Would online retailing lead to a better society?

In the last few weeks we have heard of some interesting news. While Walmart decides to shut 100’s of its stores, rumours prevail that Amazon might open multiple brick and mortar stores.

Two extremely divergent paths being taken by two retail giants- isn’t this interesting? What if the entire world moves towards online retailing alone?

Let us do a thought experiment by leveraging design thinking principles and asking — Why, What if and How.

Why… would someone be motivated to shop online?

1. To avail better discounts

2. Save time from visiting a brick and mortar showroom

3. Avoid traffic in big cities

4. Health conditions

5. Sheer Laziness

The above could lead to:

1. Better saving potential

2. Having more time to pursue a hobby/skill/spending good time with loved ones

3. Lower consumption of fuel leading to a better environment

4. Reduced traffic

Overall, online shopping can help someone better organize their time and utilize the same for other activities. This enables them to be better as a person.

Some may argue that online shopping impacts the social scenario negatively by:

1. Reducing person to person contact as everyone spends more time indoors

2. Shrinking valuable time with family & friends spent while shopping

3. Lowering the level of physical activity, thereby impacting health

4. Dampening the fun of visiting malls and showrooms and trying things out!

Each of these points can be made into individual Why’s that we can solve creatively.

What if…

Online retailing were to be made more affordable and simple, working across a spectrum of consumers?

1. The solution options need not just be mobile/web, but also

a. ATM’s/Kiosks that dispense essentials

b. Pre-planned Monthly/Weekly/Daily delivery of goods

2. Single warehouse for an area reducing multiple levels of inventories held at the 100’s of stores. Resulting in reduced wastage and bringing efficiencies of scale

a. Smaller stores can be collection centres.

b. This can be an application of Just In Time (JIT) philosophy in shopping

3. Huge malls/show rooms could be converted to:

a. Affordable housing spaces

b. Health care facilities

c. Educational institutes

d. Museums

e. General purpose public spaces that can be used by everyone

How…?

:) Before I spell my views out, I would like to hear from you about yours…!