On-line retail sales are up 15% this holiday season, approaching $31 billion, according to Comscore. Record levels of online buying are expected around the globe this Christmas Day. For the first time, mobile technology is beginning to seriously disrupt the traditional bricks and mortar retail infrastructure. Shoppers are now using their mobile devices to scan and search for better on-line prices while they are physically standing at the shelf of a local retailer, in essence relegating a little or big box store to the function of a touch and feel showroom. With increasingly attractive offers of free shipping and no sales tax, the on-line marketplace is beating the groundlings on price, and increasingly on convenience.
It’s becoming easier and easier to buy on line. Mindless really. Marketects are perfecting what is called the “sales funnel”, making it deliciously smooth and enticing to get through the online search, comparison, selection, and acquisition process. For better or worse, much of the friction that stalled shoppers on the way to the shopping basket in earlier days of e-commerce has been eradicated. I have become hypnotized this season by how quickly I can buy anything, anywhere, anytime on Amazon; on my phone, ipad or computer. (In my sleep?) It is so easy to BUY IT NOW that I imagine soon I will only have to think of a book’s title and give an “I Dream of Genie” wink to complete the transaction.
Instant material gratification has taken on a whole new meaning. This digital facilitation of natural human impulsiveness is a wonder and a concern. How marvelous for all of the added convenience in our lives! The time saving and elimination of stressful trips to the shopping mall— what a blessing! And yet, how disconcerting it is to have our Pavlovian impulses for material consumption empowered to function in a trance state. It feels far too easy for me to spend money now on things I don’t really need and can certainly live with out. My passing “wants” are many and it has become dangerously easy for me to act on them. (Imagine the garden books and Mozart Chamber music CDs I am libel to wrack up this season if I don’t wake up! My cart runneth over.)
As I prepare for my annual new year’s resolution BUY NOTHING MONTH,GoodGuide“> I would like to add an on-screen SAVE IT NOW button to float up any time I am ready to press the BUY It button to slow my course to check-out. (I have considered asking my friends at GoodGuide to create this as it could function just like their magical transparency toolbar which delivers personalized health and environmental product ratings as you surf for your favorite products. Check it out–it is a wonder!) My SAVE IT NOW button could be linked to a counter that can track how much money I have managed to steer away from my own consumptive impulses.
More creatively, we are on the verge of a revolution in collaborative consumption, or what Lisa Gansky calls The Mesh, We now have growing facility to share an abundance of our static, underutilized material resources: Cars, bikes, and guest rooms. Perhaps old books, CDs and garden tools are next. I will be looking forward to seeing a SHARE IT NOW button onscreen–and in mind—staring me in the face as I migrate my native impulses to a sustainable ecosystem of sharing, trust, equity and abundance.
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