, which completely eliminates the need to drive from store to store hunting for a bargain, and saves tons of time and gas money in the process.
Another way comparison shopping services can save time and money is through the implementation of bar code scanning software which users can download or access on their smartphones. For example, apps like Red Laser allow shoppers to use the camera on their mobile phones to snap a picture of a product’s bar code and access comparative prices all across the Web. This technology immediately empowers the user, and saves research time, by showing him or her whether the price in front of them is fair. If they decide it’s not, they can decide to purchase the item for a lesser price from an online retailer or wait until it goes on sale locally.
With so many different ways to compare products and prices between stores and online shops, many people can get caught up in a phenomena known as “analysis paralysis.” Essentially, this means that it always feels like a better deal could be right around the corner, if only you’d try a new website, phone app, zip code, or other tactic. This leads to delayed purchases and several potentially wasted hours spent in front of a screen researching details and prices ad nauseam, rather than simply settling on a fair price and buying the item in question. In the end, the amount of time spent researching the product could actually eclipse the potential savings such staunch bargain hunting produces.
So it comes down to a personal decision: what do you value more—your time or your wallet?
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