Technology -- Internet technology, especially -- has had a tremendous impact on every aspect of our lives. In particular, you can look and see how technology has changed our spending habits. For some, this impact is positive, while for others, it’s negative. However, regardless of where you stand, it’s impossible to ignore the influence that technology is having on consumer trends.
Some argue that new technological innovations have created a generation of impulsive buyers who make rash buying decisions as a result of the convenience of easy purchasing. Others believe that new technologies increase the possibility of making smart financial decisions. Regardless, one thing is clear: technology is impacting spending habits in the United States.
We all have certain tendencies. Some people are more disciplined, while others tend to be more impulsive and reactive in nature. Technology doesn’t change these innate traits. However, as technology evolves, the innate spending habits of consumers gradually become aligned with new developments. The results of this evolution are felt in a variety of ways. Here are a few in particular:
Convenient and automated spending.
Over the years, it’s become much easier to spend money. You can purchase anything that you want from the comfort of your living room sofa. You don’t even have to walk down the street to the retailer and pull the item off of the shelf. They’ll deliver it to you – sometimes on the same day!
This isn’t necessarily a positive or a negative. If you’re a disciplined buyer, this convenience is a great thing. It means that you can make easy purchases without spending too much time. However, if you’re an impulsive shopper, this convenient, around-the-clock shopping access can be a recipe for disaster.
“The more automatic spending is, the more likely we are to not keep track or possibly remember what was spent,” says Donna Mihalcheon, VP of a Canadian tax advisory firm. “The key is to be actively involved in your bank balances by checking them regularly – daily in fact – to ensure there is enough money to pay the bills when they are due.”
On a related note, the rise of subscription services has made purchasing certain products a totally automated process. When people sign up for these services, products are delivered on a regular basis, and payment is totally automated. The positive here is convenience, while the negative is that many people forget to cancel subscriptions that they no longer use and end up wasting money.
Access to discounts and deals.
Online shopping has revealed impulsive behaviors in many, but it’s also allowed others to become much smarter shoppers. Hundreds of deal websites and blogs have popped up over the years, making deal finding easier than ever.
While these deal sites have been around for a number of years, other technologies are moving into this space, which makes shopping for the best price a streamlined process. For example, the deal site CouponLawn just launched their Shopsta browser extension, which simplifies online shopping by giving users access to deals directly in their search engine results. This is just one example of how the marketplace is becoming friendlier to consumers.
Social media and validation.
In the past, advertising and traditional media sources, like television commercials and magazine ads, directly influenced purchase behaviors. This is quickly changing – thanks in large part to social media. Millennial consumers are less influenced by paid marketing and prefer to listen to organic content and the opinions of their peers.
Research shows that, before making a purchase, 36 percent of millennials look for opinions from friends, while 37 percent ask their parents for input. Only 17 percent look for opinions from “online experts,” while less than 3 percent report being influenced by media sources and advertisements.
Social media has fueled these changes, as it’s now easier than ever to share opinions, ask for feedback, and see what others are buying. Brands have discovered the value in this and are aligning their marketing efforts with genuine brand ambassadors.
Internet banking and online financial monitoring.
In the past, people relied on monthly paper bank statements to keep track of their accounts. Now, with the advent of online banking, people can monitor account levels, transfer money, and pay bills at any moment of the day. This has ultimately led to smarter consumers and budgeters who are more aware of their real-time financial situations.
In addition to banks offering online banking options, many new tools and technologies have entered the market. In particular, there’s been a major focus on money management applications. Two of the most popular are Mint and YNAB, but there are literally dozens of different free and paid alternatives.
As an American consumer in the 21st century, it’s impossible to separate buying habits and technology. Whether you prefer to shop online or offline, there are key aspects of the buying process that have changed over time, and -- as a whole -- our behaviors have evolved along the way. This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just the simple truth. For consumers, it’s good to be aware of this. For entrepreneurs, it’s smart to identify ways to leverage these trends for profitability and growth.