Do you prefer a saturday afternoon at the shopping center, or on the sofa browsing through Amazon’s latest deals? This post aims to consider the pros and cons of real vs. online shopping from not only the perspective of the consumer, but also the retailer.
eCommerce offers a near unlimited variety of products and retailers that a High Street could never offer, giving the consumer the power to compare retailers to gain the lowest price. It’s a global marketplace, and businesses need to operate as efficiently as possible to remain competitive.
Some retailers, particularly supermarkets, are incorporating elements of the two by offering a ‘click and collect’ service. This allows a consumer to create a digital basket, then collect the ‘real’ basket from an arranged place at a specific time, Saving the consumer trawling the aisles. This also utilises technology as baskets can be saved and reordered without the need for manually ‘refilling’ them. Retailers can benefit from this, as instead of delivering the groceries and generating large transportation and labour costs, consumers can do it themselves at a time that suits them.
A disadvantage of online commerce is the inability to judge quality. For example – you have 4 bananas infront of you; which one do you choose to eat? Obviously the biggest, freshest looking banana! This process however can not be conducted online, as all you have to work with is a stock photo. Without being able to interact with the product and distinguish between good and bad products often leads to dissatisfaction. Online retailers are however developing methods of allowing consumers to judge quality – free demos, ‘show rooming’ (showcasing a product in a ‘real world’ setting to make it seem relatable) and extensive reviews to reinforce the idea and allow the consumer to make a more accurate judgement.
Although postage charges apply to most online orders, it is important to consider that brick and mortar shops incur costs too – for example fuel to get there, parking charges, and the extra time required. With this in mind, both paths to market have similar associated costs.
Real shops are considerably more expensive to operate. Although websites have maintenance & setting up costs, these will be low compared to renting a building and providing the necessary labour. Consequently, the online business may be able to offer lower prices as a result.
Some other considerations:
Age barrier. Younger generations are more likely to be familiar with online shopping compared to older generations. Consequently, selling services/products exclusively online could discriminate against older consumers – after all, an internet connection is not a legal requirement. Retailers will need to consider this, as ‘online only’ selling could cause a large proportion of potential market share to be lost.
Consumer preference Needless to say, you cannot try on a pair of shoes over the internet – it does have some limitations. Returns policies are common, but the effort required to repackage, repost, and receive a delayed refund is far greater than a simple ‘ this doesn’t fit’ in Brantanos.