Handshakes to Click-To-Order Cupcakes

By Emily Miles

How the art of customer shopping habits has changed over the years.

Where did it all begin? Well, currency was first introduced back in 200 BC by the Roman Empire which meant that people were able to exchange items or services for currency. That’s where the idea of selling for money all began, with face to face interaction with the customer. And it stayed this way. For a very long time. Up until 1568 when The Royal Exchange Shopping Gallery was first opened in the UK and introduced the idea of selling your products or services through a store at smaller quantities. The store will buy the products from the manufacturers or wholesale suppliers at volume, for a discounted price, and then the store prices up the product to sell onto the end user. So, we have face to face sales and the retail store but what came next?

Travelling sales and the mail order catalogue, both revolutionary in their approach to sales with the ability to reach a wider audience than the previous techniques. But the next step was something many of you will be familiar with, and probably not for the most favourable reasons - telemarketing. The art of calling your potential customer with services or products that you believe they may be interested in. This type of customer interaction and engagement wasn’t introduced until the late 1970’s but by 1980 almost 72% of all UK households had landlines, meaning customers no longer had to be local for you to be able to sell your products or good to them.

Now, let’s introduce a little thing called the internet. As I am sure you know, the internet has revolutionised the way the world works in general but it has also revolutionised the way customers make their sales. Take Amazon and Ebay for example. These sites mean you can now purchase the items you want, in any quantity, at any time of the day. You can do all your research about the products and then pop onto the website, click order and pay for your goods. It has all the benefits of ordering from a catalogue without the hassle of waiting for the telemarketing call, popping to the local shop or waiting for the travelling salesperson. Plus, you can do all of this without speaking to another human and in a world that’s becoming less social and more social media, this freedom to shop whenever you want has taken over traditional customer engagement.

This freedom to shop whenever you want has taken over traditional customer engagement.

Moving forward from this, social media allows you to find all the information out about the company but more importantly, you can read reviews from other people who have used their services. No longer do you have to take the word of your Mum’s best friend’s uncle about the company, you can see for yourself what other people think of the service. Social media has allowed customers to contact companies wherever they are, at whatever time they want. Statistics show that  64% of Twitter users and 51% of Facebook uses are more likely to buy the products of the brands they follow online and they’re following them for a reason - they like the service.

So, where is next from here? Well, what about virtual reality? Sure, it’s still in it’s infancy and the devices are chunky and difficult to use but weren’t computers and mobiles? What about if rather than just seeing a picture of that frozen lake in the article you’ve written, you could actually have a 360 degree view of the place and it’s surroundings? Or instead of visiting your local store, you could go to the virtual reality shop, complete with virtual assistants, and browse their products there? In a world that is becoming busier by the minute customers want three things; convenience, excellent customer service and the ability to shop whenever they want.