By: Kathryn Hutchison, Senior Director of E-Commerce at Threadsy.
A couple of big trends come to mind on the consumer side: the final push towards mobile shopping, and an increasing desire for trust and authenticity.
Online shopping in consumer retail has been shifting to mobile devices for years now, and we are finally seeing that trend accelerate in the small business space as well. A few years ago, a small business owner might have purchased wholesale goods from a variety of touchpoints across the web, phone, email and physical stores.
Today, however, that journey is increasingly consolidated to smartphones—particularly among younger business owners and those running a small business side hustle. We’ve seen this through the bulk orders and even small, single orders that we receive on Threadsy from small business owners who promote primarily on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. The increase in mobile traffic has been transformative for our industry, as we now tailor everything from our advertising, to customer care, to payment methods, to provide excellent service to customers who do business almost exclusively from their phones.
In addition to being largely mobile, I see the future of online shopping as deeply personal and authentic. People love things that connect them with real people who share their passions and goals. A good product or website won’t be enough to succeed in the future, especially with so much competition, because realistically, anyone can create a good product or website. In addition to meeting those table stakes, it is important to look at the communal impact you can make with your business. At Threadsy, we want to transform our industry by giving small businesses, startups and makers easy access to products that will help them realize their dreams. To achieve this, we focus not only on having excellent products, pricing and technology, but also building authentic connections and trust with our customers at every step of their experience.
Why is online shopping becoming popular?
Overall, I think that online shopping is becoming so popular because of pricing, how easily accessible it is to anyone, and the ability to find exactly what you’re looking for in minutes. For our customers at Threadsy, the decision to shop online is about convenience, choice and connection. By shopping online, customers can access a much wider product selection and quality at lower prices than is possible at a physical store. Since we serve a niche industry, having expert-level customer service and product advice available right alongside the shopping experience is another huge plus.
More broadly, it’s hard to overstate the role of the pandemic in shifting consumer shopping demand online. Of course, people started shopping online long before COVID-19, but the last two years have really solidified the role of non-retail fulfillment in our daily lives.
The increase in online popularity extends to the selling side as well. Many Americans started or expanded their own online businesses during the pandemic to generate extra income, as a means of personal expression, or to establish financial autonomy. In the past year at Threadsy we have helped supply many startup apparel businesses which are based out of peoples’ homes with sales generated exclusively on social media and online marketplaces. It’s thrilling to see what these creators are contributing to our industry and their communities.
What do you think online shopping will be like in 2050?
In some ways, not a lot will change by 2050. This is because:
There will always be a need for omnichannel demand and fulfillment in most industries.
People will still rely on a mix of large retailers, small businesses and micro-commerce to meet their daily needs.
We probably won’t call it “online” shopping by 2050, but it’s a safe bet people will continue to shop via whatever electronic devices they use in daily life.
Some things that will probably change a lot in the next 30 years:
Improved environmental practices and sustainability efforts. We are seeing this already in our industry from improvements in raw materials production to packaging improvements to delivery efficiencies. At Threadsy, since we are a large retailer working with many different brands, we continuously focus on promoting and bringing on more sustainable brands. After all, that is the future of fashion.
Rise of VR and AR technologies. As virtual and augmented reality become more widely adopted in other areas of life such as communications and entertainment, those technologies will likely expand to shopping experiences as well. Expect more virtual shopping experiences that mimic the touch and feel of shopping in a store. These might include more showroom type ecommerce platforms, virtual try-on experiences for consumers, and virtual sampling programs for wholesale and B2B shoppers. Who knows, maybe in just a few years, Threadsy might start exploring virtual try-ons, too!
Increased adoption of AI by retailers. Consumers may not necessarily know or care how AI impacts their everyday life. However, we are utilizing this technology across many aspects of the business and only see AI playing a larger role in streamlining and improving the customer experience behind the scenes.
About Kathryn Hutchison:
Kathryn Hutchison is the Senior Director for Threadsy.com, one of the nation’s leading online retailers for blank apparel. She joined Threadsy in 2021, leading the launch of the business and delivering significant growth during the company’s first year. Prior to Threadsy, Hutchison held multiple leadership roles in marketing and ecommerce at RetailMeNot and Whole Foods Market.