Online Shopping Making Inroads in Pakistan

Yet to Gain Momentum

Mehwish Azam

ISLAMABAD, Sep 13 (APP): With several innovations since the world became a ‘Global Village’, the internet has taken every field of life by storm, including businesses. The concept of virtual buying and selling was new in the beginning of this decade but now it has become an essential part of trading. Hence came the term and practice of online shopping

Online shopping is a concept that has brought a paradigm shift in establishing new societal and consumer behaviors. Masses are increasingly shopping from home, replacing the trip to the malls with online browsing of stores’ websites and catalogs.

Although this trend has been on the rise for many years now, the recent catastrophe triggered by the coronavirus has brought about a paradigm shift in online interaction between human beings. From meetings of the United Nations Organization (UNO) to classes of local universities and colleges, from family video chats to interacting with local grocery stores or restaurants for food, every virtual interaction has been shrunk down to voice or video call through the internet.

The question that arises is: Will online shopping replace the physical store? It would have been unlikely to imagine this 10 months ago despite the significant growth in online shopping. However, in the post-corona world it is very likely that most of the brands, if not all, can replace their physical stores with virtual ones. There can be many propositions to this idea; i.e it is cost effective, less time consuming, requires less or no manpower at all and can be available 24/7 with just a click away.

Javaid Ali, an outlet manager of a famous clothing brand for women in a local mall of Islamabad told APP that during the last 8 months they have sold more items online than physical stores.

“Even before the lock down our online sales were comparatively on the rise because it is less time consuming and customers get to choose from more items by browsing than they can do in the store”, he added.

He said making a trustworthy repute with online consumers is not easy as there are many scam businesses operating all over the internet but once a brand can make its name as a reliable store then online shopping becomes very beneficial.

A young entrepreneur Aqsa Sajid, who with her sister runs a clothing brand through different online platforms, said that establishing an online market is more difficult than the traditional one. “You have to create a make-believe scenario for your target audience that the item they are going to spend their money on is worthy of it. They cannot try it or touch it so you, as an entrepreneur, have to provide that sense of security that their money is not being wasted”, she said.

She said a physical store does not face that challenge hence they can create their customer base easily but the Corona virus has affected that advantage badly. “Now customers have realized that going online is the only option for brands to keep up with the market demands and so they have to ensure the quality and quantity at the same time”, she added.

On the contrary, there are many consumers who have been deceived when it comes to certain stores and brands who offer online purchasing services. Many complained of receiving late orders or no orders at all. Most of the time the parcels the consumers receive are totally different from what they had ordered. It is either an old or used item or something totally different for what the consumer was expecting.

Sadia Irfan, a regular online shopper, said usually her online experience was not bad but on a few occasions she did not receive the order at all or it came so late that it became irrelevant. “Online shopping is only convenient when you are sure about the quality and repute of the brand or store. As a shopper I make sure that there exists a physical store of the brand in case I don’t get my desired product, so I can get it exchanged and save my money”, she added.

This practice becomes annoying as it consumes double the amount of time than physical shopping, she added.

Online branding is still a smaller proportion of total retail spending. E-business or online shopping, no doubt has been a remarkable shift from conventional shopping patterns. However, in Pakistan, though it is making inroads, yet the speed of shopper conversation to this form of purchase remains sluggish.

The main reason for this slow pace remains the trust issues between retailers and consumers. There are innumerable factors pivotal to this lack of consumers interest in the online shopping but absence of international competition, lack of cyber security, incapacity of the system to support digital fund transfers, absence or dysfunctional body to address customer grievances and last but not the least, low quality of delivered products, is to name a few.

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