Consumers today have a choice when it comes to where they go to shop. They can get dressed, and drive in their car and visit their favorite mall or store, or they can simply flip on their computer and shop from their bed in their pj’s, or from any other convenient location. Online shopping has become a fast growing trend over the past decade, and is only continuing to grow. The inception of “cyber Monday”, the Monday after Thanksgiving where online retailers compete for customers by offering special deals and savings, is an indicator of the rise of the online shopping trend – in 2014, Cyber Monday sales were up 8.7% compared to sales in 2013 (Cook). Despite rapid growth in online sales, however, the traditional brick and mortar shopping experience is still important to many consumers. Choosing whether to shop online or in a physical store will depend on the ease of use for the consumer, what they want out of their shopping experience, and the price they want to pay for the items they want.
Choosing to do their shopping online on in a physical store oftentimes comes down to a matter of convenience for the consumer. Online shopping offers convenience, as you can shop from anywhere you can get an internet connection. However, online shopping doesn’t get you the instant gratification of shopping in a store. For example, while one recent survey found that 83% of online shoppers reported a high level of satisfaction with the experience, their lowest scores were for delivery and shipping (Morris). Some retailers, such as Amazon.com, do offer faster shipping on some items for preferred customers, so online shoppers do have some options for faster delivery. However, if you need something right way, then going into a physical store and simply picking up what you need may be the better choice.
The shopping experience is also different when shopping online versus in the store. When you shop online, you are simply looking at pictures of the items for sale; you cannot pick it up, smell it or physically experience it in any way. For some, this lack of sensory experience is the downside of shopping online, as its difficult to really connect with an item when you can’t hold it. Also, if it turns out to not be what you want, there is the hassle of having to mail it back. However, if you buy an item online from a store that has a physical location (such as Target.com or Walmart.com), you can always return it to the physical store for something else (Cook).
The price you pay for an item can also affect whether or not a customer chooses to buy it online or in a store. Shopping online allows you the ability to compare prices across multiple stores without having to drive all across town. However, oftentimes, retailers will offer special in-store sales that customers can’t get online, as a lure to get them into the store. Retailers can also offer better rates since they don’t have to worry about shipping an item. When shopping online, customers have to keep in mind the size of the item they are buying and the price it will cost to get it shipped (Braff, 2015). This may not be a big deal for jewelry or clothing, but when it comes to buying furniture it can, especially depending on where you live.
While shopping online continues to grow in popularity, customers still value the experience of shopping in a physical store. The two are becoming more integrated, with many physical stores offering an online shopping portal and vice versa. Customers value the ease of shopping online, but also the instant gratification of buying something at a store (Cook). While we may not ever enter back into an era of mega shopping malls, the brick and mortar stores aren’t going to ever be completely replaced by online shopping.
- Braff, Danielle (2014) “More Consumers Prefer Online Shopping.” WSJ. Web. 07 Mar. 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324063304578523112193480212>
- Cook, George (2015) “Buying Online versus in the Store.” Chicagotribune.com. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-cons-0904-savvy-shopper-20140904-story.html
- Morris, Betsy (2013) “How Brick-and-mortar Stores Can Survive the Internet Shopping Craze.”
Washington Post. The Washington Post. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/02/how-brick-and-mortar-stores-can-survive-the-internet-shopping-craze/>.