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yARN – Do we still want mortar and bricks?

yARN – Do we still want mortar and bricks?

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With the Xbox 360 enjoying a digital download boom, and the recent controversy surrounding an online retailer I again find myself thinking about the relevance of traditional retailing.

Immediacy and price are two features that will always work in online’s favour, and as consumer trust in the Web improves and the policing of it further filters out the bad eggs more people will be looking to shop online.

With broadband speeds increasing, it is easy to see that in some product categories – such as music and software – it will be a battle to convince people of the value of a physical purchase.

After all, you can’t buy iPhone apps at your local Harvey Norman.

Current wisdom is telling traditional retailers that, in the least, they need to develop a Web presence. But is this wisdom implying that physical outlets need to be scaled back?

I don’t think so. Much like how your typical enterprise would never dream of rolling out a server refresh without first playing with the technology and gaining input from their reseller, there are product categories I don’t see online retail gaining much traction over the physical tactile experience of a bricks and mortar shop.

Notebooks are too personal to buy without seeing the unit in action, for instance. Cameras, home theatre systems and televisions are other items I couldn’t imagine buying on faith from a website.

The last thing any consumer wants to do is blow hundreds or thousands of dollars on a notebook they wouldn’t be caught dead in public with, or a sound system that turns their household into a modern art exhibition.

These kinds of personal, substantial and significant products will always have a place in a brick-and-mortar store. Not because there’s a risk of buying it from an illegitimate online store, but simply because these items need to be seen to be understood.

In turn, that creates opportunity for the humble bricks and mortar shop to not only survive, but thrive.


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