Is everything that glitters gold?


December 2014, article published in El Periódico de Catalunya

Is everything that glitters gold?

“I’m an addict. I buy all my clothes online ever since this company’s app exists. The only way to control this impulse a bit is not to introduce a default credit card into the system, so that if I want to buy something I have to input it every time. But it’s great, they send it to my house or I go pick it up without waiting in line. I know my size and the brand, and buying is simple.”

These are the confessions made by an online shopper, with a satisfied smile, to the author. Her annual purchase spending had grown thanks to the introduction of a mobile-format online channel (let’s not confuse the web with the Internet; Internet is the highway, web is a lane on the highway, but there are more lanes, like apps for example).

Can we think, then, that in ecommerce everything that glitters is gold? Electronic commerce, according to the CMT (which for several years has done a regular report) measures the sector at some 12.700 million euros for 2013. It is based on the most recent data available for credit card transactions; out of scope of the study are other payment methods such as native online methods like PayPal, as well as traditional methods, like cash on delivery. Previous-year growth is double-digit from 2005 to today without exception, something noteworthy if we keep in mind the deep crisis that occurred.

In 2013 there were some 190 million online transactions, which gives us an average ticket of some 66 euros. Almost half of these sales were within Spain and the other half were purchases outside Spain (half!!), the majority of the European Union representing only a small percentage of the export sales from Spain. That is, they buy little of us from outside the country, and we buy a lot from them.

There has been a debate for some time about whether electronic commerce will substitute physical commerce. I am of the opinion that it will not. It will be a necessary complement and the two will live very well side by side.

It is interesting to see how even the stores that were purely online have begun to be represented in the physical world. For example, recently in Toronto I saw a bitcoin exchange office in the street, where they were offering dollars for units of the virtual currency. Another case, Recoon, which has big home appliance brands at competitive prices, just opened a showroom in the street to show off their products. And I say “show” because in this place you don’t buy anything; you can get familiar with the products and experience them but not purchase them. Thus we see how new transaction methods are arising. It is also important to mention how the trip is being made from offline to online, and vice-versa.

Therefore, strong growth, tipped scales, and new transaction methods set a stage on which maybe not all that glitters is gold…but, really, it sparkles quite a lot.

Also published in El Periodico de Aragón (see publication here)

Photo: Gold nugget de Shutterstock

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