When the World Wide Web appeared, our lives began changing rapidly. Unfortunately, ethics did not keep up. Today, brick and mortar stores are rapidly becoming displays for online stores, one of the primary reasons for the closing of Best Buy stores. Brick and mortar stores and online stores can complement each other, but often they compete with each other.
Banks have physical products, but primarily provide services – loans, checking and savings accounts. As service providers, brick and mortar banks can compete effectively with online banks. However, when the sale of physical products is involved, brick and mortar stores have serious disadvantages unless America develops a “digital ethic.”
The issue stores like Best Buy face is the lack of a digital ethic in American society.
While e-readers were part of Borders Books’ bankruptcy, they didn’t cause it. Customers who use an e-reader because of poor eyesight might come into a store to browse. They like to turn the pages. But their e-reader uses a proprietary format only available from the online store. So they use the bookstore to look and then go home and order online.
Electronics stores like our local Best Buy suffer the same issue. Go to any local electronics place. People go in, try out the equipment, examine the accessories, and go home to buy at one of the well-known online stores. Small specialty (mom and pop) stores have higher quality products, making them more susceptible to shoppers leaving to shop online.
When I shop in a brick and mortar store, I always try to buy something to justify my time there.
Car dealers are beginning to experience this dilemma. A person comes in, test-drives a vehicle and asks all sorts of questions. He returns to test-drive again. He returns with his wife to test-drive more. Then he goes home and sends out emails to a three-state area, soliciting prices on the vehicle. The dealer with a small building, little overhead, one salesperson, and two mechanics, gets the sale with his low price. He doesn’t worry about a long-term relationship with the customer. If there are any issues with the vehicle, the customer will be on the doorstep of the local dealer with a loud complaint about service. The customer should at least include the test drive dealership on the email list.
Is it unreasonable to expect people to spend in stores they browse in and use the resources of? No! The stores don’t mind you looking, but if you take up their time, they expect you to buy something.
Brick and mortar stores operate with facilities designed to make the shopping experience enjoyable and with trained sale staffs offering assistance, finding the correct item and offering recommendations.
Brick and mortar stores cannot survive being a showcase for online stores. Taken to an extreme, just close down the malls and turn them into online displays with only one of each item. You can see the color, inspect the texture, but you will have to order from the online store at the local kiosk and wait for delivery.
Bottom line, if you shop at a brick and mortar, buy something while you are there. Have a digital ethic of buying where you shop.