Thanks to all those who made an attempt at answering my question on the difference between online and offline shoppers – some interesting responses. For what it’s worth, I think there is a distinct difference between the online and offline shopper, but that this difference is also altering over time. As shoppers have access to a wide range of product search resources, ‘offline’ or store shopping is becoming less about product search and more about the social and tactile experience of interacting with the goods as well as the sales experience. Marketers *sort of* understand this, and are tailoring the physical infrastructure of shopping centres to cater for pleasant shopping experiences. But somewhat remarkably in my opinion, marketers do miss that offline shopping is still changing even beyond the dimension of shopping experiences. And not just in terms of speed of transactions and quality of customer service.
Offline shopping is becoming rather polar. Customers either want service, or they really *don’t* want service. It’s not that customers are unclear about whether they want to purchase, it’s that they are absolutely clear about why they are shopping. They either have a purchase in their minds, or they are shopping predominantly as a form of therapy, and simply wish to interact with the goods. Customers have reached a position where if shopping is entirely experience oriented and not goal oriented, then they find sales assistants a *disincentive* to enter a store. As they grow in sophistication, customers’ respect for, and tolerance of sales assistants is actually reducing.
So essentially the changes I see are a marked separation of goal oriented shoppers and experience oriented shoppers. Shoppers who have a specific purchasing goal in mind are time conscious and want service immediately, and at the lowest possible price. Shoppers who are experience-oriented find sales assistants irritating and officious. And I think the internet and online shopping is actually contributing to this polarisation process.
This clearly needs more research, but it’s interesting to watch the trend develop.