There are few things in day-to-day life that can take you from joy and anticipation to sheer devastation or disappointment in a few moments quite like online shopping.
After days or perhaps even weeks of waiting for that special gadget you ordered online, you pull into your driveway and see the package sitting in front of the front door or, if your spouse or roommate gets home before you, it may be sitting on a counter in the kitchen.
Either way, the excitement is palpable.
However, anyone who has done any amount of online shopping knows the terror of opening the box and finding that the item inside either doesn’t fit right, isn’t what you thought you were ordering or is just complete rubbish.
In this newsroom, everyone has a tale of how the rise of the internet has affected their lives or those of their colleagues. There is a great chance that a large percentage of you that is reading this on a mobile phone, a desktop computer or a tablet, as opposed to a traditional newspaper.
The internet has deployed its tentacles into just about every aspect of our lives, and it was just a matter of time before retail establishments took advantage.
Some estimates say that American consumers spent more than $800 billion in online purchases in 2016. You can buy just about anything you could want online, especially difficult-to-find items.
But while convenient, online shopping also comes with the fear that your information could be hacked at any time.
And that’s when the company actually ships the item. Last month, I ordered an item from a well-known website, waited a month and never saw the item arrive, and had to ask for a refund and re-order it. The replacement order showed up in three days.
Mrs. Hanson purchased an item online for our nephew’s birthday last week and was pretty psyched when the box showed up. When she opened the box, she discovered it just wasn’t what she thought she was purchasing. It was a sad imitation of what she thought she was getting.
All that convenience became inconvenient, and I had to spring into action and find a brick-and-mortar store to find something that could salvage the birthday.
However, the in-person shopping experience isn’t much better.
Even though I like to see exactly what I am purchasing (I guess I am becoming more and more of a fossil every day), or try it on or ask a clerk some questions, there are issues with the traditional form of shopping.
First of all, you shouldn’t go shopping in the store in your pajamas. Then, you have to drive somewhere and find parking, and finally, the customer service experience can be a nightmare. Sometimes, your clerk is uninformed or — worse — unenthusiastic. You can find that there aren’t enough clerks working (such as the time this weekend when I had to spend more than 20 minutes waiting in line to buy a gift card). You can find that your fellow shoppers are uncivilized.
Bad shopping experiences can make you long for the convenience of hitting a search engine and finding something to buy online.
Which brings us full circle. There are tradeoffs no matter what method you use.
Going forward, I believe the brick-and-mortar retail establishments that flourish over the next decades will be the ones that take advantage of the internet, making the online shopping experience a pleasure, while also enhancing the in-person shopping experience. Some of those ideas might include in-store entertainment, superior customer service and an eye toward convenience.
Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter if you have a mouse click in your hands or you are purchasing something in person: Shopping is a hassle.