Clicks V Bricks: The Impact Of Online Shopping On Physical Places

There’s no question that online shopping has disrupted shopper behaviour and that it has accelerated to a new level due to Covid-19.  The choice and convenience of clicking online is appealing to the masses, but can shopping in physical spaces survive?

Is online shopping ‘shopping’ or is it purely procurement? The reason I ask is because of an insightful and thought provoking paragraph from a Sophie Kinsella book, Christmas Shopaholic (very good if you are a fan!) 

I mean, I’ve shopped online, obviously.  But that’s a whole different activity.  In fact I think they should invent a different word for it.  Online ordering isn’t really shopping, it’s procuring.  You procure stuff online.  But you don’t get that buzz of actually stepping into a shop and seeing all the gorgeous stuff, feeling it, storking it, being seduced by it.

For me the online procurement joy is linked to convenience only.  I find very little joy in delivery delays, returning items, terrible sizing, the item nothing like it is in the retouched picture, not to mention the impact on the environment with all the wasteful packaging.  

Sophie Kinsella book, Christmas Shopaholic

The thrill of finding the perfect gift for a loved one in a store, and the seduction of the smell of a candle or softness of a blanket, make for the best shopping experiences, and is 100% the way to encourage shopping in physical spaces. 

In a recent report Consumers spent 40% more when driven online by the pandemic.  But before Lockdown 2.0 we were seeing mission based shopping resulting in positive sales as people came out to buy things on their list – were they bored? Did they just want some form of normality? Were they fed up of scrolling online? Ok, the dwell time and browsing may have dropped off, but for sure it can return in the future. 

Unfortunately there are multiple factors that have led to the rise of online shopping, but working from home has definitely forced people online as they can no longer ‘pop to the shops’ on their lunch break.  But on the positive side, this has accelerated the rise in popularity of community focused shopping centres and high streets.  

How do we deal with shoppers that value the ease, speed and convenience, not forgetting the choice that online shopping brings? Women still have the buying power and are key decision makers in households, so there is hope! Physical and online shopping need to learn to love each other.

Written by Chloe Keith