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Add to Cart – The Pros and Pitfalls of Online and Brick and Mortar Shopping

by Angie Ash, Executive Vice President

With the constant news of brick and mortar stores closing, I felt the need to turn to our own staff – many of them millennials – to find out how much they really enjoy purchasing online, and how much of it is truly just hype. Turns out there’s a healthy mix of both spectrums.

When I asked what would make the online shopping experience better, I got some interesting answers. Besides the typical multi-view and multi-color options, as well as easy-zoom, one recent graduate mentioned the ability to see the total dollars in the cart instead of just the number of items. Genius, if you ask me, and so helpful if you have a budget to stick to. Another good answer is real and fair reviews. Amazon should take note because nobody really likes those “I was paid for my fair evaluation” reviews, even if the reviewer is being transparent about it. If anything, today’s online customer is increasingly skeptical of what they read online. Another said they expect a website today to have a modern look, easy navigation, simple checkout and immediate follow-up on their purchase, including shipping notifications.

Not everyone prefers to shop online all the time and for everything. For example, one of our staff members buys groceries online because she lives downtown and there are no grocery stores easily accessible. She’ll also occasionally order from HelloFresh because she won’t have wasted food since the company only sends what’s needed for the recipe. Another never buys groceries online and another says she does but gets annoyed if they’re out of something she wanted to buy for a recipe. Some of our younger employees still prefer to shop in brick and mortar stores for almost everything because they like to actually see and touch what they’re considering purchasing. One, in particular, said she hardly ever shops online because she can’t stand the environmental waste of the extra packaging.

What can brick and mortar stores do better to get people back in their doors? As one millennial employee states, keeping it organized is key. You want to get in and easily find what you need. Staff needs to be friendly and knowledgeable. A few of our associates say they hate when a store reorganizes their inventory, especially when they want to get in and out quickly. Time is very valuable to people these days and most find poor or limited selection compared to what’s available online to be a major deterrent. Another big need to do for brick and mortar? Give the customer a reason to come back. Provide a discount on a purchase or info on an exciting upcoming event.

Fast checkouts were also very high on the list as being desirable for both online and brick and mortar. Just like retailers offer online-only special pieces, the vice versa should be considered to get people in brick and mortar stores for something they won’t be able to buy online. Although, one co-worked said they hate it when a store has a sale online but not the brick and mortar model and vice versa. Being able to return purchased items to a store instead of shipping back is a nice extra.

When I asked everyone why they feel their shopping habits have changed over the years, besides the obvious rise of technology, it came down primarily to time. Most stated they don’t have as much downtime as they used to, and the time they do have is not something they want to spend shopping. When buying online, they all also feel they spend more time researching in advance. One younger employee said she used to buy more online but now prefers to shop local. Her tastes have also changed, and she’s become pickier about what she’ll purchase.

All is not lost for brick and mortar. As listed above, there are plenty of people who still like to walk in a store to touch and feel. Physical stores just need to continue to adapt and evolve quickly to allow for the needs and desires of today’s ever-changing consumer. Carefully listening to customer feedback and making a concerted effort to improve the buying experience is key to not becoming the newest closing sale.

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