Electronics, designer clothes, paperback books, puzzles, underwear, sofas and vitamins - what do they all have in common? You can buy them on the Internet. Today's shoppers can buy just about anything you can imagine, from handcrafted, one-of-a-kind garden sculptures to plastic party favors, from online retailers with just a click of a mouse. In the last few years, more consumers than ever have turned to the Internet to make purchases. The trend will continue to rise sharply as more and more traditional retailers open web-based storefronts and Internet security systems provide more secure solutions for online transactions.
In the early years of Internet commerce, Internet storefronts were expected to offer bargains in order to lure consumers to purchase online. This was their way of overcoming consumers' distrust of security concerns and the time lag of having to wait for items to ship. Free shipping and return was another frequent offer. Today, with enhanced security and reliable shipping the norm, shoppers no longer demand bargains because price isn't their number one concern. Instead, they rely on the Internet for convenience. It was the number one reason Internet shoppers cited for making purchases online. Others included selection, the ability to comparison shop and being able to keep up with trends.
Convenience is by far the most common reason people shop online. Nowhere else can you shop for so many different products on your own schedule. It doesn't matter if you've worked all day, had to come home and make dinner, help with homework and put the kids to bed. You can put on your pajamas and hit the world's largest mall at 11:00 at night from the comfort of your bedroom. Being able to send your grandmother flowers for her birthday, order yourself a great pair of shoes and office supplies restocked without running around scores huge points with consumers.
Educated consumers with disposable income fall into this category. Suburban malls may carry a nice selection, but it can be pretty homogenous considering the global offerings on the Internet. Niche markets are springing up on the Internet to cater to the needs of educated professionals. Educational toys and eco-friendly furnishings for families are hot sellers that aren't typically carried at your local mass-market retailers. Organic wineries and gourmet foods are also popular Internet niche markets that have huge followings with today's educated consumers who are thrilled to find products they just can't find in their local stores.
A surprising number of shoppers cited inspiration as their reason for hitting the Internet. Sites that help you select an appropriate gift can be a godsend for bachelor uncles and anyone who needs a gift for the person who has everything. Many websites let you input gender, age, interests and hobbies, then offer a selection of gift suggestions to make your shopping easier. This is especially popular for games, books, CD's and toys and the stores that carry them.
The joys of comparison-shopping have destroyed marriages in the past. You know what we mean; the husbands who drag wives from electronics store to electronics store to compare features and prices. Girlfriends who drag their man from store to store comparing everything from stitching to lining on blouses. Now comparison-shopping can be done by simply opening new windows or going to a site that does the comparisons and ratings for you.
Comparison-shopping online is particularly popular for anyone in the market for small appliances, computers, electronics, and software.
These are the cut-edge fashionistas who are always one step ahead of what can be found in a typical suburban mall. Whether it's the newest line of cosmetics or the latest fashion out of Milan or Paris, trend trackers always look impeccably put together. That's because they know all of the hottest sites on the Internet for cutting edge fashion, whether it's in clothing or cars, and they order online so that they can have it before anyone else does.