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Internet Integral To Consumer Confidence

In past installments on the Synergy Merchant Services Blog, we have discussed the major impact that the internet has had on advertising. By today’s standards, if you are not being represented online, it is as if you are not being represented at all. Especially to the younger members of the buying public, if you are not online, you practically don’t even exist.

As The Toronto Star‘s business reporter, Dana Flavelle reports today, retailers across North America are pretty much being forced to utilize the internet to promote their businesses. Being that we are in the “internet age”, there is a growing number of individuals who flock to the world wide web in order to discover what’s new, what’s on sale and where to purchase items that will keep them up to date with the latest trends.

This was the strong sentiment communicated earlier today in Toronto by Dan O’Connor, the president and chief executive officer of RetailNet Group, at the annual convention of the Canadian retail industry. “There’s a fundamental shift going on,” said O’Connor who also noted that consumers are surfing the net and finding the products they want to buy before they even think about entering a store.

He revealed that even his own highschool-aged children used Facebook in order to shop for their prom dresses. Using the popular social networking site, his kids researched prices and styles, comparing them with friends online before going out to make their purchases. This is a trend, he insists, that is growing. It calls for the attention of retailers everywhere to consider both their advertising and sales practices.

Said O’Connor: “We are in no way suggesting store-based retailing is dead. But we’re going through significant challenges.” As a result, a number of major retail chains have added new services to combat declining in-store sales. Wal-Mart, for example, purchased the online movie distributor, Vudu, when it noticed significant declines in the sales of DVDs and other digital products in their stores.

Other stores such as Sephora, a cosmetic retailer and Macy’s, the popular department store, offer products that are available 24/7 through self-serve kiosks. John Wright, the senior vice-president and managing director of the research firm Ipsos Reid, adds that consumers are becoming a lot more technology-savvy.

“People can shop for cars with their iPad and check out the Blue Book,” explains Wright, adding that “consumers want quality, value, experience. Otherwise they’ll just go somewhere else.” With information so readily available all over the internet, people are getting used to going online before going into the shopping mall.

The internet has also bridged the gap between younger and older consumers, adds Wright, as it provides everyone with the same type of access to information. Especially in the post-recession era, consumers remain concerned about getting the best value for their dollars. Said Wright: “The entire world is still in a recession mindset. Even in Canada concern about the economy is rising and the outlook for the rest of the year is softening.”

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