Tuesday, 12 May 2009

No mess here

"Online retailers are in a mess": That's the headline of a blog post that someone (okay, my boss) brought to my attention.

The blogger, Graham Jones, finds it "hard to see why people will flock online when they are deserting the bricks and mortar stores in their droves". Sure, some will migrate from the high street to the web in search of bargains, he concedes. But then he cites a recent study that says customer satisfaction with online shopping has declined and another report that consumers want more online payment options available to them.

His point about the need to offer site visitors an easy, enjoyable experience and myriad payment options is sound, of course. But his overall contention that, aside from price, there's no reason to shop online isn't.

Yes, the ability to easily source bargains online is a key reason shoppers buy online rather than in a store. But there's also the fact that because of the relatively low cost of entry for setting up a web store, speciality merchants abound. You want to teach yourself Estonian? Chances are you won't find a book or tapes at your local Waterstone's, but you will at HeartofEurope.co.uk. Searching for a Marimekko Unikko cushion? M&S won't have it, but DesignShopUK.com and Sheerhome.co.uk and FinnesseLifestyle.com do.

There are two other reasons to shop online that Jones overlooks. (And given that he bills himself as an "internet psychologist", I'd expect him to be alert to these motivations.) One is the sheer convenience. Maybe some websites aren't that easy to navigate and order from. But for those who only find the time to shop at 9:30 in the evening when the kids are finally in bed or at 2 in the morning because of shift work, the convenience of ecommerce is unbeatable.

Then there's what I call the misanthropic factor. Some of us simply don't want to smile and nod at a salesperson or chat to an order taker if we don't have to. And thanks to the web, we don't have to. (Surely I'm not the only one who feels this way, right? Right?)--SC

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