I was listening to a BBC radio station the other day and there was a piece about how online shopping has revolutionised the way consumers behave. Not necessarily in a good way. There are apparently hundreds of high street stores in Britain that are going bust because of retailers like Amazon, offering free returns on goods. In fact, one independent furniture store that had shut down said it was the free returns that caused the fall of his shop. He told a story of delivering a chest of drawers to a woman who asked for a return and refund 5 days later. Apparently, she had bought 3 chests of drawers online, and had them all delivered to see which suited her home best. The retailer said he had no option but to honour this, because other retailers were doing the same.
 
There are so many things that strike me in that story including that the man probably took his business online too soon and should have used a site like Buyizzy to sell individual items to start with. But mainly, I felt like smaller retailers don’t have to and shouldn’t feel pressured to do what big e-commerce retailers are doing. As long as the returns policy is made clear, it doesn’t have to be free. In order for our local and independent shops to survive online, they have to take control. But what also struck me is that small businesses here in South Africa are far too cautious and probably wouldn’t consider e commerce when setting up their shop in town.
 
The e-commerce market is quite different in South Africa compared to other, more electronically-developed parts of the world. It's also consumers here who are cautious. They are much more afraid of shopping online and are less trusting of putting their card details into a secure website than their British or American cousins.
 
And while consumers haven’t moved into 21st century-buying, our local independent retailers are safe in their stores. However, at the same time, they aren’t getting the potential business they could, because they too are afraid of going online.
 
Shops around the world are discovering the benefits of e-commerce because of the ease of selling goods, but it’s also easy to buy goods. Consumers have also found, over the years that shopping online is a haven.  There’s a certain appeal for me; waking up at 3am and realising I’ve forgotten to buy a book-day costume for my daughter next week, going online and getting it. It means I don’t have to waste my break trawling through the shops and also, I get it cheaper from those very same shops. How can that not be better?

Whats your opinion?