6 Strange Ways Online Shopping Has Changed the World

By Mikey Rox on 27 September 2016 0 comments

If you prefer online shopping to in-store purchases, you're not alone. According to Business Insider, about 78% of the U.S. population age 15 and older fancies themselves a few clicks and a quick checkout when buying something new. While that's all well and good — and incredibly convenient — this new American pastime does have its downsides. Check out a few of these strange ways online shopping has changed the world — not necessarily for the better. (See also: 8 Ways Retailers Use Big Data to Track You)

1. Consumer Reviews Can Make or Break a Product

Before online shopping became commonplace, consumers had few ways to learn about the pros and cons of a product. They could rely on word-of-mouth if someone they knew had purchased the same item, or they could listen to what the media said about it, perhaps on consumer-related nightly news piece or in magazines, like Good Housekeeping. Because information on how well — or not well — a product worked was sparse, consumer unhappiness was limited. Retailers were relatively safe from gaining a poor reputation unless its products were outright duds that caught attention en masse. But that all changed with online shopping, which gave consumers the voice they had been looking for. Today, reviews of a product are trusted more than personal recommendations, according to research. In fact, a whopping 92% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a friend or family member, or perhaps even more.

2. There Are No True Holidays Anymore

Remember when we were kids and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas meant that virtually no retail stores would be open? We'd drive through town on the way to our relatives' house for supper and there was nary a car in any of the stores' parking lots. That's all changed thanks to online shopping, much to many people's dismay. Each year, it seems, Black Friday hours are pushed earlier and earlier, creeping into Thanksgiving, with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day even. Last year, Kmart said to hell with the entire holiday and opened at 6 a.m. the fourth Thursday of November, the earliest among major retailers. It was beat out by one other chain, however, though not a competitor: Victoria's Secret opened its doors from 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thanksgiving Day (a full 24 hours!), because, ya know, who isn't in the mood for sexy lingerie after stuffing themselves silly with turkey and mashed potatoes?

3. Shopping Malls Are Becoming Ruins

Shopping malls were huge in the 1980s and '90s, so much so that they defined an entire generation. But by the 2000s, attendance at malls around the country started to dwindle. Many factors have contributed to the decline (not the least of which was that they had become locales of violence), including the rise of online shopping. Bustling hubs of commerce and social activity that once stood proud are now in ruin, relics of the past that serve as a stark reminder that American life isn't what it used to be.

"Dozens of malls have shuttered since 2010, with hundreds more on the brink," says Benjamin Glaser, features editor with DealNews. The few shopping centers that have been built in the last decade usually aren't traditional, enclosed malls, but larger complexes with a wider dining and entertainment options, and often open-air areas. To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to create experiences.

This fate doesn't paint a pretty picture of what was left in the wake of the downturn or for current mall owners. Those that have already heard its final cash register cha-ching now look like sets for The Walking Dead, and those that still exist are being murdered by debt.

4. Dog Bites Have Increased

Family dogs and mail carriers have had a rocky relationship for decades, but recently our friendly canines have been acting out in droves — all because that pesky USPS employee is stopping by more often with your online packages.

According to AdAgedog bites were up 14% last year, reaching a total of 6,549 incidents. The most attacks were in Houston, which had 77, while San Diego and Cleveland clocked in at 58 each.

5. Identity Theft Is Out of Control

Before online shopping became everybody's go-to method of buying everything from clothing to groceries, it was difficult for an identity thief to target a large amount of data. Sure, your credit card could be stolen by a single thief and charged up until the bank caught wind of suspicious activity, but the consequences pale in comparison to a million-accounts data breach that could throw your entire life out of whack. USA Today reports that credit-card data theft has increased 50% from 2005 to 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Likewise, because your credit card numbers can be worth hundreds of dollar a piece to resellers — the number of malicious programs written to steal your information has grown from about 1 million in 2007 to an estimated 130 million today. So basically, no one is safe, and you should take even more precautions — like not storing your credit cards with retailers online — to avoid becoming a victim.

6. Some Online Orders Are Now Being Delivered by Drones

Future moving too fast for you? Then you won't be elated to hear the news that drones may start arriving at your home or office to deliver your online shopping orders. Yep, flying robots are entering the friendly skies all over the world, and they could be landing in your front yard soon if Amazon has its way. Its PrimeAir program is gearing up for its first consumer flights that promise to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. China and Australia have already implemented similar services, which has its benefits, especially to those in hard-to-reach rural areas, or for medical purposes, but we can all probably agree that nobody needs their piping-hot burrito dropped from the sky.

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