Monday, October 22, 2007

Online Buying Poses More Competition for Retailers

Consumers Reports says that people are happy to buy electronics online, from small purchases like digital cameras; to even big-ticket items like flat-panel TVs and computers. As if Canadian retailers didn't have the issue of the declining U.S. dollar to deal with this busy holiday shopping season; now they have to contend with potentially increased competition from the online realm.

Some traditional bricks & mortar retailers, like Future Shop and Best Buy, offer their own online shopping components which lets them play in both ends of the game. But smaller independents that don't might find themselves fighting even harder for customer's bucks.

Interestingly, 75% of the survey respondents said that one of the reasons they chose to shop online instead of at a local store was to avoid the irritating pitch for an extended warranty. Other reasons were supposedly better prices, and better product selection. led on the pricing front; while (which just entered the Canadian market a few months ago) scored top ranks for customer service. Customers also enjoy things like online sales advisors that can help with a "virtual" purchase; and product reviews from other customers. Another factor that helped take these two online retailers to the top: they both accept returns.

Despite the increased interest in online retailers, traditional bricks and mortar stores are still being visited, most often for "major electronic purchases". Customers often desire face-to-face communication; and of course convenience also plays a factor: many don't want to wait for an item to be delivered.

When it comes to the in-store experience, local independents ranked first overall, with the highest scores relating to customer service, and speedy checkouts.