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Click or Walk In?

Discussions about Amazon’s tax policy and the possible fall of Best Buy have been running rampant lately. In several cases, the discussions led to the topic of whether brick and mortar stores are going away in favor of online retailers.

This fascinates me for two reasons: 1. I am a techie who loves shopping (or at least looking for items) online. 2. I work for a retailer that has physical locations across the country and will continue to open more.

It’s true that some industries have seen a drop in sales since online shopping has increased. However, I think this issue is more complicated. Has anyone bothered to ask why customers prefer online shopping? Is it really that inconvenient to drive to the store, or is there something else going on?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of shopping online and in stores:

Online Shopping
Pros
1. You don’t have to leave the house.
2. You can visit multiple websites in a short amount of time to get what you need.

Courtesy of Empowerednews.net

3. Price comparisons are relatively easy to do.
4. You have access to more retailers depending on the product you’re looking for.

Cons
1. You have to wait for it to arrive.
2. The seller may not be trustworthy/you may become a victim of fraud.
3. You can’t tell if it’s actually what you want (especially with clothing) until it arrives.
4. You have to pay shipping costs.

Brick and Mortar Shopping
Pros
1. Instant gratification
2. You can feel, see, interact with the product before buying.

Courtesy of thehighlow.com

3. Store employees can answer questions or help you find something.
4. Social interaction either with employees or other shoppers (i.e. your friends) –although this may be a con for some people.
5. No shipping costs

Cons
1. If you need items from a pharmacy, department store, and grocer, you’ll need to spend time at each one of those locations.
2. You may not be able to find what you need immediately.
3. If one store doesn’t have what you need, you may need to visit another similar store to find it.
4. You won’t be able to do a price comparison unless you’ve done online research prior to your shopping trip.

So what’s the biggest motivator among all of these factors? In my opinion, customer service is the key here. When I shop in stores, I expect there to be an employee who is knowledgable about his/her area. That way I can get information I may not have had access to otherwise. The sad thing is, I can’t remember the last time I was in a store and received decent customer service.

My most recent shopping experience was in a well-known department store. I found the item I wanted, and spent 5-10 minutes wandering around trying to find someone to take my money. Are you kidding me? If service is like that everywhere, I would understand the move to online shopping.

But WHY does customer service suck so much these days?

I think what we have here is a chicken or the egg question: Did poor customer service drive customers to online shopping, or did the rise of online shopping force companies to cut costs and therefore customer service?

Here is an interesting article that actually proposes the need for both online and in-store shopping experiences.

What have your experiences been with both online and in-store shopping? Do you have a preference? Weigh in on this topic by commenting below!

Derelict (adj.): 1. left or deserted, as by the owner or guardian; abandoned 2. falling into ruins; neglected; dilapidated

Why vocab words? Click here.

I would hate to see the brick and mortar stores become a derelict industry.

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