Priceless: The modern shopping experience
I'm a chronic online shopper. It's bad. Like, one-package-a-week bad.
And it all started when I joined the Mottis team. Well, that’s not entirely true. It started a long time ago, but it was just fostered and encouraged when fellow designer Toni introduced me to Fab.com, an online shopping community devoted to good design at a discount.
Now, every day at Fab o’clock (or 11 a.m., for those unaware) I check the day’s collection of well-designed goods — just in case there’s something awesome. I bought all my holiday presents on Fab last year, and if I think enough in advance, I can usually find a good deal on newfangled, innovative gifts for anyone (or for myself!) ranging from mod, screenprinted posters of the Paris Metro to fancy, Italian, infused olive oils to colorful, fixed-gear bicycles. However, while there is always an affordable selection, there are usually some $3,000 rugs that my wallet just can’t justify — or sustain.
Some predict Fab’s going to be the next Amazon. Perhaps that’s because Fab also has a social component, letting you see what your friends want and buy. Put your mouth where your money is. Or rather, put your money where your friend’s mouth is. You even get rewards, called credits, for referring your friends.
The growing popularity of Fab has opened me up to the idea that buying is changing, really changing. Retail shops even encourage you to visit their websites to find additional sizes and colors these days, in lieu of their brick-and-mortars. There are droves of new websites that, like Fab, are experimenting with new business models. They’re trying to make shopping more seamless, lively, unpredictable.
Sites like Lost Crates and BirchBox send subscribers a box of surprise treasures on a theme each month. BeachMint, which has personalized online stores for home and beauty products, shoes, clothing and jewelry, tailors a showroom for each user based on their answers to a style questionnaire. Etsy, the flea market of the Internet, lets craftspeople sell their own handiwork or vintage items. A subscription to Amazon Prime affords you two-day shipping on millions of items.
In-person buying is changing, too, into a very painless and easy process. The waitstaff at Oro, a new restaurant in downtown Raleigh, take your order on an iPad, then swipe your credit card on it too. Individuals can also invest in the Square, a credit card reader for the Android, iPhone or iPad, so they can take payments from anyone, anywhere, any time.
All of these different approaches to something as commonplace and necessary as shopping are a good reminder that everything is changing. Unique, special and personalized experiences are what consumers want in the digital age. It’s clear that there are entrepreneurs who think it’s time to get away from the mundane, impersonal experiences we’ve become used to — either online or in person.
Whether consumers are making purchases because they saw their friend buy something via their Facebook newsfeed or because they’re after a tailored selection of products, it’s clear they agree: It is time to change how we shop. Myself included.