Online shopping and the eCommerce industry has been growing in popularity over the past few years. In fact, it has grown so much that I'm willing to bet that if you took a quick poll of your friends and coworkers, the preference of shopping in-person versus shopping online is going to be close to 50/50. For those who have converted to online shopping, their number one reason for buying online will be convenience followed by product variety and availability. You can buy almost anything and everything you want online. As someone in the online shopping industry, it makes me wonder; what about the offline shoppers?
In my experience, more than half of these consumers will research prices online before buying offline. Strangely enough, I recently stumbled across an infographic out of the U.K. last year that showed consumers were willing to pay an average of 50 per cent more for products they could touch or see.
I can't confirm or deny this, but let's assume for a moment that there is some truth behind this figure. Being a real believer in everything eCommerce, something about this doesn't add up. I don't think I could knowingly buy something in store if I knew it was being offered at a more reasonable price online. As this intrigues me I would like to take a closer look at why this could be and the psychology behind it.
There are three things to consider:
(1) It's a ritual. You prefer to buy in store because it's what you've always done. It's your favourite store and you enjoy tradition of walking into a shop, finding your item(s), and lining up to pay for the purchase. Even if that purchase costs significantly more.
My argument: Times are changing. Online shopping has become a more user friendly and convenient environment. The perks of shopping in-store such as easy returns or exchanges are making their way online. Have some questions and need some customer service help? Many e-tail websites these days have a 24-hour customer service phone number or even an online customer service chat function if you prefer instant messaging.
(2) You prefer to buy in store because you like to try before you buy. Like the infographic mentioned above, you would rather buy a product that you can touch or see so you can gauge quality or whether it's worth the price tag.
My argument: eCommerce websites are getting better at writing product descriptions to answer these questions and smooth over any concerns. By including valuable descriptors like physical product measurements, weight, country of manufacturer, materials or a complete list of contents in the box, e-tailers will do everything they can to make the purchase decision an easy one for you. Often, e-tailers will take it a step further and offer product image shots from multiple angles, or even a brief video featuring "how it fits." Lastly, there are more often than not, customer reviews -- diligent customer reviews will cover everything from fit to sizing and quality. Some sites even encourage shoppers to include personal photos to show the real fit of the item. If you do buy the product to find out it's not for you, if it's a good website, they'll let you exchange or return for free. Just make sure to do your research before your purchase.
(3) You prefer to buy in-store because you hate to wait the shipping time.
My argument: There's a story about the turtle and the hare I'm sure you've heard. Sometimes thinking before you buy, instead of buying on impulse can save you even more money in the long run. In my opinion, it doesn't hurt to hold off on a purchase because the odds are you may find a better selection or a better deal online. At the very least, it's worth a look. I've saved money in the past after seeing something in store, then doing my due diligence online and finding the same product for almost half the price. Online e-tailers are aware that consumers don't like to wait for their purchases in such a fast-paced world, therefore most offer quick shipping options. Some e-tailers will even go as far as offering free shipping, or offer a shipping guarantee that promises a quick delivery.
What about you, do you subscribe to the look, touch, feel phenomenon? Have you ever paid more in store, even though you knew there were better prices online? If so, why?