Could there be a Future for Brick and Mortar?

brickandmortarIn recent times, it has seemed like online shopping is slowly pushing in-store shopping out of the picture. There are a lot of reasons why switching to online shopping makes sense. It doesn’t involve leaving the house and driving to a store, and sometimes sales tax is eliminated or the product is sold at a lower price than in-store. But brick and mortar stores might not be going the way of the dodo.

This week, Amazon opened its first retail store ever. In an ironic twist of fate,the online company that is so often credited with killing brick and mortar bookstores
is now looking to expand by opening its own physical location. Books sold in the store are offered at online prices, and they even come with customer reviews printed on cards. Located in Seattle, the new store primarily appears to be an experiment. As of yet, there are no firm plans to build more stores, but if this one goes well, Amazon hopes to open more locations.

It’s not quite clear what Amazon is hoping to achieve with this store, but it is probably safe to assume that they have legitimate reasons for venturing into the physical realm. Business News Daily reported on a study that found consumers still prefer to purchase in person. Many who participated in the study said they will often use the internet to research and browse before purchasing, but they prefer to make their actual purchases in a physical store.

There are a few benefits to purchasing in-store. High shipping costs can often make an in-store purchase cheaper than an online order. It’s also convenient to be able to purchase a product and walk away with it in your hand, instead of having to wait for a package to arrive on your doorstep. Another important benefit is the ability to see a product ‘in the flesh’ before paying for it. This is especially a concern with clothing, because items must often be tried on first. It’s not uncommon to buy something online and receive an item that turns out to be a bit different to what you had expected. Consumers in the aforementioned study also voiced concerns about privacy, and were wary of giving their credit card information to online stores, which is a valid concern.

A less quantifiable and objective reason why some people might prefer going to a store may have to do with the experience itself. It’s difficult to accurately gauge how much the experience of making a purchase affects a consumer’s satisfaction, but it’s not something that should be completely discounted. Even in the virtual world of the internet, user experience is key. Companies pour lots of talent and money into developing websites that are pleasing to look at and easy to use, because it will earn them more business.

So while Amazon’s new brick and mortar retail location may just be an experiment at this point, it could prove that physical stores can’t be completely replaced by virtual ones just yet. The internet will always be an invaluable tool for researching products and browsing, tasks that can educate consumers and save time even if they decide not to purchase online. Both types of shopping have their pros and cons, so it may simply come down to personal preference. While online shopping has increased tremendously, there are still many people who prefer the overall package of a brick and mortar store.