Is the age of technology affecting the local economy and driving shoppers to seek fulfillment online? Killeen residents say they split their purchases between online retailers and local businesses based primarily on price and availability.
Angel Pavey said this is her family’s second time living on Fort Hood during her husband’s military career.
“While we lived in interior Alaska, there were so few options compared to the lower 48 states that it felt like we needed to order on Amazon what we couldn’t get there,” Pavey said. “Now that we are back, I am disappointed to see so many of the popular stores closing, but I feel it is because we are living in a time where technology and convenience rule.”
Some of the major retailers to close in Killeen in the past year include Sears and Toys R Us.
It is so much easier to not have to fight traffic or deal with other people and potential confrontations in the store if all you have to do is push a button for all your needs and wants to show up at your door, Pavey said.
Another Killeen resident says while he understands people are driven toward lower prices, online shopping can hurt the entire community in the long run.
Frankie Fernandez said he rarely shops online, unless the item or brand he is looking for is not offered at a local store.
“I am not a big fan of people who shop online when they have options here in person,” Fernandez said. “Buying online hurts the economy if you look at the bigger picture.”
Fernandez said the locally owned ophthalmology clinics he manages loose patients to online sales because of cost.
“We are lucky to have faithful patients that choose to come to us and understand quality and service is not sacrificed with us,” Fernandez said. “Many people choose to buy their glasses online instead of local independent private practices such as ourselves.”
But the shift in the market doesn’t have to hurt local retailers, according to José Lopez, a counselor at the Central Texas Business Resource Center.
“It is important for us to understand the way businesses are conducted these days are totally different to when our parents used to do business,” Lopez said. “E-commerce is evolving and changing the way we see the economy, Industries are being modified by big technology companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and others.”
Lopez said local businesses must adapt to the new marketplace — which presents an advantage to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Many big retail businesses are behind in this trend because of their complicated operational structure and old styles of management,” Lopez said. This is the main reason why the biggest beneficiary of this new tech revolution are the young entrepreneurs and the small businesses.”
Small businesses can compete online with little to no overhead and Social Media has evolved itself in to being mediator between people’s business dreams and new potential markets, he said.
“Local small business owners can compete against giant retailers by demolishing giant overhead costs,” Lopez said. “Place is not just a physical location anymore,” and can include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon or just a website.
Killeen resident Artia Perry said she shops both online and in person for the greatest variety in meeting her family’s needs.
But she also travels to neighboring cities such as San Marcos or Austin for variety, she said.
“With our mall being so small and talk about the Killeen Mall shutting down, where else would we shop?” Perry asked. “I go to Lakeline Mall (in Austin) and I am always excited because there is so much to offer.”
In addition to variety, prices online also hold appeal for Killeen resident Sam Hinkle. She said that is her primary motivator for shopping online.
“I shop online a lot,” Hinkle said. “Mostly through Amazon because it’s cheaper and I’m part of a one-car family.”
Hinkle said crime rates are another contributing factor to her choice to shop online.
“I realize there is crime in every city and I’m thankful the crime rate has gone down,” Hinkle said. “But I think more needs to be done. I don’t feel safe living in Killeen.”
While convenience and price drive almost 60% of online sales, according to a Global Online Consumer report from KPMG International in 2017, the study said another 15% shop online because the products they need are not offered in local markets.
Copperas Cove resident Jesse Johnson said some car parts are available for more than $20 cheaper than from a local auto parts store.
“And nine out of 10 times, more durable and less issues,” Johnson said.
By the numbers
The KPMG International study showed that in-person sales are also boosted by a variety of individual concerns ranging from 13% not trusting the security of online shopping or the 14% who don’t like the hassle of the return process. But the study showed the greatest motivators for shopping in person are high shipping costs driving 25% of in person shoppers to keep their money local, and the 35% of shoppers who can’t wait for long delivery times.
Another 23% of shoppers elect to shop in person because they simply enjoy the experience of going into the store, the study said.
While many are familiar with online-only retailers such as Amazon and the variety of convenience features they afford, some retailers with storefronts such as Target, Walmart and H-E-B have found a way to maximize both online and local sales while providing affordable merchandise and greater convenience for their customers.
Target’s website offers a variety of options from delivery, in-store pickup, drive up pickup, home delivery or two-day shipping. Much like Amazon, Target also have a subscription service that offers additional savings.
Local grocery stores
With their curbside pickup, delivery and in-store options, both H-E-B and Walmart make merchandise available to shop for in the store, or to be picked up curbside or delivered directly to the customer’s door. Since they are both larger chains, they are also able to offer inventory online to be ordered from anywhere in the country.
H-E-B launched its curbside pickup program in 2015, according to Johnny Mojica, a public affairs spokesperson for Killeen-area H-E-Bs, and they continue to expand the program at stores across Texas.
Customers place their orders online and schedule a pickup at least four hours out, Mojica said. While there is no minimum order requirement, customers are charged a $4.95 service fee, he said.
“H-E-B is taking convenience to a whole new level with H-E-B Curbside,” Mojica said.
Mojica described H-E-B Curbside as “an innovative shopping option designed to save customers time while offering all the products and savings available in-store.”
“Every day we look for ways to enhance our customers’ shopping experience while staying committed to offering the highest quality products at low prices,” Mojica said. “H-E-B Curbside is another way we’re making grocery shopping even easier and more convenient for our customers.”
Walmart Grocery offers a free curbside pickup option at select locations.
“We know you have your hands full,” the Walmart Grocery online shopping site states. “Work, school, soccer practice and family obligations can quickly fill up your busy schedule. That’s why we’re offering free grocery pickup.”
Any grocery item available in the store can be ordered ahead anytime before 1 p.m. to pick up at a time convenient to the customer, the website states.
The website also offers an incentive of $10 off the first curbside pickup order of more than $50 worth of non-alcohol merchandise.
“It means less time shopping for pantry staples, organic ingredients and fresh produce,” the website states, “and more time for what’s important — like baking cookies with the kids.”