What Retail Can Offer That Ecommerce Can’t

In a recent article, The Retail Doctor stated that “Brick and mortar retail has the ability to change the world.” Sound a little over the top? Try and think of it in terms of health: The power of human touch is one of the most powerful healing remedies available.

The Touch Research Institute has learned that each of us can benefit from touch therapy by simply mingling with friends, loved ones, and family members. One way we do this is through shopping.

Although technology has changed the way businesses and consumers think and operate, many consumers still prefer the brick-and-mortar experience because there is an element of human touch, according to Retail TouchPoints.

The Psychology of Traditional Shopping

According to Get Focused On Marketing, traditional shopping is a social activity, often including friends and family. It involves a human investment requiring more than the mere purchase of goods. Additionally, human interaction is a major determining factor in the quality and enjoyment of the shopping experience (FYI: window shopping was actually considered an enjoyable pastime at one time, and perhaps still is).

By contrast, online shopping is a more solitary activity involving different behavior. For example, there is no walking down streets or gazing through windows, and it’s not generally a shared experience. “Browsing” the Internet requires a deliberate action and a specific subject matter that doesn’t lend itself to simply “strolling” around the Internet just to pass the time.

Though online shopping has certainly grown by leaps and bounds, it still can’t match the warm, cozy feeling traditional shopping can because, among other things, individuals are in more control of the experience and can share their emotions. In stores, consumers can touch and feel products and sift through items based on size, color, pattern, and fit. Additionally, they’re able to engage one-on-one with associates who can guide them through the decision-making journey.

“Online shopping does not reward the emotional investment the way traditional shopping does because it does not have the human interaction involved. Therefore the commitment to the purchase is vastly decreased and there is no sense of obligation to that commitment.”


Source: Get Focused On Marketing

Perhaps the lack of emotional investment is partly the reason for the 64.7% abandonment rate of online customers during the actual buying process.

That certainly doesn’t mean online shopping is going to go away. After all, it’s an integral part of all businesses and has forever changed the retail landscape. In fact, studies show that 70% of consumers use online search, social media, etc. in their shopping journey, which is now an essential part of the modern customer experience. What it does mean is that retailers must offer exciting, meaningful, and seamless experiences both online and in-store to fully engage customers.


“Brick and mortar retailers still provide a sense of wonder that online retailers can’t,” says The Retail Doctor.

“You walk into a retail store, whatever it is, and if there’s a sense of entertainment and excitement and electricity, you wanna be there.” 


Source: Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

Having a physical location gives you and your staff the opportunity to connect with each shopper on a meaningful level, to cut through the clutter and noise and provide customers with a memorable—and very human—experience that’s worth spending their time and money on…one that will bring them back to your retail store again and again!

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.