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Extra Benefits of Shopping in a Store

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While everyone is carefully watching the trends and challenges occurring in online versus in-store shopping, it is important to note the distinct advantages of each.  While no one can deny the convenience of shopping online, there are reasons that consumers still prefer an in-store experience.

Dick Boer, a Dutch businessman, President and CEO of Ahold Delhaize, the supermarket chain whose operations in the United States include Stop & Shop, Martin’s Food Market, Food Lion and Hannaford chains, plus Peapod, sums it up best when he states,  “People are social animals who like to meet with others to touch, feel, and smell new and fresh products.” While he is specifically referencing a grocery store experience, other retailers echo his comments.

Shoppers searching for high-end linens, for example, want to feel the luxury of sheets with high thread counts. Those looking for a watch want to see the sparkle, feel the weight of the item and enjoy the overall experience of trying it on. Smart phones are fun to try out, to experiment with and to see how they handle for ease of use.

In many instances, the sensual opportunities that shopping in-store can offer, outweigh the online shopping alternative.

While online shopping is convenient, there are instances when consumers need a product immediately.  Someone heading to a friend’s for dinner might want to stop and purchase a bottle of wine; a gift for a birthday that almost went unremembered can be purchased at the last minute; carrying on the tradition of buying a prom dress with friends and family offering advice can only be done in person.  The list goes on – and each occasion marks another opportunity for retail stores to differentiate themselves.

But at the same time they must be vigilant about creating an important, personal experience for the customers. After all, online shopping does not appear to be a trend that is going to slow down anytime soon.  What can retailers do to help bring customers back into their physical stores?  To start, ensuring that checkout lines are short, shelves stay stocked, and a stress on phenomenal customer service are some good starting points. Just as online retailers use technology to acknowledge and welcome their shoppers with special deals and loyalty programs targeted to their needs, so too can brick and mortar stores use the same philosophy to engage their customers, encourage them to enjoy an unusual experience and learn what they value so as to continue to tailor and adapt their offerings and services.

Chris Martin, CPA
Sobel & Co.