Ecommerce and twenty first century consumer behaviour- Understanding the colossal impact of their leapfrogging effect

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“Of the several disruptions cutting edge technology has had, e-commerce accompanied with consumer behaviour can be classified as the most obvious and stimulated one.”

If it was not long back ago that you booked an online flight, train or hotel for your journey and stay, if you have recently ordered some fast food for yourself or your family and friends to savour a sumptuous meal together, if you have ordered an ethnic wear or a pair of footwears in the days gone by or have chosen to go for buying groceries online rather than moving out to your neighbourhood kirana store and get it, you are the primary subject of this article.

Twenty first century consumers and their behaviour has been modified by the advancements made by technology- nothing to anybody’s surprise, because its penetration has been pretty incremental. Technology, in the last decade or so, by consistently taking those turtle-like steps has leapfrogged consumer behaviour into all sorts of dynamism, unpredictability, and evolution. 

This makes consumer behavior an esoteric phenomenon to decode and hence all the more binding upon us to dig into.

Modern consumer behaviour- Covering miles

From an age when even buying “convenience goods” was considered a burdening, inconvenient and tiring act to a time when going for “shopping and specialty goods” has become a matter of mere ‘impulse’ and ‘click’, consumer behavior has come a long way. And for this brick-to-click evolution, the growth of e-commerce ought to be taken into cognitive account. 

At the heart of technological growth and subsequent digital transformation, lies e-commerce that has become increasingly quick and convenient. Call it e-commerce of the modern age, quick commerce, or last-mile delivery, it is exploding with growth. And, not only did the shift to an e-commerce-first mindset occur among techno-savvy consumers and digital-first economies where online shopping was already widely accepted, but it has also happened among buyers who preferred physical visits and cash-bound transactions over online buying.

Explicitly stating, this isn’t just an e-commerce acceleration — it’s a colossal shift in consumer behavior.

In the 1990’s you didn’t ever sit back and expect the neighborhood bakery store to deliver ornamentally decorated and nicely packed pastries and cookies to you. It was a surreal idea indeed. Fast forward to today, you can see the most durable and high-end specialty products reaching you at an unmatchable speed. That’s precisely a big leap forward— both for businesses and consumers.

Basing business decisions and strategizing around transforming consumer behaviour

Though it might sound like the story of whether the hen or egg came first that has baffled us for years, let’s get on to it directly. Ecommerce’s relationship with consumer behaviour has been more of a two-way interaction rather than a linear cause-and-effect relationship. It would be unwise to say what arrived first and who succeeded whom, but ecommerce has certainly acted as a catalyst for the evolution of consumer behaviour, while simultaneously being shaped and influenced by evolving consumer preferences and expectations.

Technological breakthroughs like automation, augmented reality, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, etc have emerged as a strong force for improving consumer behaviour. Such technologies have not just amazed the consumers but AI-bound advancements have significantly empowered the modern day businesses too, no matter how small. Various ecommerce platforms have resorted to NLP-induced searches on their apps as a potent strategic tool to contribute to more immersive customer experiences. 

Ecommerce coupled with unbridled advancements in technology in the recent past, has certainly resulted in evolved consumer behaviour. Digitalization, automation, robotics, drone deliveries are some of the few brainchildren of technology that businesses possess and extensively use as tools– ones that have remarkably influenced consumer lives. Ecommerce in general, and hyperlocal ecommerce in specific, has revolutionised the behaviour of modern day consumers to a significant extent. Consumer behaviour’s dynamism and its evolving nature, on the other hand, has kept businesses on their toes, in order to keep coming up with novel ideas to add to customer satisfaction and improved experiences, to stay afloat in the competitive landscape.

They say the way we shop has changed. Certainly! But succinctly writing, even the way we think ‘how to shop’ has had an overwhelming influence on consumer behaviour in the previous years. The recent example of this can be from the times of the covid-19 pandemic when economies plummeted and all the market growth came to a standstill, leaving businesses and consumers in a fix. Businesses didn’t know much about how to reach the end consumers in such a crisis situation and the consumers too were left dumbfounded to think of ways of availing necessities, leave aside luxuries. 

Then came hyperlocal ecommerce & instant deliveries of groceries, medicines and the other curiously hunted-for items by households. Since then, hyperlocal ecommerce has gained growing mass acceptance. Modern-day hyperlocal ecommerce platforms, by virtue of immaculate software technologies, bring amazing supply chain efficiencies for businesses thereby reducing logistical bottlenecks. This results in improved customer experience. Pretty often, the supply chain efficiencies are so smooth that they leave the customers delighted.

Today, with technology at the helm and consumer behaviour more refined than ever, you don’t usually expect consumers to be going out, face traffic snarls, queue for groceries at the nearest supermarket, pay and get the much needed groceries, walk it all the way to the parking lot, put them in the car, and drive back home. Or do you?

Instead, cutting through this tedious shopping flow, the modern-age consumer armed with smartphones, intuitive apps, and robust hyperlocal e-commerce platforms available at their disposal possess the best in class paraphernalia for satiating their buying needs— all in a few taps and clicks. Isn’t it?

This ease of access to order and get delivered has made the consumers all the more ravenous. Visualise a circumstance where you go to visit your ancestral rural hinterland with no options of online ordering and delivery, or think of a moment where your internet connectivity is lost while you are about to order a pizza to satiate your hunger. It goes without saying that your smartphone becomes the most useless thing. Right?

Modern day consumers, having access to the internet and smartphones contribute majorly to retail ecommerce sales. In 2022, retail ecommerce sales were estimated to exceed 5.7 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide, and this figure is expected to reach new heights in the coming years.

In fact the retail industry has evolved so well that the contemporary consumers have started to put high hopes in their patronising businesses and hence they increasingly demand enhanced shopping experiences from them. Hanging on to the tail of such galloping technological advancements in ecommerce and deepening smartphone penetration, are prudent generic business strategies viz a viz differentiation and focus, etc that can help contemporary firms stay afloat and upbeat.

Take away 

The figures for ecommerce are promising and so is the evolving consumer behaviour.

One of the biggest merits of evolved consumer behaviour is that businesses don’t have to invest too much resources into educating them about the utilities of their offerings. All they need to broadly focus upon is just selling and devising novel ways of making profits. But the flipside is, modern marketing has become purely customer centric— meaning businesses can’t play around with customers going about selling whatever they produce.

Where on one hand, technology has been a boon for businesses in terms of improving supply chain efficiencies and bringing them closer to the customers, on the other hand, the contemporary consumers have become a storehouse of information and awareness who are not going to compromise on what technology can bring for them on the table. Just understanding them and their esoteric needs remains the key. 

The better the understanding of consumer needs, the more exhaustive can be a business’s plans and strategies. For instance, having figured out that your target market is price insensitive and it wants the best quality products, no matter at what price, prudent businesses can work around it and price their products accordingly. For eg, skimming pricing can be an ideal alternative in such a situation!

Eventually, it is the business that needs to adopt the latest technological trends, get in the industry muddle, join the hyperlocal ecommerce arena, uncover the deepest layers of consumer behaviour, fight it out for the prospective target markets, and emerge victorious. 

I say so because technology is leapfrogging and the twenty-first consumers are demanding a whole new level of experience everyday, and if a business doesn’t respond, its competitor surely will. 

Dr. Shamael Zaheer Khan, Ph.D
Dr Shamael Zaheer Khan is a revered educationist, expert contributor, and VP of Marketing and Strategy at a leading tech corporation. Specializing in digital marketing, consumer behavior, hyperlocal e-commerce, and strategic planning at the corporate & business level, he is a versatile industry leader. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Khan drives innovation and growth in the dynamic tech landscape. His academic research, influential publications, neatly crafted strategies for businesses, and extensive industry experience have established him as a respected thought leader.

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