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ONLINE SHOPPING – IS IN-STORE INTERACTION OVERRATED?

Are you the one who loves going to the shops and browse around, and look, and feel some more? You love to hear the chatter of customers, and smell the aroma of freshly-made coffee coming from the in-store cafeteria. But, perhaps, you are one who loves to stay at home. To go out, and fight the traffic and then try and park your car is just too much hassle. Besides, time is money. So you prefer to sit at the computer, and rather order the goodies online.

The above describes two types of shoppers, namely, in-store clients and online clients. Let’s explore these and establish what’s happening around the world. Unfortunately, there is not much information about this in South Africa.

WHAT CAN’T YOU BUY ONLINE?

A 2013 US article states that only 6% of all US retail comes from online shopping. Why should this be so? This is because you can’t buy everything online - for instance, vehicles, car parts, petrol, and food. The latter make up a huge part of all shopping. On the other hand, the good old store can’t compete with online stores regarding the sales of books, electronics, and entertainment items, which, as smaller items, are easy to ship to the customer.

IN-STORE SHOPPING IS SOCIALLY REWARDING

As human beings, we are not made to be alone all day. We need each other, and there is a strong desire to interact. That is why solitary confinement is such a terrible punishment. Social shopping experiences cannot be offered by any online store, or by any computer or app.

MORE AND MORE SHOPPERS ARE SHOPPING IN-STORE

A 2015 article states that more and more online shoppers were going back to the shops. Despite a large growth in online shopping, the shopping malls are still pulling in the customers. The Euromonitor predicts that growth of in-store shopping will increase from 1.6% in 2013 to about 5% in 2019, whilst online shopping will decrease from a 21% growth rate to 12%. Globally, 90% of all shopping is still done at the good old malls.

WHAT PURSUADES SHOPPERS TO GO ONLINE OR TO GO THE LOCAL MALL?

A May 2016 report by GFK Global shows that online shopping is attractive from a point of view of saving costs, having a wider choice of goods, and the processes are quicker and easier. In-store shopping has the benefit of getting to interact with other humans, as well as seeing and feeling the items on sale.

A survey involving 23 000 shoppers from across much of the world showed that those things that would persuade them to shop online rather than offline was saving money (55%), more relaxed shopping (28%), a greater variety of goods (26%) and much less time spent shopping (25%). What persuaded shoppers to rather go and buy from an in-store shop was that they could feel, and see the product (51%), while 33% felt it was easier to shop in-store as well, and 29% thought that returns would be less troublesome with an in-store shop. Another reason was that the shopper had been shopping at a particular in-store shop already for a long time (28%). Customers buying items in-store also feel instantly satisfied when they walk home with the goods in their bags.

WHAT ABOUT INTEGRATING THE ONLINE AND THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCES?

Having said that, a Bain & Co report said that it is best to integrate online and in-store shopping. A good illustration of this is when a shoe shop has an online facility, where customers can purchase their shoes from the comfort of their homes but the shop also has an in-store facility, where people can try out the shoes they saw online.

Perhaps, once a customer has tried on a pair of shoes, he or she may then be fully satisfied to order more shoes online for quite a long time. This is because the experience of having seen and tried on the shoes has allayed any fears the customer may have had by ordering online - such as ending up with shoes that cannot be worn. But what if shoes have been ordered online, but somehow just don’t fit the customer?

IT IS NO LONGER ONLINE SHOPPING VERSUS SHOPPING ON FOOT

A 2016 article explains that major organisations realized the inherent power in both types of shopping experiences, and so they are combining both. Traditional online shops such as Amazon have built physical stores, where customers can come and visit. At the end of the day, all that the shop owner wants to achieve is to sell, regardless of whether it is done online or in-store.

A 2017 report by Capgemini, an international consulting firm, confirms the integration approach, where companies such as Amazon are offering both online facilities as well as physical structures for clients to visit. There has been a realization that both types of shopping are equally important. It seems that if a particular company is emphatic about being either the one or the other, it stands the chance to lose potential customers.

WHY IS THERE THIS NEW “SINGLE APPROACH” FOR EITHER ONLINE OR IN-STORE SHOPPERS?

What is the reason for this new approach? Clients shop for brands, and not because they want to be known as online or in-store shoppers. In-store shops are being recognised as a valuable shopping asset, but in-store managers also need to bear in mind that to attract online shoppers they need also need to ensure that the in-store shopping is as convenient as possible. For instance, an online shopper that wants to be able to go back to a physical store in order to return something they bought online, compared to standing in a queue at a post office to return a parcel to some virtual location. Convenience enters the picture when returns are made easier and quicker.

A GOOD RETURN POLICY IS AN ADVANTAGE TO BOTH THE IN-STORE AND THE ONLINE SHOPPER

In-store shops benefit from allowing an avid online shopper to return goods bought online. Not only is the online shopper hopefully satisfied with a quick settlement of the return, but the online shopper is also exposed to the whole tangible in-store experience. In fact, the return facility has in a way ‘forced’ the online shopper to be exposed to the in-store experience, which is something that may well be of great future benefit to both the shopper and the store.

SHOPPERS FIRST GO IN-STORE BEFORE BUYING ONLINE

In the US, modern 2017 shopping involves shoppers (55% of consumers) first going to the mall before they buy online. This shows the human need to be able to see, feel, and smell the item. This confirms the current trend that online shops and in-stores are basically one and the same thing, and by combining the two as one channel, it provides the customer the best of both worlds.

HOW CAN ONLINE SHOPS IMPROVE ON WHAT IN-STORE OFFERS BEST?

Online shops can learn from the tactile experience that in-store offers by making their websites display items more realistically. In other words, introducing 3D imaging and virtual reality, as well as improved product description, and better service would make the website more attractive.

IN-STORE SHOPS ARE TAKING THE EXTRA STEP TO HIGHLIGHT THE ‘HIGH-TOUCH’ EXPERIENCE

In-store managers in the US are realizing that it will profit them more by exposing shoppers to an even greater touch experience. Why not capitalize on this human need to touch and feel? The customer will be more satisfied the better the store does this. Future thinking in the US is to turn the in-store shop into various showrooms. This would be the place where clients would try out the various new products, and gain a better understanding of the product. A good example is a furniture shop, where you can sit and bounce on that couch. Once satisfied, the client is ready to make the online purchases with much greater confidence.

This article shows that buying online and buying in-store are equally important, and the future trend appears to integrate the two processes into one for the benefit of all. Regardless of whether you are an online shopper or an in-store one, with PMD’s online platform, you can buy car insurance without talking to a consultant, unless you wish to do so. Fortunately, neither in-store nor online shoppers do not need to feel, or touch the car insurance policy, and thus online seems an ideal way to purchase car insurance.

PMD’S NEW ONLINE INSURANCE PURCHASE PLATFORM IS DESIGNED TO BENEFIT YOU WHEN BUYING CAR INSURANCE

PMD created an online car insurance purchase platform to enable clients to enjoy its wonderful benefits. These are that the online process is quick, and user-friendly, and it can be done at any time that is convenient to the client. The client can customise the policy according to specific requirements. There is no need to make contact with anyone unless the client wishes to do so via a call-back facility on the website. If the client is stuck in any way, help can be obtained from audio and video materials on the website.

Sources:

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