We live in a digital world and the information and communication technology has changed rapidly over the last years. We use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, WhatsApp and let ourselves be influenced by online ads, therefore it is not surprising that we shop online as well. Clothing brands can write a book about this progress, but also supermarkets are trying to improve the digital shopping experience for their customers to benefit from this progress. Does this mean that physical stores are outdated?

We will contrast advantages with disadvantages of in-store shopping and online shopping in consideration of four factors from the consumer perspective. Let the games begin!

Prices

No delivery costs and processing fees are clear arguments for a purchase in supermarkets, but at a second glance, the in-store purchase usually not offers a cheaper shopping experience and this is caused by the mentioned further development of digital stores. The internet offers the possibility to compare prices of groceries with the help of comparison portals and the reviews of others in a short time. Driven by constant shares of opinions and discounts, customers save money.

Winner: Online Shopping

Service

As mentioned in the introduction, fashion retailers are already improving the customer’s online shopping experience with special discounts and delivery options, but it becomes clear, based on the high return rate, that online shopping bears the risk of incorrect purchases, not only in fashion retail, because 30% of all products ordered online are returned as compared to 9% in brick-and-mortar stores. The figures in the food industry are alarming as well: 6.7 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year and this is often caused by incorrect purchases. Online customers simply don’t have the possibility to ask staff for help or proof the quality of food and are often surprised by the poor condition of the delivered groceries. This does not mean that the quality of the food in online stores is always bad, but customers just don’t know what they’re buying and have no use for the products.

Winner: In-Store Shopping

Time

Driven by the current changing of the professional world, deadline pressures and the challenge of reconciling leisure time and professional life, people have less time to buy their products during the week. Online shopping is quicker, simpler and consumers can do research on the market for the goods they want, much more quickly. The delivery times are shortened as well, as we can see in some areas with Amazon’s same-day delivery.

Winner: Online Shopping

Shopping experience

The last point goes to in-store shopping and this is mainly driven by the importance of all five human senses. Customers want to proof the quality of food and want so see what they are putting in their basket. This is shown by the fact that many supermarkets impress with new concepts and the implementation of coffee shops and tasting rooms in supermarkets. This is not really surprising, because buying behaviour and spontaneous buying decisions of consumers are mainly influenced by the smell, look, physical properties, taste and roars of products. Just look at a purchase in a supermarket with the smell of coffee, fresh bread and the taste of the newest creations and you will agree that we have a clear winner of this stage.

Winner: In-Store Shopping

Result: Draw

The result shows that both in-store and online shopping are important for supermarkets to offer their customers a better shopping experience and improve their own business as well. To benefit from the further digital development, retailers should connect physical and digital stores to guarantee a seamless buying process for customers.