All the e-commerce apps in the world won’t make us shopaholics


The explosion of e-commerce apps of late - Fab, Shoedazzle, Myhabit, etsy - and especially the long tail of niche online stores powered by Shopify are just fighting too hard with fundamental human nature. Just appealing to people’s desire for novelty and acquiring new possessions isn’t going to be enough.

What apps and the Web have never particularly done well is change us. Everyone designing an e-commerce app will cite how massive the industry is in the offline world. But if you look at retail shopping, it’s largely designed to make money despite people’s lack of real need for their goods.

Brick-n-mortar jewelry stores notoriously employ aggressive salespeople to make you buy things you don’t want; fashion stores tie into that aspirational aspect of self-betterment too. They don’t make money once the dress is worn, just off the nice idea that someday someone might compliment them on the overpriced piece of fabric and maybe think they’re a little more attractive.

If human beings - particularly Americas - were different, we’d buy more stuff. It’s not rocket science: keeping up pretenses and max out your credit card. We know how to do it. We just don’t. The ability to buy something with one click or have virtual flash sales targeted to your interests doesn’t change that.


Sara Lacy may be right that the current consumer health apps won’t make it big, but to suggest that technology is fundamentally not suited for changing the way people behave, especially in regards to their health, is laughable.


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