Where did the shopkeeper go?
A refreshing read of the Harvard Business Review recent article dilated my pupil. What? Are the stores going to disappear? Will the landscape of shopping change forever? Will there be no more shopping centers? Why?
I haven't been more intrigued, fascinated, and skeptical (yeah! all at the same time) about technology than right now. Possibilities are endless; advantages are primarily twofold- saving time and saving effort, making you more effective, efficient, and adding convenience to life.
Cliche, but technology has transformed our lives in ways we had never imagined. Interestingly, we are cashing it all. Also, being without it is neither feasible nor desirable. It's embedded in the world we inhabit. Our sensory experiences are vacating life to make room for virtual reality. And shopping is just one of them.
The landscape of shopping has changed. The article reveals new advents and how our lives are going to be further revolutionized. From Amazon to Ikea to Sephora to Vogue and many other small and big players, our traditional - touch and feel and buy store is no more happy. You can try your glasses online and see how it looks on your face. Whoosh! goes the eyeglasses shop and the shopkeeper whose comments kept you entertained while trying glasses. :)
Amazon recently announced a new service, Prime Wardrobe, that allows customers to select 3-15 items and try the clothes for up to seven days, with free shipping and returns for the items they choose not to keep. Whoosh! Goes the apparel stores and the sales associates who got amused( at least by me for sure) each time you tried a new dress and gave a Miss Universe look in front of the mirror.
IKEA just launched an AR-powered app that lets consumers visualize virtual furniture placed in their homes. Really? Even furniture? Whoosh! Disappears the traditional carpenter who waited patiently for your creativity to work and place an order. Oh, that is too long ago. Well, tier 2 cities in India still have this concept. Also, vanishes the furniture sales associates who tried to make every piece of furniture dream furniture for your home and a piece to die for.
These are a few examples, but they reflect the transitioning present, the disappearing past, and an anxious future.
Yes! It's saving time, energy, traffic commotion, waiting in the queue, and providing the convenience of shopping right in our bedroom with the comfort of experimentation one gets in an offline store. Convenience is our driving force.
Our traditional stores and our old school of shopping were time-consuming and full of hassle. But we never thought it that way unless technology presented a convenient option and we lapped it up.
My only worry? What if it gets lopsided?
Shopping is not merely buying. Shopping is an experience, and it should be experienced (sometimes if not all the time)and not seen on screen.
I remember our family trip to buy vegetables or buying a birthday dress was not just a buying and selling transaction. It was a big family affair, a bonding experience, and a learning one too. From an Indian standpoint, my first lessons in bargaining and negotiation came from my mother and the shopkeeper. Waiting for your turn to try your clothes, checking out price tags with instant approval or disapproval, space-cramped fitting rooms, waiting in the queue to pay, and finally seeing some real transaction happening was all part of my learning and growing up. To check whether the bananas are firm and green enough to last a few days, to sort out stained onions from the gleaming ones and to wait for the shopkeeper to weigh and pack them up was all a learning for me. The struggle of staring at that expensive red dress worn by the mannequin and adjusting that desire with a yellow dress chosen by the family was painful but valuable. Not to forget, one dress involved the entire family's wise judgment and involvement. :)
My first lessons of patience, value for money while wriggling by the side of my mom was learned there.
Buying my first pair of eyeglasses to trying our new sports shoes, those over the rooftop questions ( yeah, how embarrassed I used to get sometimes) of my mom regarding the fit and how I mustn't spoil it soon because it's all so expensive, I learned.
Surprised as I was when my parents announced that I would get my own bed, the shopping trip to the furniture store is worth remembering. From the kind of wood used to the polish applied, the durability and tak- tak- tak sound that my father made by knocking under the bed to check I don't know what, spending three hours with the family over one bed was then boredom at its peak, but I learned.
Not that I became a patient person, JUST BECAUSE OF THAT. Not that it's the only way patience can be taught( with shrinking human touch and increasing instant addiction, don't you think patience will die a natural death?)
Boastful, I want to sound when I say I am not 'instant addicted' for I know one has to wait ...in LIFE, for LIFE.
I love Amazon, its new apps, its return policies, and its customer-centered ( consumer-friendly I guess, went whoosh) practices. I am fascinated by the new things coming up and even newer ones brewing up in the backyard of these technology innovators. It has made life easy, no doubt. Try with all my might, I cannot deny-
That I love to pay my bills online.
To get my tickets done online and not bother about standing in the sweltering heat of Northern India in 45C for that one ticket.
That ordering food and getting it delivered at home customized to my palate is not my liking.
That one click makes my life easy in multitudinous ways, from creating, managing, organizing, and sustaining all my activities near to perfection in a jiffy.
Using technology for being efficient and effective at work and in relationships is different. The saved time I get, I want to spend with my family doing what every family does or should do- spend time together, being with each other, sharing, caring, helping, and loving. Technology should leave me there. Shopping to me was one such. Was it for you too? Can we still experience the family phenomena while shopping online and getting the parcels delivered?
I am excited and skeptical at the same time. Of course, we prefer the convenient way for everything. But, does the world truly operate conveniently? Inconvenience is a teacher. It taught me. Unfortunately so, you only realize the value of something when it's gone. Will it teach my son too, or will all he would ever know is to search, select, go to the cart, and order? Well! What's wrong with that? Nothing. Progressive, easy, saves time, and saves effort. Bingo! What more? But isn't it the same click causing the family and social structure to disintegrate?
To me, it looks like a squishy equation full of challenges and contentions. To click or not to click. We do not know where to draw the line. Standing on the threshold of convenience and efficiency, it is all too easy to fall for the click than to go the harder way around.
But, sometimes do go the not so 'click' way.
Sometimes, do try.
With everything becoming so convenient, the family is left with a button in their hand to make their life move. Children are raised on screen, shopping happens on screen, work survives on-screen, and socialization thrives on screen. So what’s left with the family to bond over?
I read some tagline somewhere for a shopping app which said- 'Giving more time to you and family.' More time? For what?