Will we really buy anything online?
In an article for Newsweek in 1995, astronomer Clifford Stoll laughed at the idea of the internet becoming a part of people’s lives:
“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete…
"It’s all baloney. The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”
Well, he got that one wrong!
But to be fair to Dr. Stoll, in 1995 those things did seem a bit far-fetched. Imagine telling someone in 1995 that in 20 years you will be able to order a pizza on your mobile phone (yeah, everyone has phones now), make a high-quality video call to your friend who lives in London (as he is walking down the street), and buy a self-navigating flying drone from China (and have it delivered to your door in a matter of days).
The future arrived suddenly and took everyone by surprise. Well, everyone except the younger generation.
Two-thirds of Millennials prefer to shop online, with that figure only growing for Generation Z (born between the mid-90s and mid-2000s). We are now seeing the emergence of adult consumers who have never known life without the internet, so buying online isn’t a novelty for them, it’s the norm.
Retailers need to keep up with the zeitgeist and offer the next generation what they want – instant access to everything. The focus of the customer has shifted from ‘on-shelf availability’ to ‘on-demand availability’, and those companies who don’t go with the times will soon be out of business.
With online retail, everything is up for grabs. There is nothing people won’t buy over the internet, including a house. I’m not just saying houses get listed online – everyone knows that – I’m saying people actually buy them online too. The numbers are small right now, but they’ll grow.
If you’re a real estate agent and you’re no longer showing prospective buyers around houses, how will you remain a critical part of the buying process? That’s the question, and now’s the time to start thinking about it. Five years from now may be too late.