It’s no big surprise that millions of Americans shop online, but what’s interesting is how this impacts brick and mortar stores like Best Buy. We have already seen the decline of many retail companies over the years and with more people shopping online than ever before, it makes you wonder how these businesses will fair.
Convenience plays a huge role in the success of online shopping but other factors like pricing,selection,auction sites,and the ability to easily flip to another page to check on competitor pricing are also major contributing factors that pull in the masses. User reviews, although sometimes manipulated, are also another major advantage to shopping online.
It’s not just the convenience of online shopping that has been pulling customers away from their local stores, it’s also the general experience itself that has also been on the decline. Many in-store associates seem uninterested in assisting you and when they do help, their answers to your questions are often improvised and loaded with inaccurate and misleading information. Unfortunately, this lackadaisical style of customer service has become commonplace in our modern day retail environment.
The transition of physical media to digital media has also had a significant impact on storefronts around the country. Many americans prefer to get their music, books, magazines and movies online. Going back to the days before the iPod you could find a record store in almost any city, now you’re luck if you find one within 25 miles of your location. iTunes by itself has almost completely replaced several major sections in retail stores.
Long gone are the days when that expert sales associate explained every detail of every model, to aid you in making an educated and informed decision when purchasing a new product. Today, we rely more on YouTube reviews and our favorite websites to help us make these decisions. We watch unboxing videos to find out exactly what it will be like to bring home a new product and open it up for ourselves. What’s so great about all of these aforementioned means of researching a product? Well, many of the people who create this content really care about what they’re talking about and usually offer accurate information about the product they are reviewing, unlike the in-store associate.
Even with all the benefits of shopping online, there are still many good reasons to shop at a brick-and-mortar retail stores. One major advantage retail stores have over online competition is immediate satisfaction. When you make a purchase online you typically need to wait a few days or even weeks before you receive your new product and if you want to get it any faster you will have to shell out more money. With your local store you can open your new purchase within minutes of buying it and that instant gratification is nice. What about returns? Online returns are not always so straightforward and you can’t necessarily know ahead of time whether or not you will need to return the product before you receive it, this means that you have to take in consideration that you will not only be waiting to receive your item but, if you need to return it, you will also be waiting for the manufacturer to receive the defective or unwanted item and then send you a replacement or refund and this could take up a significant amount of time.
So who is really loosing here? Many would argue that these once dominant retail companies could just adapt with the market and embrace the online world, which many have done so in a significant way, but how does that affect our jobs? Earlier I mentioned that the employees were usually less than enthused to be assisting you, but is this necessarily their fault? Declining retail stores are most likely not re-investing in their company from the bottom up and that usually means theres also a big disconnect between the corporate office and the customer facing employees, which will ultimately result in a lack of interest in the company and it’s health. It really is a vicious cycle that ultimately results in store closures.
I feel that ultimately, both online and brick and mortar stores can and will co-exist, but with some physical stores having a reduced presence in our neighborhoods. I say some stores because another thing to consider here is that not everything fits well into an online shopping experience. In the meantime I see this as an overall win for consumers and as for most major retail companies, as long as they adapt and create new and innovative ways to interact with their customers, they should be just fine.