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Market trends and technological advancements have enabled the rise of e-commerce and changed the way consumers shop.
Recent global events have especially propelled online shopping, with many consumers needing or wanting to stay at home because of safety and health concerns.
However, while online shopping has taken precedence of late, brick-and-mortar stores are still holding their own in today’s changing shopping landscape. As restrictions ease up, more consumers are going back to their favorite physical stores.
But which one is better for your shopping needs?
To better understand the unique experiences each one offers, let’s explore some figures and compare the pros and cons of e-commerce and traditional shopping.
Online shopping opens a world of choices for customers. Aside from convenience, it’s also a starting point for introducing innovative technology that can change the way you shop. For example, brands are looking into augmented reality (AR) to create a more immersive and engaging shopping experience that attempts to emulate the in-store experience of being able to try on clothes and see how they would look on you, albeit virtually.
Brands are also offering exclusive online sales or coupons that further encourage consumers to make online purchases. Even grocery shopping has moved online, as many grocery stores are now partnering with or acquiring third-party services, such as Instacart and Shipt, to offer same-day grocery delivery to consumers.
When you’re shopping online, you’ll have access to an assortment of products under every category imaginable. For example, Amazon has over 75 million products under categories like books, electronics, home and kitchen, and tools.
You’ll have access to more variety because stores won’t have to deal with storage limitations. Plus, you’ll be able to buy items not only from local providers but also from international brands.
With the help of search engines like Google, it’s become easier for consumers to look for niche or uncommon goods. Compared to traditional shopping, where you’d have to scour store after store to look for niche finds, with online shopping, you only need to do an online search to find answers.
Online stores have websites that also display verified customer reviews. By checking what other customers are saying about a product, you can determine early on whether it’s worth buying or not.
You can add to the cart and check your total, making it easier for you to stick to your budget. If you go over the budget, you can always remove items from your virtual shopping cart.
Some consumers prefer online shopping because it makes it easy for them to shop anywhere, anytime. There’s no need to worry about a store’s business hours, and you can avoid crowds.
Other unique advantages of online shopping include being able to easily compare prices, having the option to get your purchases to be delivered to friends or family, free shipping offers, and access to wholesale prices.
One of the most compelling reasons why people prefer traditional shopping is because it delivers a unique in-person shopping experience.
Note: Brick-and-mortar stores are also keeping up with recent technological developments. Many physical stores are now looking into incorporating artificial intelligence, particularly intelligent automation, to enhance consumers’ in-store experience.
You’d be more likely to receive great customer service when shopping in physical stores because you’d be able to interact directly or immediately with a sales representative, giving you a more personalized shopping experience.
It’s relatively easier to save money when you’re shopping in physical retail outlets because you can avoid shipping costs as well as other fees.
You also won’t have to wait for days, weeks, or even months to get your hands on the products you bought. With in-store shopping, you can take home and use your purchases, like toilet paper or video devices, immediately.
There’s no shortage of retail sales in physical stores as well. Some online sales, like Cyber Monday, have made their way to brick-and-mortar stores. You can also get access to exclusive in-store promotions such as free giveaways or special promotion offers.
You can transform an ordinary trip to the store into something special by sharing the experience with loved ones. You can meet up with friends and shop together or relax with your family in a restaurant or café after a long day of shopping.
In physical stores, you can immediately evaluate the quality of products and scrutinize them for any issues. For instance, when shopping for produce, you can easily determine the freshness of vegetables. For meat, you’d be able to select the type of cut you prefer.
This also lessens the likelihood of returns because you’re able to test or try products, such as clothes or makeup, yourself.
Unlike online shopping, which is open to the risk of fraudulent transactions, in-store shopping provides consumers with a more secure way to shop. Plus, you’re less likely to encounter scam stores.
This might sound like a cop-out, but there’s no straightforward answer to which shopping method is better. Even with digital and technological advancements, consumers are still looking for retail experiences more than they do simple and “meaningless” transactions. Which one you opt for will ultimately depend on your personal preferences.
While online shopping is becoming more popular, shoppers are actually spending more for in-store purchases. 71% of consumers shell out more than $50 when shopping in-store, while 34% spend more than $100 in physical stores. Additionally, 78% of men and 89% of women tend to have impulse purchases when shopping in-store.
40% of consumers shop at physical stores at least once a week while only 27% do their shopping online. This indicates that consumers still prefer in-store shopping compared to online shopping. Furthermore—this might come as a surprise—81% of Gen Z shoppers still prefer to shop in stores, as this allows them to disconnect from the digital world.
To stay competitive, brick-and-mortar retailers have taken measures that can improve access and convenience, such as launching their own websites, partnering with third-party delivery services, and delivering customized in-person customer experience.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 23, 2016, and has been updated for accuracy and freshness.
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