It’s a battle that has been raging for years now. There’s evidence that online shopping has just overtaken the high street, with shoppers now making 51% of their purchases online. So are we becoming a society of sloth-like, lazy shoppers who can’t be bothered to put on trousers to go and do our weekly food shop?

Of course, both forms of shopping have their merits – eCommerce makes buying things online easy, quick and very safe, thanks to secure payment methods. On the other hand, some might argue that there is something special about being able to touch, smell and interact with a product before you make the leap and buy it.

So, does it depend on what you’re buying? Well, it’s pretty clear that buying whips and chains from the store opposite the charity shop your mum’s friend volunteers in is less than ideal, yet we’ve even started doing more and more of our food shopping online too. Fine if you’re not the kind of person who likes to give their melons a squeeze to check for ripeness, but if you’re the type who enjoys umming and ahhing over this tin of beans or that can of carrots, you might come to miss the personal touch of the weekly pilgrimage to the supermarket.

Another plus to trudging the high street in all weathers is being able to ‘try before you buy’. Wandering into the changing room with a shirt before you buy it means you don’t need to drop-kick it back to the depot when you realise just how utterly disastrous you look in it – you just don’t buy it at all. And of course there’s the appeal of that cheeky pint at lunchtime while you recharge your batteries and plan where next to attack.

A physical shop also makes it far more difficult to make a drunken purchase. You know what I mean – when you think it’s the best idea ever to buy a six banana costumes for Tim’s stag party next weekend, and it’s only in the cold light of day that you realise, actually, it’s a very expensive, very unfunny ‘joke’.

Though there is something both hilarious and heartbreaking about buying fitness equipment while sat on the sofa in a damp towel stuffing your face with leftover pizza at 11am. Or is that just me?

But maybe there doesn’t need to be such a competition between the high street and eCommerce. Some retailers are getting in on the idea of combining the online and offline worlds. For instance, Waitrose’s ‘myWaitrose’ loyalty scheme lets shoppers set their own offers by selecting on its website which 10 products they will get a 20% discount on in-store. And they’re not the only ones jumping on the online/offline shopping bandwagon: Amazon Prime Now allows shoppers to buy products and have them delivered within the hour. That breaks all kinds of shopping rules!

Perhaps the best way to look at the war between eCommerce and the high street is that each has its place. Yes, by all means, buy all your DVDs online. But would you really want to buy an engagement ring for your beloved without having seen it in person, felt its weight, held it up to the light and marvelled at its hopefully-real-diamond glory?

The verdict? Be smart and buy things from the most logical place. Yes, order your subscription box online. No, don’t order carpet for your entire house without having seen the colour in person and felt its pile. Some mistakes just aren’t worth it.

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Author Chris Painter

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