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Buying Online Versus Buying in Person

Jeff Grissler | March 29, 2019 | 8:11 AM

Though e-commerce is growing faster than any other retail sector, the opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers isn’t extinct, it’s just shifted.   How many times have you heard that e-tail is gaining popularity and that even your grandparents are consumed with buying their clothes and or gifts on line. Let’s face it. The Phenom is not going away. The opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers hasn’t disappeared; it’s simply a different value proposition in the eyes of the customer.

Brick and Mortar business owners need to recognize the different lenses consumers see the world through when buying online versus buying in person. Let’s make this as simple as possible. There is no need to recreate the wheel and consumer buying habits. Amazon has already done that.

What we need to do is focus on what brick and mortar, person-to-person buying has done since inception. Let’s not attack this in an impetuous manner. Slow and steady, baby steps is a better approach to better understand the importance and the difference.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Think back to the first time you walked into your neighborhood store. Was it the local candy shop, barber shop, salon, butcher or shoe store, maybe you were running an errand for mom and dad and needed groceries? That experience no matter how long ago hasn’t changed. Those brick and mortar stores are still the heartbeat of America. Main Street may have shifted, some for better or worse but local community shopping overshadows the convenience of online shopping in ways you may not realize or simply overlooked.

Shopping is more than consumerism. It may involve the opportunity to spend the afternoon with friends, to temporarily alter the way one perceives himself/herself by changing physical appearance, or surrounding oneself with company he/she strives to keep. Despite the popularity of buying online, these highly emotional aspects of shopping maintain the appeal of buying in person.

We also can’t forget convenience. How many times on the way to work or on your way home do you stop and pick up your dry cleaning or stop at a convenience store because you’ve run out of toothpaste, contact lens wash or toilet paper. OMG, you need it now, and yes you can order a larger quantity online but when it comes to personal stuff and when Mother Nature calls sometimes you just can’t wait.

What about when you get the terrible migraine headache. You need Tylenol now, not tomorrow. Yes, you can buy the items online but you need these items pronto! Not tomorrow.

Let’s also take a look at the perfect pair of Jeans you wanted and or pair of shoes you spotted in the neighborhood boutique.  You are comfortable buying local when you know you can walk out of the store with merchandise that fits. No need to worry about returning something that may or may not be your size.

The dinner invitation you got last minute is so much better when you buy the outfit the same day and look and feel like a million dollars due to your local same-day purchase. More importantly the outfit you purchased was a one of a kind hand made one off, giving you a look that no one else has and or picked up online. Not to mention the blowout and hair products you purchased at your neighborhood salon just around the corner from your home or work place. 

Buying locally gives the consumers instant gratification--this is the key benefit to buying in person; the experience of human connection was the reason they buy in store. Personally I find there is no better feeling when a store owner and or employee greets me by name or pulls an item of the shelf that I purchase frequently. My local coffee barista hands me my coffee as soon as I walk in the store without asking. These little things make a difference and until Amazon comes up with a robot to work the counter in a store these little pleasures of life and community store buying will not go away.

By recognizing the deeper reasons consumers buy in each channel, merchants can tailor their brand position, in-store aesthetics and marketing messaging accordingly.

Buying online versus buying in person is different—but one isn’t necessarily better, for consumers or merchants. By recognizing the unique value each channel inherently delivers, small-business owners can be strategic in what they sell, where, to whom and for what price.

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