News / Science & Technology

E-Commerce Challenges Traditional Stores

U.S. shoppers are spending more than ever on e-commerce, a trend experts say is likely to spread to other nations.  Online sales are now as much as one-tenth of U.S. retail sales, prompting traditional “bricks and mortar” stores to seek new ways to hang on to their customers. 

Lynne Shaner used the Internet to buy everything she needed for her wedding and holiday gifts for her husband and step daughter.

Other than food, 90 percent of her purchases are made on the computer in her Washington apartment.

"I find that, by being able to go online and choose the things that I need to choose, and have them delivered to me right at my doorstep, I eliminate all the driving, all the crowds, all the noise of that, and I usually get a better selection," Shaner explained.

Shaner has lots of company.  Analysts say U.S. online shopping has hit records in November and December.  Fifty-seven percent of Americans have made at least one online purchase.

Traditional merchants worry that growing e-commerce will shrink their share of the market.  

Cornell University Marketing Professor Ed McLaughlin says they have reason for concern.  He spoke via Skype. “Anything that can move online, will. It is just a matter of time,” he stated.

McLaughlin says traditional stores can keep their customers by offering goods like clothing, which customers may want to see and try on before purchasing  - as well as items that are difficult to ship.  He says some ”bricks and mortar” stores are also pleasing customers with services that set up or repair computers and electronics.  

Traditional stores also offer a social experience that some shoppers enjoy.

Bill Martin, the founder of ShopperTrak, spoke to VOA via Skype. "There is still a lot of emotion in the buying decision that takes place.  Oftentimes, you need that last sense of ‘this is exactly what I want’ before you part with money," he said. "And you can’t always get that on-line.  It’s a rather cold process."  

Traditional stores can also deliver goods more quickly than online retailers, Martin says.  And smart merchants are using stores to guide customers to websites and using their websites to encourage customers to visit their stores.

While e-commerce worries some merchants, it's a huge boost for delivery services like FedEx and UPS.

UPS Manager Dana Kline says e-commerce means her company is even busier than usual this time of year. “We are expecting 28 million pieces on their peak day, which is December 20, which is up about a million from last year," she noted.

UPS is so busy that it's hiring 55,000 temporary workers during the holiday season to deliver gifts.

Those packages are headed for homes, including Lynn Shaner’s. Experts say as more and more people have Internet access and smart phones, online commerce is likely to continue its growth here in the United States and in other countries.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More