Feature

Our love and hate relationship
with online shopping

Shop ‘til you drop: Most people like the convenience of shopping online but still enjoy walking around malls, like Senayan City, especially during sales. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama

Online shopping may sound like a dream come true, offering people a convenient way to purchase all the goods they could possibly want from the comfort of their own home, with just a few clicks of the mouse.

It may also turn into a disaster, as customers battle with complicated transaction procedures or fall victim to scams.

But amazing as it may sound, customers disappointed with their online experience will invariably get back onto their computers and start browsing for new offers on the net.

Take 25-year-old Astrid Anastasia for example. Two disappointing experiences purchasing goods online have not deterred her from browsing through online stores just minutes later to find other goods she might like.

“I am still often tempted to buy [things online],” said the woman who works as a reporter for a health magazine.

“Their postings make me go wild. I still want to buy everything,” said Astrid.

“But the items they send are not the quality I want,” Astrid went on, adding that she had once received shoes that had already been worn when ordering them online.

After that, she swore she would never buy anything from the Internet but now she’s realized she just can’t get away from that computer screen.

The widespread use of online technology in people’s everyday life has encouraged the growth of e-commerce in Indonesia.

The popularity of social networking sites, the omnipresence of cheap electronic devices as well as the faster internet connection speed here are believed to be strong drivers of this growth.

Data from International Data Corporation (IDC) states that online transactions in Indonesia rose to
Rp 35 trillion (US$3.85 billion) in 2009, and are expected to have increased further in 2010 as the number of Internet users grew from 30 million people to 45 million.

An expert in consumer behavior from the University of Indonesia, Tengku Ezni Balqiah, has predicted a boom in online shopping in the years to come as Indonesians increasingly trust online payment systems.

“Many people used to hesitate when they had to pay for goods online but with the improvements in banking services, I don’t think this will be a problem anymore,” she said.

Ezni added that people’s increasing busy lifestyles had provided more room for online shopping to grow in the future.

“You need a lot of resources when you want to shop, not only time but also energy. That’s when online stores can solve problems,” Ezni said.

Online stores have gained popularity in the past three years and definitely become an inseparable part of people’s lives.

You may find ads for online goods everywhere, in your email inbox, your Facebook wall and messages.

More and more online businesses are popping up as they are cheaper to establish and easier to manage compared to conventional businesses.

Setting up an online business only requires a start up capital of Rp 2 million. If the business is well run, its owner can make a turnover of more than Rp 10 million a month. Given these huge prospects, it comes as no surprise that many entrepreneurs have tried their luck setting up an online business.

But apart from online shopping’s promising opportunities for entrepreneurs and the convenience
it offers buyers, people are complaining about receiving increasingly disturbing online shopping offers every day.

“Photo tagging is the new spam,” web designer Dewa Widyakumara said, referring to a bunch of Facebook photos of new products from online stores crowding his wall page.

“I remove [from my Facebook] anyone who tags me [in such photos],” said the 35-year old.

Dita Indah Nurma Sari, 27, said she also felt irritated by shops tagging her in pictures of the goods they are trying to sell online, as she did not feel comfortable messages from online stores appearing on her Facebook wall.

 “They refer to people as ‘Sis’ or ‘Bun’ [the short version of Bunda or mother]. It feels so awkward. It’s as if they knew us really well. I don’t like it,” said the mother of one.

No one really knows why online businesses have started sending messages to complete strangers using familiar language, but many people have been complaining about such a phenomena on their statuses or blogs.

“I don’t know where these names come from. I just follow the others [online stores],” said
Hanida Syafriani, the owner of Jingga Boutique.

Given the increasing number of complaints about online shopping services, it appears there is a growing need to set up some kind of business etiquette on e-commerce that places the emphasis on customers’ convenience as a priority.

Even though Indonesia has its own law regulating Electronic Transactions and Information to protect the interest of people involved in e-commerce, no policy has outlined the need for certain business standards.

Some online stores believe their managements must implement a set of standards to maintain their customers’ trust.

“I only tag people once a day and if people complain, I will apologize and remove the tag immediately,” said Bayu Sulistyo Subyantoro, the director of online store himandher couple stuff.

Despite people complaining about and criticizing online shopping, there is no denying it provides an important service in people’s modern lifestyles.

Take Dita and Dewa, for example. Despite their resentment of online stores and the services they provide, they still love shopping online.

“I am very conscious of the quality of products, so I prefer to go directly to the stores to buy the things I want. But if I don’t have time, then I don’t mind buying goods on the internet,” said Dita.

Dewa, on the other hand, values and trusts online shopping when it comes to buying electronic or computer-related stuffs.

“You can avoid falling into certain traps by checking the websites to see if they are reliable enough.

You can also opt for COD [cash on delivery] so when you don’t get the thing you ordered, you can cancel the purchase and not lose any money,” the man said.

So, what are you waiting for, people? Time to browse and buy!

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