How Online and Curbside Could Change Shopping

My wife started shopping online for some of our grocery items and using curbside pick-up during the pandemic. I, however, love going to the store because there are lots of other cool things that are not on my shopping list, but I think I might need, once I see them at the store.

We are a consumer society. We now produce so much more than we need, and we have to find a way to sell all this stuff. We now have eight types of Cheetos or Doritos. Forty years ago, there was just one type of Cheetos and one type of Doritos. So I go to the store, and my mind goes crazy with all the choices and selections, which means the dopamine has kicked in. So, part of what is happening is a chemical reaction causing excitement and desire.

Shopping psychologists understand that as consumers we may go to the store with a list of things to buy, but we buy other stuff that grabs our attention. As a result, many times we are walking out of a store with more than what we needed. Today, the average consumer buys twice as much goods and products as our grandparents did before World War II. It is the sight, sound, and smells that are driving our purchases. If you have ever been to a Buc-ee’s, the first thing that hits you when you walk into the store is the smell of roasting nuts. Then I start thinking, how many types of beef jerky do I really need?

What may be the “mind flip” for the 21st Century is online shopping. My wife is a prime example. She has her list and knows precisely what she wants to buy online, and she purchases it and is done. No wandering around, no temptation with cool displays, smells, or colorful items to grab her attention. There is no dopamine release, no raging consumerism, and no buying stuff on a whim. When someone buys online, it is for a specific product, and then shopping is complete.

During the pandemic, online grocery shopping and curbside services increased by fifty percent. Before the pandemic, only six percent of retailers offered curbside, but now more than half offer curbside. Online sales during the pandemic grew by $1 trillion dollars. Online sales are projected by 2030 to be 33% of total retail sales. 

Many people have predicted that the pandemic will change how we do many things, and it will be a new world. I am not sure I entirely agree, but by shifting our shopping patterns to online and curbside pick-up, we may be seeing a reduction in impulse buying and rampant consumerism. Stop and think about it. We have streaming TV services with no commercials, satellite radio with no commercials, blocked ads on websites, and we throw mail advertisements away without looking at them. Change may be happening.

The changing shopping habits offer challenges and opportunities moving forward. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.