Which shops keep you coming back, even though you can buy cheaper online?
Despite all the noise about online shopping, it still only accounts for a mere six per cent of Australia’s total retail spend, according to the latest NAB Online Retail Sales Index. As I said on Wednesday, almost three quarters of that online spend is still with Australian online retailers rather than multinational giants like Amazon. So we’re obviously willing to spend locally, if Australian retailers come to the party.
You might think that six per cent of the household budget is pretty low and I’m sure people will swear they buy practically everything online, but remember we’re talking about your total retail spend. That’s not just gadgets and content, it’s also expensive things like groceries, clothing, toys, furniture and whitegoods. Most people still tend to buy these things in a shop even if they do their research online. Even when it comes to high-tech gadgets, you’ll often find a discount retailer which can practically match the best online price once you allow for delivery.
Of course I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to bricks and mortar shopping, as I live in Melbourne’s suburban heartland. If I lived beyond the city limits I think I’d be more likely to shop online. Looking at the NAB report I was surprised that the vast majority of online shoppers were from the metro areas of the eastern seaboard although, when you look at it on a per capita basis, Western Australia and the Northern Territory hold their own.
Like I said, in my house I always turn to the internet first to do my research and match prices. I hate wandering around shops looking for stuff — I get in, get what I want and get the hell out. My wife’s birthday is coming up and last night after dinner she was drawing up a list of books, albums and movies she might like to receive from our kids. As she wrote her list I pulled out my smartphone and started shopping around. I quickly found the best price on the CD she wanted and was about to order the books from the same online Australian store when she said “you’re not going to buy the books online, are you?”
I should have known better. When it comes to buying books she’d rather support her favourite local bookstore than save a few dollars by shopping online. Why? It’s partly a combination of friendly staff, good customer service and a decent loyalty program. But I think it’s as much about the fact that she loves books and browsing through a physical book is an experience that she wants to cherish and share with our children. It’s not something she’s prepared to sacrifice to save a few dollars. The bookshop also has a sense of community, with a social media presence, bookclubs and regular in-store events.
Music lovers once felt the same way about record stores, but you don’t find many decent old-fashioned record stores these days. I guess I’m not helping by buying budget CDs online, but everyone’s priorities are different. So today I’m off to the bookshop, when I’m out buying a coffee, because that’s where our priorities lie.
I can’t be alone here if we’re still spending most of our money in physical stores rather than online. Are you a loyal customer at a specialty store, even though you could save money online? What have they done to win you over?
Source: The Sydney Morning Harold