Shop till you log off:
Online shopping addiction
takes hold

JP/J. Adiguna

You are after a “shop-till-you-drop” experience, but all you get is hours trapped in thick traffic and fatigue from queuing and walking around the malls.

Savvy shopaholics are finding a solution by just staying home and shopping online.

Many “virtual malls” offer much the same as what you might find outside, but accessible from the comfort of your home, without no need for dressing up or braving the traffic.

So when shopaholic Ayu Martha, who finds it hard to fit a visit to the mall into her tight schedule, needs a fix, it is her laptop that she turns to.

“Online stores allow me to shop for many things in one go. Ten stores at a time – isn’t that time saving?” said Ayu, a secretary at a foreign company in Jakarta.

A self-described fashionista, Ayu has found herself right at home in the virtual malls.
“No more of the same old styles of clothing; I have more access to the latest fashion trends like those from Japan and Korea and at reasonable prices. And you can still make some bargains without the sellers know your identity,” she added with a smile.

Online shopping also offers a kind of guilt-free window-shopping or browsing. Because it does not require face-to-face contact, buyers don’t need to feel apologetic for their “just looking thanks” failure to make a purchase.

“With online shopping, I can do window-shopping without any limitations, and compare prices from one shop to another along with getting detailed information,” said Imada Sagita, an employee at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The experiences of shoppers like Ayu and Imada show how shopping is undergoing a face lift in
mall-mad Indonesia. Sailing on the winds of the “dotcom” revolution, Indonesian businesses are using Internet portals as a new net to capture customers.

Consider designer Rahmani Endrawati, usually known as Endi. She has boutiques in Kuta and Nusa Dua in Bali, as well as in Jakarta, but has customers from all over the world, thanks to her online shop www.nilakandibyendi.com.

Under the label Nila Kandi (Blue Sky), Endi has been able to make her designs, with their modern twist on Indonesian batik, popular on the international market.

“I created an online shop because of requests from many people. I met them in exhibitions and they often asked, ‘Do you have a website?’,” said Endi, whose customers come from as far away as Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Thailand.

“For me, the website is just one way to promote my pieces even though sometimes people visit it just to out check prices.”

Endi, who started her business two years ago, offers her Pekalongan batik clothes in modern and sexy styles. She also offers sandals, bags and other accessories, with prices ranging from Rp 65,000 to around Rp 500,000.

Customers contact her by phone and email, and pay for their orders by transferring money directly into one of her bank accounts.

The opportunity to attract a wider range of customers is one of the reasons Jakob Deli opened an online shop, www.unicktoys.com, which offers imported collectible urban vinyl and designer toys.

“An online shop penetrates a wider market,” Jakob said. “Surprisingly, my customers come from all walks of life, including celebrities and public figures.”

Jakob offers limited-edition toys and accessories created by artists and designers, with prices ranging from Rp 10,000 to around Rp 1.4 million. His shop only accepts direct bank transfers as the method of payment and customers must wait up to seven business days for their ordered items to arrive.

Jakob and Endi are just a few of the many shop owners who are benefiting from the growing popularity of online shopping.

Thanks to cheaper rates for Internet access, the increased number of Internet users and the availability of more cost-effective and user-friendly tools to create a site, online businesses are multiplying madly. Even sites such as Friendster, Multiply, personal blogs and forums have turned into shopping plazas.

Just take a look at sites such as www.cheaplyfashion.multiply.com, www.balibubushop.multiply.com or www.dianstuff.multiply.com, which have lovers of fashion and beauty queuing to get their hands on some of the affordable items.

This shows considerable change from the situation a few years ago, when the country’s pioneering online businesses failed to attract customers because of the slow adoption of technology and ingrained habits in Indonesian culture.

At that time, Indonesians tended to think of shopping – or walking around the malls – as a recreational activity. Moreover, touching and trying on potential purchases was a must in the shopping ritual.

The first online bookstore www.sanur.com (1996) and hypermarket www.lipposhop.com (2000), for example, eventually folded because of the low rate of personal Internet use in Indonesia. The Lippo Shop was able to survive for only one year despite its huge investment of some
Rp 100 billion.

But now, more and more Indonesians are embracing the Internet. Data from the Information and Communications Ministry reveal that the number of Internet users has swollen dramatically from about 230,000 in 2000 to 28 million in May 2008.

A Nielsen survey published in 2008 revealed that more than half of all Indonesian Internet users polled said they had made a purchase online. The survey on Internet shopping habits showed that the most popular items purchased are plane tickets or reservations (40%), books (37%), clothing; accessories and shoes (21%) and electronic equipment (21%).

The study also found that, unlike most global shoppers who generally prefer to pay by credit card, 45 percent of Indonesian online shoppers prefer bank transfers. Credit card came in second, as the choice of 43 percent of users.

According to the Nielsen survey, online shoppers tend to stick to the shopping sites they are familiar with, with 60 percent saying they buy mostly from the same sites.

“This shows the importance of capturing the tens of millions of new online shoppers as they make their first purchases on the Internet,” said Catherine Eddy, Nielsen Indonesia’s executive director for client solutions. “If shopping sites can capture them early, and create a positive shopping experience, they will likely capture their loyalty and their money.”

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