Legend has it that Mark Twain, upon learning that the New York Journal had published his obituary, responded, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The same can be said about the baseless epitaphs that have been written about brick and mortar retailing since the earliest days of the Internet.
The continuing resilience of the in-store shopping experience is verified by just-released research conducted by the Harris Poll folks, whose 2013 EquiTrend survey of 38,814 U.S. consumers found that: “Brick and Mortar Retail Brands Beat Out Their Online Counterparts.”
The survey findings read like an advertisement for the International Council of Shopping Centers:
“There are many reasons why a consumer would choose to visit a location-based retailer over their online counterpart, including convenience, selection and immediate needs,” says Lisa Mulyk, Vice President at Harris Interactive. “Most of all, shoppers tend to want to interact with the physical merchandise prior to purchasing, it and the 2013 EquiTrend data shows us that while consumers are shopping online, their brand experience when doing so tends to be lower than their in-store experience.”
In my memoir Threshold Resistance, I point out that the technical limitations of computer screens make it impossible to effectively communicate such important product characteristics as fit, color and feel. There are no fitting rooms or tailors in cyberspace. The more expensive an article of clothing, the more critical it is that it fit well. And there is still a very important social, human element to shopping outside your home.
We know now that the most successful brands are pursuing multichannel distribution strategies, developing what has come to be called “360-degree” marketing strategies. Those who analyze the future of retailing as a zero-sum game don’t understand consumers or retailers. Certainly online shopping is here to stay, but betting against human nature has never been a very successful endeavor.
The Harris findings are well worth the read.