Why traditional retail beats online: Gen Y speaks

By Patrick Avenell

BRISBANE, QLD: The biggest advantage bricks and mortar stores have in the developing conflict between online and traditional store sales is trust and reliability. Whereas online sites may offer great discounts underwritten by low overheads, traditional stores provide the peace of mind and ‘touch-and-feel’ intangibles that Australian consumers still value.

In a week that has seen a former used car salesman promoting super cheap 3D TVs and Ruslan Kogan provide a breathless diatribe against Harvey Norman’s decision to purchase Clive Peeters, Current.com.au sought input from a typical Generation Y consumer as to which is better: traditional or online.

Our subject is prolific technology consumer Timothy Cassey, a 23-year-old salesman and former golfing prodigy from Queensland, who owns all three major gaming consoles, a Mac Book, a big screen TV and an iPhone, amongst hundreds of other modern conveniences. We asked him to tell us his thoughts on buying online versus buying in store.

“The problem with buying through an online-only store (and this is true of Kogan), is that there is always a feeling that you are being potentially ripped off,” he replied. “There are so many scams these days with cheap electronics that one has to wonder if what you are buying will actually come, or if it will be of inferior quality.

“I can firstly research the product online before going into a store to see it in action (something that can’t be done with an online only approach). I can then barter to find a lower price if necessary. I know that I’m definitely going to get my product, and that 99 per cent of the time, with the research I’ve done, and any questions I’ve raised in-store, and that I’m getting a good product.

“The only time I will buy online is if the company is very well established, and their products are available in a store for me to look at first, for example, Microsoft, Apple or Sony.”

Armed with this information, retailers should concentrate on maximising that in-store experience, so that their greatest advantage is this experience, rather than cheap, cheap prices.

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