Online Shopping – Why do retail stores exist anymore? This is a loaded question, heavy with accusation that retail stores are yesterday’s technology and online is for today’s world.
While retail stores exist for many valuable reasons, it is easy for retailers to forget why and allow their businesses to drive – fuelling the question posed.
Retailers need to think about why their businesses exist and through this process reconnect with the value of a physical business compared to an online version.
To my mind, retail stores exist today for a range of very important social and economic reasons.
· Retail is a human activity. We like to look, touch, smell and share the experience with others. The online experience does not yet match this. Online is impersonal, lonely and lacking in satisfaction for the senses.
· Local stores are good for the environment. People can walk to them, they can browse and buy multiple items, there is no delivery truck required.
· Retail stores embrace the human condition. We are made to interact with each other. It is how stores and traditions are based on, face to face. Online this is harder to do – in a personal way at least.
· Local stores support local communities. If you go to the local bookshop or stationery shop or clothing store you are supporting local jobs and the broader local economy. If you buy online your money is going to who known where? There is little local economic benefit. You might as well put your money in an envelope and send it offshore. At least by buying locally a portion of your money stays in the local community.
· Service. Try returning a product you bought online or try asking a customer service question. If you bought the same item from a local retail store you have ore chance of being able to walk into the store and talk with the sales clerk who sold you the items. The retail store wins in the service stakes compared to the online store every time – no matter how smart the computer systems are.
· Instant gratification. If you want something right away good luck getting satisfaction online. Go to your local store, find what you want and you can walk out with it right away. No waiting for a courier and risking it getting lost in shipping or taken by someone else.
While I acknowledge that online business is growing, it is not growing at the rate that everyone claimed it would a few years ago. Consumers realise that there is no comparison to the physical in-store shopping experience.