Will online shopping replace traditional shopping?

Over a third of us now do most of our shopping online - broadbandchoices.co.uk asks if it’s really cheaper than shopping the old-fashioned way and if high street shops are on their way out.

More than a third of us now do the majority of our shopping online, while less than a third do the majority of our shopping on the high street and a smaller proportion split their shopping between the two.

These statistics, from a study of online shopping habits by broadbandchoices.co.uk, may not sound particularly Earth-shattering today, now that using the internet to buy everything from music to clothes to groceries is commonplace.

However, if you consider that ten years ago the iTunes Store had only just opened, ASOS was yet to turn a profit and Ocado had only just been founded, the change in our shopping habits over such a relatively short time span is seismic.

What's the appeal of online shopping?

Ask anyone who shops online their main motivation for doing so, and chances are they'll say because it's cheaper than shopping on the high street or even in out-of-town supermarkets. But is it really cheaper to shop online?

According to our comparison of a range of products in the table below, the answer is a resounding yes, be it a toaster costing £1 less from online retailer Very than it does from a John Lewis store, or an Apple MacBook costing £157 less on Amazon.co.uk than from a Currys store.

Item

High street

Price

Online

Price

Saving £

Saving %

Apple iPhone 5 16GB

Apple Retail Store

£529

Amazon.co.uk

£509

£20

4%

Hotpoint WDPG9640P Washer Dryer

John Lewis

£449

Pixmania.co.uk

£419

£30

7%

Sony eBook Reader T2 WiFi Pottermore

Sony

£119

Pixmania.co.uk

£109.73

£9.27

8%

Game Of Thrones - season 2 Blu-ray boxset

HMV

£39.99

Amazon.co.uk

£36

£4

10%

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro

Currys

£999

Amazon.co.uk

£842

£157

16%

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Currys

£394.99

Amazon.co.uk

£310

£84.99

22%

Lawless DVD

HMV

£12.99

Amazon.co.uk

£8.99

£4

31%

The Hairy Bikers' Great Curries

Foyles

£20

Amazon.co.uk

£10

£10

50%

One reason shopping online can be so much cheaper is because the internet, and comparison sites in particular, make it "easier for consumers to compare prices and find the best deal for what they're looking for," says Andrew Walker, UK country manager at shopping comparison site PriceRunner.

However, the appeal of online shopping isn't about price alone. It's also about flexibility, according to Mark Haupt, UK and Netherlands country manager at shopping search engine Kelkoo, who says "shoppers do not see time of day as a constraint in terms of their online spending habits."

However, one consequence of this is that data from Kelkoo showed more of us are "buying under the influence of alcohol" than ever before. In fact, research from broadbandchoices found one in four of us has bought something online after hitting the bottle.

What is mobile shopping?

While the vast majority of the 2,000 UK adults questioned about their shopping habits on behalf of broadbandchoices said they use their home computer, be it desktop or laptop, to shop online, almost a quarter are also mobile shopping.

Mobile shopping means shopping online via your mobile phone and, while many of us have had mobile phones for years, "it's only recently that there's been an increase in purchases from mobile devices," according to Andrew Walker.

One of the main reasons for this is likely to be screen-size. Almost a quarter of those polled who hadn't bought anything via their mobile phone said they hadn't done so because the screen is too small.

However, this isn't likely to put people off mobile shopping for long says Walker, as we are "becoming more comfortable" with shopping via smartphones and tablets and online retailers are responding by putting "more effort into making browsing and shopping easier on a small device".

Mark Haupt believes mobile shopping will lead to online shopping becoming even more popular as 'quick buy' options on mobile devices, along with improved data protection and smarter design "are going to change the game," leading to millions more online transactions.

Will online shopping replace traditional shopping?

Surely no matter how popular online shopping becomes - and almost a third of those polled said they expect to spend more online in 2013 than in any previous year - there will always be some items shoppers simply won't countenance buying online? Not necessarily so.

"All the evidence points to increasing diversity," says Walker, "and if it can be delivered to someone it can be sold online - there really are no restrictions". Our research backs him up - over half of us now mainly use the internet to buy clothes, and a quarter our weekly grocery shop.

Online shopping is unlikely to plateau anytime soon. The relationship between platforms, such as smartphones and TVs is "certainly an opportunity," according to Walker, while internet-connected TVs and faster broadband "open up completely new possibilities" for online shopping.

Does this mean online shopping will make high street stores obsolete? While Haupt points out the online sales of items traditionally bought on the high street, such as fashion accessories and cosmetics, are increasing, Walker believes both forms of shopping will exist in the future.

"Online shopping continues to grow as websites improve and people become more comfortable shopping online, but offline shopping is also improving as a result of the competition," he explains. "It looks like we'll end up with the best aspects of both rather than a complete transfer to online."

Feature: The truth behind drunk online shopping

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