Do you remember shopping endlessly for hours without having to wait in the queues outside and then heading for movies or dinner on Saturday nights? They’re now things of the past, I’d say, at least till we do not find a way to curb this pandemic.

The pandemic has indeed proven to be a vicious downward spiral bearing devastating consequences not just on public health or work but also on recreation. The magnanimity and radiance of science can be marvelled here when technologies have enabled group video calls, open networks for remote working, hybrid work patterns in attempts to restore the life cycle. 

Allow me to ask you, what have you been doing in these last few months when it came to purchasing something? By this, I do not imply on luxurious buying- It can mean anything, right from daily essentials, supplies to perhaps, buying a house. Virtual buying has been in existence since quite some time now, however, it has been given a boost of late. To put it simply, it’s very akin to physically shopping in the concrete stores except for the fact that you can access everything at the tip of your fingers.

Right, so what do you require for this? A good internet connection, a compatible device (The bigger the screen is, the better would your experience be) and a little bit of patience.

On a personal note, though I belong to the class of Gen-Z, I’ve seemed to often lack patience and have often ended up avoiding online shopping altogether; frequenting this in my routine is a first for me.

When the chaos first unleashed in, economies all over the world came to a standstill. I’m sure you’d agree that one, this was unprecedented and nobody had seen it coming, and two, it was no less than horror. Major businesses encountered losses, local enterprises failed, the existing workforce was made redundant, new hirings were frozen, supermarkets were shut, doctors were busy- the list is endless. 

However, every storm runs out of rain, just like every dark night turns into day, and while it isn’t totally safe to say that businesses have been back on track, a great deal of progress has been made by moving online. 

Talking about shopping, a recent Irish Times article revealed that perhaps, shoppers are happy to support businesses who are now online. In the merry pre-Covid world, customers had the liberty to browse endlessly in physical stores, be it their favourite sauce for the meatballs, pyjamas, or a house, even if they were seeking to rent. Ba dum tss, what’s the difference between then and now?

Then, stores were more visible, the customer experience was quite unique especially with recommendations from the staff, no shipping costs, no wait time. A major disadvantage was the compulsive buying urge- When you would have wished to buy anything and everything that you could lay your eyes on, losing track of the budget you should be spending on shopping. 

With online shopping, there’s a great emphasis on convenience, allowing you to compare products across a wide range of brands, perhaps with even better discounts. If you ask me, my favourite aspect of virtual buying is the fact that there are no fixed hours of operation (there can be specified periods in the day for a sale, though), considering how I always manage to keep my shopping spree until the very end. 

With such great benefits compared to the in-store shopping, there comes the baggage of cons in terms of the wait time for deliveries coupled with delays, possibilities of frauds and a lack of shopping experience- touch & feel or staff assistance. While the notion of touching during shopping is brushed aside by many, touch is supposed to bring in familiarity and comfort, as it is one of the most developed senses in the human body. 

To each, it’s own but given the circumstances, virtual buying has evolved to be the need of the hour and can be said to have become a routine. While pre-Covid saw exclusive goods such as books, extravagant food items, gadgets or international products being bought online since they were widely available in the virtual stores and were relatively cheaper, Covid has taken the shopping experience to a different level where it’s not just about looking for exclusive items or luxuries but focusing on needs.

Needs can range from daily essentials, such as grains, bread or meats to high-end commodities such as cars or houses. Despite the restrictions in mobility, you would need a place to live, a place that you call home. Back in April, I was seeking to rent accommodation as I would have had to move out soon and given the lockdown, physical tours were off the table. That’s when I opted for virtual tours via Zoom, Meets, Skype or even WhatsApp video calls! They were quite fun and allowed a great deal of interaction between me and the hosts. Virtual tours aren’t just on a one-on-one basis, a lot of estate agents these days cater to offering dedicated tours with the help of virtual reality (VR) technologies. All I would say is that you need to empathise and have some amount of trust in the other person.

This is not a debate as to which of the two buying types are better. It’s quite a marvel of how humans have made the best of this adversity, have seen opportunities everywhere. As things happen to stand, nothing remains unchanged for the foreseeable future given that there might be a second wave and a third after that, however, the only question here is, will the shoppers stay online forever?


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