As online retail giant Amazon poises to conquer our antipodean neighbour the future of Christmas shopping may go completely digital, a Massey University professor says.

Massey University Professor of Marketing Harald van Heerde said the digital age of shopping was already encroaching on consumer habits by way of cross-shopping.

"I think the big trend is this cross-shopping where consumers use multiple channels, physical stores and online, and they search both and then finally make the purchase either online or offline."

The professor said this situation, where consumers used physical stores as fitting rooms before purchasing items for a cheaper rate online, had already presented itself as a big fear for brick and mortar stores.


"It's almost a bit of a trial room and then people buy from somewhere else. The same thing is happening in Europe and the United States where a lot of people buy their clothing online and use a free return policy to try it.

"They may order three different sizes and then send the two back that don't fit. It's very costly for online retailers because they have to pay for getting the goods back, repackaging them and reselling them but online it's something consumers expect."

Professor van Heerde said he anticipated the biggest shock would come when Amazon began its operations across the ditch in Australia; a "tipping point" for what shopping in New Zealand may look like in the future.

"That will happen any day now. Everybody is wondering if they'll serve New Zealand as well and I think that could be a bit of a tipping point for offline, traditional stores.

"Not for this Christmas but I expect that in a year from now, if they start working as they have done in the United States and Europe then it will be a complete change compared to now."

On top of generally-cheaper prices, he said doing Christmas shopping online was also attractive for a number of other reasons including avoiding the hustle and bustle of the holiday period.

"It's also a bit of a generational thing. A lot of the younger generation are constantly on their screens so for them it's very natural to often use that for shopping."

However, there were still some aspects of physical stores that couldn't be matched with online shopping, he said.


"The big thing is of course that now you can buy things online, but I think there's still a role for the physical store. Certain things you really have to touch and feel, like shoes and clothing, so in a sense I think there's a role for both."

The professor predicted that in several decades, Christmas shopping would have moved online in a significant way.

"I think Christmas shopping will still be there and people will give gifts to each other but this whole madness in the last couple of weekends in the lead up to Christmas will be quite a bit less."