If your annual holiday shopping expedition entails sitting at a computer screen in a darkened room and dragging items to a shopping cart, you could be missing out on a truly rewarding and exciting experience. Yes, the prospect of fighting for a parking space and waiting in lines to pay for your treasures may lead to an instant grimace. In reality though this could be a small price to pay for the sheer satisfaction in knowing the effort spent finding and buying the perfect gifts for loved-ones was done with great care and thought. Before you start your online holiday shopping, take a moment to think about the benefits of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores -- you may be surprised to discover it could be more rewarding than at first thought.
1. Interaction With Real People
Online shopping lacks the depth of true personal interaction and can never match the experience of speaking to a sales assistant in person. If you have something specific in mind, you can ask for advice on its suitability or on alternative purchases. If you have absolutely no idea what you are looking for, a great sales assistant and other shoppers can give you ideas to get your creative juices flowing -- something that is almost impossible while shopping alone on the anonymous-faced Internet.
2. Feel, Smell, Experience the Goods
The Internet doesn't allow you to pick up a product and truly experience how it look and feels in your hands. Feeling the texture of clothes or the real leather of a new purse is all part of the fun, and it gives you a more rounded opinion of the goods you're about to splash the cash on. Internet returns due to a wrong size, color or manufacturer mistake can be a real hassle. When shopping in person, you aren't going to pick out a red dress and walk out the door with a hot pink one. And you will know you have the right size shoe.
3. Soak Up the Festive Cheer
The holidays season should be a time to soak up the unique atmosphere; a time of joy and goodwill. Shopping during the holidays is an experience as retailers put in a lot of money and effort to make this season more special than the other 11 months of the year. Shopping malls create stunning decorative displays and play all your favorite holiday songs to get you in the mood -- making a trip to your local stores an integral part of your annual festive celebrations.
4. A Chance to Catch up
Nothing enhances the shopping experience like sharing your opinions and gift ideas with friends and family. Making a day out of a shopping trip gives you the chance to catch up with friends or spend quality time with family. Include a meal or a trip to the cinema, and you can create a truly memorable experience that simply wouldn't be possible while sitting at a computer screen.
The relatively recent phenomenon of 'mall walking' allows people to burn of those excess calories that are an inevitable part of the festive period. The chance to combine a workout with some serious retail therapy is simply too good to pass up. Let's face it; keystrokes on a keyboard cannot be regarded as exercise -- no matter how much you try to persuade yourself they can!
While there is simply no substitute for shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, mobile technology still has a part to play in the overall experience. Customer reviews, detailed product specifications and price comparisons can all be found online and helps you to be a smart shopper with great products in mind as you head to the store. Carrying a smart phone or tablet around a mall to access information on the go is a great tool to use as you're shopping. Technology has its place in the mall shopping experience too.
The seemingly endless rise of Internet shopping is changing the retail world beyond all recognition, but the personal touch of a real store will never be recreated online.
Grace Chan is vice president of product management for Wanderful Media, a startup reimagining the digital circular with Find&Save. Her product development experience includes leadership roles at MerchantCircle, Yahoo! and Intel.
Follow Grace Chan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wanderfulmedia