With access to thousands of virtual stores, which contain millions of products, online shopping is quick and practical. The penalty we pay is the experience, engaging with a product, and the overall shopping experience is something which has not yet been replicated online.
The Starting Conversation
@michaelgearon Exactly. I spent a good amount in there today. I could only buy online if it’s cheaper than one I’ve tried in store.
— Valentino (@tinocellupica) April 10, 2015
The In-Store Experience
Apple identified that with the Apple Watch product that they need an in-store experience as a watch is a personal fashion accessory. As Apple has mentioned:
Customers interested in learning more about Apple Watch can visit their local Apple Store for a personalized session with a Specialist to try on, fit and size their band, and explore the amazing features of Apple Watch.
They realised to sell their product effectively people would need to try it on, be comfortable with what they are buying and then it is far easier to sell that watch since it is already on your wrist, the customer has just got to make that final payment to walk out with it.
The Omnichannel Consumer Preferences study noted that 90 percent of all retail sales are transacted in stores and 95 percent of all retail sales are captured by retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence. The reason for this as they explain is that
Stores provide consumers with a sensory experience that allows them to touch and feel products, immerse in brand experiences, and engage with sales associates who provide tips and reaffirm shopper enthusiasm for their new purchases.
Touch and feel is an important factor here. We have five senses sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch and if the retailer can engage with as many of our senses as possible we become more attached to that thing, we feel that we need it and therefore we will buy it. This lack of touch and feel is one of the main reasons why online shopping is hard for the retailer, but there is one redeeming factor of online which is the cost.
The experience of going shopping is also an important factor to consider, we sometimes go shopping with friends and family and have a day out experience. Whilst online it is a solitary experience, the only way to be social is to ‘share’ what you have just brought or are going to buy. “Shopping in the stores is much more emotional — you’re with your friends, you’re listening to music; it’s much more human,” as mentioned by Lee Peterson, executive vice president of creative services for WD Partners.
Cost Versus the Experience
Where the experience doesn’t matter as much is for less personal decisions, for example buying a washing machine is more about the facts and how much it will cost rather than the style of the washing machine. We may still go into the store to study our options, but if we can save money by going online we will then probably buy online. It is also convenient to the customer to buy online as we can compare products easier, the checkout process is most of the time a straight forward process with even the ability to pick the date and time of delivery.
There is definitely a split forming between online and in-store shopping. How we shop in-store has changed to being a personal experience, where it is possible to try things on, or use the product and this is where the retailer captures the potential customer to make that sale. Online has the edge compared to in-store with the cost of an item and if we can save money we will most of the time depending on what the item is.
Michael Gearon is a Senior Interaction Designer at Companies House in Cardiff. Previously Mike was a product designer at the GoCo Group including GoCompare, MyVoucherCodes and WeFlip. As well working for brands in South Wales like BrandContent and HEOR.