There was once a time that a trip to buy something fun could be an enjoyable experience. I remember how much I enjoyed picking out my first computer, a Tandy TRS 80. I browsed Radio Shack for an hour or more, talking to the helpful employee about my plans, picking out the cassette tapes that would one day hold my programming brilliance, attempting to convince my Dad that I needed a monitor to be able to use it. That day is one of my fondest childhood memories.
But retailers increasingly believe that even for luxury items, all the matters is the lowest price - and maybe they're right. But bowing at the altar of the almighty dollar inevitably means less money and attention lavished on the shopping experience. Employees are paid less and get less training. Inventory and quality is reduced. Stores get dingy, dirty and ugly. Too often you end up shopping in a messy, over-lit warehouse, being ignored by reluctant, resentful clerks just to save a nickel on a few poorly made items. Fun.
The Online Alternative
Compare this experience with that of the online shopper. Sitting at home in comfort, you can browse the best retailers in the world. A quick search finds you the best price. The only reason to get up off the couch is that, sometimes, you may want to check out an item in person before plunking down your credit card.
Ironically, that makes things even worse for brick and mortar retailers. More and more shoppers now visit retail stores only to check out the merchandise, and then buy online instead.
Called "showrooming," the practice is increasingly performed right from shoppers' smartphones while they're standing in the store. That means even less money for the store, and ultimately an even less pleasant shopping experience - which pushes even more shoppers online.
ReadWrite managing editor Fredric Paul found that out the hard way on a recent trip to Best Buy (see Another Reason Best Buy Is Doomed - And Why That's A Problem), but he's not the only one. Cyril Vart, vice president of strategy and development for "innovation architects" faberNovel had an even worse experience attempting to buy a digital camera. But Vart says it doesn't have to be this way - and he came up with a presentation on 5 ways brick-and-mortar retailers can fight back against showrooming. Let's hope at least some real-world retailers give it a shot.