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Watching technology reach tipping points

By Jean-Claude Elias - May 25,2017 - Last updated at May 25,2017

Watching elements of technology reach the tipping point is fascinating, if only because they usually exceed even the most optimistic forecast. In most cases it happens much faster than expected.

An example: digital photography passed the 50 per cent market threshold circa 2003. At the turn of the century die-hard purists who would still swear by film cameras, thinking the big change would take at least till 2030 actually to happen. Another example: smartphones beat “dumbphones” early 2013. Who would have thought that this would happen so soon? Who still uses a phone-only mobile handset today? 

Focus now is on online shopping. Though there are significant discrepancies from country to country, the trend is clear the world over. In the USA the tipping point was reached early this year. Statistics published on indicate that “online orders have finally surpassed in-store purchases.” It is however noted that this excludes buying your groceries.

Whether on Amazon, Ali Baba or less gigantic sites, online shopping is definitely the most obvious digital trend, perhaps alongside online banking.

The economic and the societal impacts of the phenomenon should not be underestimated. Imagine the majority of the shops disappearing from the streets or the malls! Life in the city would not be the same.

The dramatic increase of online shopping volume can be analysed — many are certainly doing it every day — and countless elements can emerge to explain and to quantify the phenomenon. Notwithstanding sophisticated details, marketing criteria and studies by specialists, a couple of these elements are obvious and do not require fancy analysis or a lot of figures.

It is steadily becoming more expensive and time consuming to do in-store shopping, especially in big cities with these dreadful traffic jams, while at the same time smartphone apps are making online shopping a breeze and a pleasure. Combine these two elements and you easily understand why doing it online is the way to go.

Shopping online inside a country is one thing and placing international orders is another. Indeed, restrictions, shipping cost and sometimes unpredictable customs duties work as deterrents. And yet, despite these limitations, international online shopping is also clearly on the increase, though they may produce different statistics from country to country, understandably.

Online shopping is already a common habit among a good part of the population in Jordan, not to mention online ordering of fast food and hubbly-bubbly via smartphone apps. 

Big countries like Canada, Russia, USA, Australia, India and similar ones, have already crossed or will very soon cross the 50 per cent mark. On the other hand smaller countries, and if they also impose severe imports restrictions and heavy customs duties, will take a few years to reach the tipping point where e-commerce will exceed in-store purchases.


Regardless of when exactly it is going to happen, online shopping is going to be the norm very soon, in most countries, as surely as digital photography, smartphones and other digital revolutions did it. The tipping point is around the corner.

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