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Archive for May 17th, 2017



Graphic Credit: Tristan Louis

We are in an e-commerce world right from food to everyday needs come to our doorstep by ordering online. The total global retail sales in 2016 was estimated to touch US 22.049 trillion and that is 6% up from the previous year. It is estimated by “Worldwide Retail Ecommerce Sales: The eMarketer forecast for 2016” that by 2020 the e-sales will touch US 27 Trillion. With this background, I am exploring the option of why people go to the store to buy things. In my opinion, the reason known in psychological terms as Retail Therapy.

What is Retail Therapy

We all know what is retail therapy, but to provide authenticity to our thought process, I have quoted from Wikipedia.

“Retail Therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or stress, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as “comfort buys” (compare comfort food).” – Source: Wikipedia

Over indulgence is quite common during the periods of emotional lows people would like to indulge in an activity that would give them some relief from the stress related depression through so-called retail therapy. Sometimes human get immense relief by indulging in activities (over spending, over eating, binge drinking etc.) that are not frugal. We often see advertisements such as “try your local”, this is to igniting regional or localized passion in the buyers to go to the local store and encourage the shoppers with gift vouchers, discounts, loyalty points and much more attractions.

If we review the statistics, it gives us totally different perspective. 1,425 U.S. consumers via Google Surveys revealed the reasons why they choose to shop in stores over online. The reasons are compelling. 62% of the participants mentioned that “To see, touch, feel and try out items”. The second biggest reason given by them was, one can take home immediately, the consumer would like to put to use the product without the wait. The third reasons given was, to return easily, this is a fair enough point. Online purchases mean one has to go to make an effort to return the product. What I like the most is an in-store experience which is closely aligned to the retail therapy theory. When one steps out of the home and mingle with people positive energy is infused, which works like a medication during periods of stress induced depression. The last but not least is to know more about information first hand by asking questions; I enjoy this part. Source of Statistics: Retail Dive.

If we distinguish between men and women preferences, there is no prize for guessing, women prefer to buy a product only by touching and feeling and if clothes by trying it out. When it comes to taking the product home immediately, men beat women. Men prefer to take the home immediately and use it if possible. The other two factors which relate to retail therapy and easy returns, both women and men behave the same way. When it comes to seeking additional information of the product, men are found to be more inquisitive compared to women who seems to rely on their gut feeling.

When we examine same parameters by age group without differentiating the sex of the survey respondents. The age group of 28-34 and 65+ prefer to see, touch, feel and make a decision. It is natural that the age group of 18-24 would like to take it home and use it immediately because younger generation prefers instant outcomes. The age group of 18-24 prefer to enjoy the in-store experience, agreed it is because they could do many things by going to a store or shopping mall such as meeting friends, networking, window shopping, etc. Again the same age group enjoy the in-store experience; it aligns with the above-mentioned point. When it comes to asking questions, again the age group of 18-24 tend to ask more questions to know about the product.

Last but not least is the Rural vs. Urban preferences. The results are obvious 71 percent in the rural area prefer to buy the goods in the store. A Harvard business report quoting Nielsen estimates revealed that rural areas are growing at 1.5 times the rate in urban areas. It is needless to add that all other parameters, rural consumers beat out urban consumers. When it comes to asking questions about the product, it is the urban consumer who is more probing in nature. Rural consumers trust the local stores and go by the store recommendations. Rural customers visiting a store is a necessity, and whereas for the urban customer it is a hobby, it is a sort of entertainment, it is a networking opportunity, it is an opportunity to explore the what is on offer.

In summary, in the world of e-commerce world, it is necessary to encourage customer to visit the store, loyalty points linked to airline mileage points, this was confirmed by Forbes, “Christopher Barnard, President and Co-Founder of Points a company dedicated to making loyalty programs more valuable and engaging believes that offering points or rewards are a key in attracting repeat business”. The second recommendation is the layout, give more space in the aisles to give customers to spend more time and make them comfortable, train the staff periodically, they are your ambassadors. Periodically, go for mark-downs and particularly in winters to encourage your consumers to visit the store apart from festive time. Last but not least, be visible online not as an e-commerce company but as a store to educate the consumer about the store offerings.

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