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Traditional Shopping vs Online Shopping

Updated on September 5, 2012

There are two ways to shop:

  1. Go to the shop, buy your stuff, take it home
  2. Switch on your computer, buy your stuff, wait for it

Both these options will seem completely normal to most of us. But they are incredibly different...

Here we are going to take a short look at some of the features of online shopping, and see exactly what would happen if they were implemented in a regular bricks-and-mortar store.


1. Product Reviews

The first feature I'd like to look at is that of customer reviews of products.

The Online Reality:

  1. I log onto Amazon
  2. I type in 'baked beans'
  3. I am taken to a full page of different offerings on baked beans
  4. Each of these has a 5-star potential... and the more commonly bought products will generally have X number of 'customer ratings', allowing me to see the overall average of how satisfied the product is making customers. If I choose to look deeper, I can even read in-depth reviews
  5. If the price is right and the reviews are good, I click 'buy'

The Real-World Hypothetical Alternative:

  1. I enter the supermarket/shopping mall
  2. I ask the attendant where I might find the baked beans
  3. The attendant takes me to an aisle containing a variety of baked bean products
    (And this is where it would start to get a little odd)
  4. Each product I look at on the shelf is labelled with a price and a little out-of-five star rating from other customers who have bought the product, then come back into the store and offered their thoughts. If I peel the label off, I can see that there are several small slips of paper where customers have written their thoughts down and stuck them in for others to read
  5. If the price is right and the little review slips look good, I buy the product

Now, the two situations above are exactly the same albeit one is online the other is off. However, whereas the first situation wouldn't cause us to think twice, I'm sure we'd be a little puzzled if the second started happening. And this is what this article is looking at - the norms in online shopping that we are so used to, and placing those norms in an alternative situation.

2. 'Customers also bought...'

The Online Reality:

How many times have you been browsing a store online to find that every time you click 'add-to-basket', it comes up with a little box or speech bubble saying 'customers who bought this also bought...' or 'you might also like to try...' followed by a suggested item. Would you bat an eyelid? Of course not... it's normal, you're used to it. It's helpful, even.

The Real-World Hypothetical Alternative:

Imagine now then, you're pushing your trolley or carrying your basket around the supermarket/shopping mall.

You place a pack of bacon into your basket. So far so good...

You proceed to take a carton of milk from the shelf. Nothing odd so far...

Suddenly as you pick up a packet of tampons, a store assistant springs out at you from behind the shelf and says something along the lines of:

"That time of the month? Customers who bought tampons also bought chocolate! Here, let me take you to the chocolate isle!"

That's enough to raise a few eyebrows.

3. Items Added To Your Basket

Now, this is a seriously annoying online tactic that companies use to increase sales. It doesn't happen in every online store... but it does happen.

The Online Reality:

As you shop, certain items cause certain triggers. This can lead to additional items you didn't even click on being added to your shopping cart. It's annoying, but when it happens online we just shrug, take it out (or keep it in) and pay - it's normal.

How would this ever hold up in the real world?

The Real-World Hypothetical Alternative:

So, picture this - you're looking to buy a television because yours is broken. There's nothing wrong with anything else - it's just the television.

You go to the electrical shop. You find a beautiful television at a good price. You haul it from the shelf, drag it to the counter and place it for the cashier to scan. Simple, right?

Sure, until the cashier bags it up for you, then looks you in the eye and drops in an extension cable, a wall mount and a DVD player.

Sure, you can remove the items... but isn't it bad etiquette?

The point I'm trying to highlight here...

Is that there are all sorts of norms we conform to without thinking too much about them, because we place the online world as being completely different to the offline one. But in principality, shopping online is still shopping - why do we put up with the kind of odd, embarrassing and pushy behaviour we're presented with online when we'd be making a direct complaint to management in the real world?

Just food for thought.


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