Many times we do things just because that is the way we have always done them. People used to always carry change in case they needed to make a phone call. You would always have a land line. There was always a road map or atlas in the glove compartment of your car. Movie theaters are the only place to watch quality movies. People will never have a need for a computer in the home. These statements were considered to be true and unchanging. They are however no longer statements of unchanging fact. Just like no one buys online. Times are changing and online shopping versus traditional brick and mortar shopping should be reviewed. Is there still a distinct advantage held by the brick and mortar stores or is the gap closing?
Let’s look the things that you should consider when deciding between an online and traditional brick and mortar store. The main things most people think about are pricing, selection, convenience, delivery, warranty, returns and security. These are the factors that have been listed by consumers as the most important influencing their shopping decisions.
In today’s shopping environment, price is very important. Many people have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced. Household budgets are much lower than they were 1 or 2 years ago. This means that buyers are looking for deals. Online stores are able to offer lower prices as a result of lower overhead. Traditional retail outlets have costs for display space, sales personnel and the cost of maintaining the retail location. Things like utilities on the physical location are a constant drain on profits. They have to collect enough in the busy times to compensate for the eventual slow times. The prices are also increased because of the cost of moving the goods from the manufacturer to a regional locations and then to the final store. There is also shrinkage from theft. These are issues that the online store either does not have to deal with or the impact is reduced. This means that 99 times out of 100 the online store can offer a lower price.
Selection is another topic to be aware of. Selection has an area of weakness for online stores in the past. Online stores tended to specialize. This meant that they were not like a traditional big box store with plenty options to choose from. They usually leaned towards hard to find items. Since they were appealing to a national market, they had a better chance to move these slow sellers. Today that has started to change. There are many big box stores online with millions or items to choose from. The online retailer is now able to compete in both the wide variety and hard to find markets. This gives the online store a distinct advantage.
The biggest advantage the brick and mortar stores have had over online stores has been convenience. If you want to purchase something today the brick and mortar store has the best chance of making that happen. This means that if you are procrastinator you are going to use the traditional retail outlet. The traditional store allows you to actually touch and handle the item. They may even have a person who is knowledgeable and able to help. They are only open certain times of the day for the most part. The flip side to that coin is that if you can plan ahead, it is much more convenient to stay in your home in your pajamas and make your purchases. You are also saving the cost of gasoline and time. Sales tax usually doesn’t come into play when you shop from home. Online stores usually provide a detailed description and picture of the item. The online store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. They are available when you decide to shop.
Delivery from a brick and mortar store is usually available for a cost. Most online stores offer discounted rates or even free shipping. The only way to determine this is research. You have to go online and do your homework. This is a contributing factor to cost and really is on a case by case basis.
Online warranties are a lot like brick and mortar warranties. Some offer extended or additional warranties and others do not. Service after the sale is the same. Make sure you know what the arrangement is with the store you are dealing with.
Returns are usually allowed by both types of stores. Policies vary from retailer to retailer. Online stores are going to require you repackage the item and ship it. Shipping and restocking fees should be determined. These usually are not the case if the item was defective. The best policy is to notify the seller as soon as you are aware of a problem. The same is the case for a brick and mortar store. Make sure you did not buy an item marked “all sales or final” or “as is”. These types of items will not allow returns.
For many years, security was a major concern when dealing with online stores. People were concerned that their information would be stolen. This is no longer the case. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable online or traditional retailer. Both can have security problems, if they are operating low budget or disreputable type operations.
The conclusion is that anytime but especially in today’s world the online retailer is a viable option. The days of brick and mortar stores dominating the market are dwindling if not gone. There are more cases than not where the online retailer holds the advantage over the traditional retailer.