As someone enmeshed in the CPG industry, I’m quite familiar with how drastically consumer shopping behaviors have changed in recent years. You can’t open a web browser (today’s answer to shaking a stick, or swinging a cat, if you will) without seeing a news article or newly released survey findings showing how we as consumers are inching away from in-person shopping in favor of online shopping. “CPG transactions are increasingly happening on the Internet,” writes Peter Roesler in a 2018 post on Inc.com. And while it seems to be such a hot topic that everyone can relate to in the U.S., we’re not the only country hitting up the Internet to do some shopping. There are a good portion of French (47 percent), UK and German shoppers (46 percent) who are heading to their favorite stores online to buy, for example, health and beauty products.
In general, Millennials are leading the way as far as online shopping goes, but more and more consumers from other demographics are also increasing their online shopping habits. This, of course, is all just the tip of the proverbial online iceberg when it comes to shopping behavior. And it’s all very intriguing to read about, yet when it comes down to it, it all seems very abstract, doesn’t it?
It did for me, anyway, until recently.
A little over a week ago, there I was, sitting in the hospital with a brand new baby in my arms. Both baby and I were a little surprised to be staring lovingly at each other, as said baby was not due for another 10 days. But surprise! She decided to make her way into the world early. And seeing as how my first child was almost a full week late, to have this second child arrive more than a week early threw me off-kilter completely. So much so that on the way to the hospital, I turned to my husband and said, “I completely forgot to pack clothes to bring the baby home in. Also, I never got around to buying newborn diapers.”
Neither of these two things were dire, because my husband could bring clothes later, and the hospital would provide us with all the diapers we could need during our stay, with a few left over to get us started at home. Yet as I sat there in my hospital bed, and as the baby drifted off to sleep, I grabbed my phone and zipped off an order to Amazon for newborn diapers.
They showed up before we even got home from the hospital.
Thanks, Jeff Bezos.
And it was then that it hit home just how real the changes in shopping behaviors had become. I wasn’t just reading about them and analyzing them — I was living them.
Sure, we easily could have stopped by Target or a drug store on our way home from the hospital to pick up diapers for our little one, but that thought didn’t even cross my mind. Why risk the store not having the right size of diaper I needed, or the brand that I wanted? Why make a stop when I didn’t need to, when instead what I needed could just show up on my doorstep? Why not just do it online, when it took me all of three minutes to place the order?
That’s not to say that I’ve given up in-person shopping completely — not by a long shot, as I often declare that grocery stores are my happy place, and I don’t feel that sentiment will leave me any time soon. But as my life continues to change, it’s inevitable that my shopping habits will too. I could be one of the people in the surveys and reports that I read, who are turning increasingly to online shopping, and that’s not a bad thing. There are myriad reasons, both immediate (like my diaper needs) and long-term (saving time, money) to shop online, and that isn’t going to change any time soon, because there are a lot of good things to be had from embracing the growth of e-commerce, and it’s an exciting area of CPG to read about and think about. And in the coming year, we may see some big changes to online retail, as technology and big data take hold to create a better shopping experience for consumer (easier search functions, perhaps) and retailers (better tracking for fulfillment, robotic store assistants, maybe) alike. It’s a glimpse into just how different our lives are today as compared to a mere decade ago, and I’m anxious to see where it will be a decade from now.
Though with any luck, in a decade I hopefully won’t still be frantically ordering diapers, online or elsewhere.