Shopping – Convenience or Experience?

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Recently, it has been almost cliche for one to state that consumers are trading in “stuff” for experience, but it is true in many cases.  Sure, things need to be bought and everyone wants certain things, but it’s so terribly convenient to buy online that so many are opting to do so other than go to stores in person unless there’s something more in it for them.  They want a positive experience they can’t get online if they’re going to venture out.

Big-box stores are generally chain stores that are…well, big.  There are two categories – general merchandise and specialty.  General merchandise stores sell a variety of items in different categories.  They may sell dry goods, clothing, household items, health and beauty supplies, etc. all in one store.  Some include grocery sections – small or large.  Some include other services, like portrait studios, ear piercing, restaurants (usually fast food), or hair salons – think Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, and such stores – basically department stores.  Specialty stores usually sell more or less one type of item.  A few examples of specialty stores are bookstores, hardware stores, and electronics stores – think Barnes & Noble and Ace Hardware.

It has been said that the way the shopping method trend is going is similar to that of the 19th century.  Obviously, there are many differences, but the thought is that catalogs were being used for a lot of shopping – you had the experience of browsing from your home and ordering what you’d like, then having it shipped to your home or business instead of having to travel to a store to purchase it.  The trend continued on and at one point in the 20th century, households received an average of 40 catalogs per year.

Catalogs are still around, but a lot of shopping is done online – same concept of shopping at your convenience in your home.  But, there are differences – speed of delivery and method of travel have improved, it’s more discreet (you can shop while studying or working – not that I’m recommending that or anything), and the selection of what can be bought online is vast.  Because of the convenience, many brick and mortar stores (and some chains) have closed. This is why the trend of experience over material goods has increased.  Why would you go shop at a store in-person when you could shop from home unless the experience was awesome or you were getting something you couldn’t get online?

Brick and mortar stores will likely never be totally gone.  Many are offering experiences and services they did not before in order to attract or keep their customers.  And some things you just need right away.

What do you think? Do you prefer to shop online or in person? Does it depend on what you’re looking for?  We’d love to know!

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