As a teen, I used to take for granted the ability to search the internet for buying new songs on iTunes or for purchasing cool board games through a Google search. Fast forward 10 years and we’ve come so far as a society in our ability to use big data and search engines to find anything from a favorite kitchen gadget to an amazing new home.
When it comes to buying a home, rather than relying exclusively on town records, word of mouth or taxes, we have access to an array of search features to make a home purchase. Google explorations alone can tell you more about a community, its amenities and even its demographics. Let’s not forget about search engines like Zillow, which allow for anyone to look at the purchases and records of real-estate properties in any given area. Narrowing down to the nitty gritty of a home purchase allows people to make better informed buys, especially if relying on an inexperienced real estate agent’s perspective.
Furniture and all kinds of niceties, including prescription eyeglasses, can be easily purchased through the internet. Online retail offers a wide assortment to satisfy everyone’s tastes. For example, if Amazon or Ikea don’t have the furniture you need, there’s always more refined boutique store options or completely e-commerce home goods sources such as Wayfair. Wayfair remains especially popular with out-of-state college students, since shipping is free. Retail has become more of a numbers game due to increased search engine capabilities. Let’s suppose you’re interested in getting a dresser made of a nice Cherry or Mahogany wood, but you’re not sure how to get the best price. You can make use of powerful tools like Excel to keep track of all the costs in one place. Some online stores even have price matching for their products, giving more power to the buyer in an already competitive marketplace. With the advent of websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, it makes it much simpler to buy local, used furniture and decorations.
Despite having multiple options and readily available data, a downside exists. Before the digital age, the process for buying remained much more relationship based. For example, oftentimes a real estate agent or furniture salesperson would give you a piece of history on a purchase to be decided. While relationship building continues to evolve and many still prefer this kind of sales method, the option to avoid it slightly or even completely continues to be more of a reality.
Is this a good thing for consumers? With the decline of relationship-based selling, it now requires retailers and sales personnel to adapt to more aggressive styles. Big data is being used on consumers in sometimes questionable ways. Psychology has taken a frontline in order to try to deceive or manipulate our spending. Most questionable of all, our digital footprint can be tracked by the same companies trying to encourage our spending. Despite the drawbacks, it’s hard to think of our society without the human contact or the digital search technology we enjoy.