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Monday, April 19, 2021

The advantages and limitations of online vs. store shopping

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Can a good online shopping experience coexist with the look and feel of a store? It’s a question that is being wrestled with more and more often as e-commerce as a whole, the so-called “last mile” in the supply chain, becomes a crucial enabler of the new ways people shop for and sell products. There’s a lot of friction involved in online sales. Order pickups, returns, security and privacy concerns, limited free-return options and online customer support aren’t the stuff of particularly amiable shopping. People want to be able to experience the merchandise firsthand before they part with their hard-earned money.

But thanks to advances in technology, mobile apps and internet of things devices, consumers have fewer reasons to avoid purchasing goods online or in brick-and-mortar stores. They have more options than ever before. “Connected” goods can be delivered to any home with little maintenance and “smart” clothing can transmit a purchase to a person’s phone when he reaches the fitting room. At retail stores, handheld devices help promote retailers’ events and discount sales, and more screens will allow passersby to make purchases. Even the disappearance of cash at the checkout counter is starting to prompt shoppers to bring more cash with them if they’re going to pay using a smartphone, according to a recent Gartner survey.

If that’s not convincing enough, research firm fSociety found that 64 percent of people in the U.S. have gone online to buy a physical product.

Despite these online temptations, our nationwide Morning Consult study found that 24 percent of consumers still want to make a purchase in person at least once a month. (Men are somewhat more likely to have made a purchase that way.) On average, customers last went into a store every three months. Younger consumers, those with college degrees and those with lower income were particularly happy to see brands that they never imagined would offer sales.

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