We now live in “online times” so to say. Connected 24 x 7, fast access to anything and everything over the web and tons of data! Where do businesses and people who still have more of a “physical orientation” stand? Are they completely out of times or they still have some hope?
Well, my opinion is the market has just segmented further. Internet and online sales are definitely here to stay and have added tremendous value by creating another distribution channel which works very well for a certain kind of products and services. On-demand information, entertainment, advice and of course some physical products. However, there still remains a large product category that should rather be touched and felt. A human interface while completing such a sale, information or an advice cycle adds tremendous value and impact. For such businesses internet is the first line of consumer interaction and can help in building awareness and helping consumers do their initial research. However one must remember that a quality decision depends on quality data! So in certain products, it becomes important (particularly high value) that a person perceives the product personally so as to have maximum first-hand data (touch and feel of the product, a chance to observe the salesperson while communicating and a face to face discussion to clarify all doubts, queries). I personally think that internet or online models are more an aid rather than a replacement in such product categories. A combination of both can provide an effective solution to consumer interaction and decision making.
For instance, in our business (#wood flooring#decking#cladding), we have been investing both in online information dissemination (www.spanfloors.com, www.outwud.com) as well as our physical stores (pic above) so as to provide our customers with maximum quality data in a manner that is simple and easy to absorb and can help them arrive at a good decision. High-quality online pictures, specifications, advice combined with physical displays and face to face product consultation all combine to help us achieve that. Our products are long-lasting and a consumer is likely to buy them at most 2-3 times over the lifespan. So in such products, it is well worth the end user’s time & effort (visiting stores, personal interaction etc) so as to get the right data and consequently derive maximum benefit out of the purchase cycle!