There is no doubt the shopping landscape is changing, with online shoppers spending $4.45 billion online on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, according to data released by Adobe. Online sales were up 25% on Thanksgiving and jumped 14% on Black Friday, compared with last year. In addition, Gallup found that 35% of American adults are doing more of their shopping online than they were in 2014.
This bigger focus on online shopping begs the question – are the deals really better online or in store? Or are they the same?
Since so much shopping has shifted online, companies are engaging in ‘omnichannel’ selling, combining their online and in-store strategies to create a more cohesive shopping experience.
But, experts say this does not mean the sales are better online.
Online deals tend to match in-store discounts, but not always
Most of the time, according to marketing professionals, the deals in store are the same as online.
‘If prices are disparate, that would be confusing to customers,’ says Barbara Kahn, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
But there are some instances when this is not the case.
John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at Indiana University, says that since some retailers have separate inventory control systems between their brick-and-mortar stores and online stores, ‘the price reduction may go to the Web first.’
The solution? If you see a price that is higher in store than it is online, you can always ask the retailer to match its online price.
Technology changes the game
Store shopping apps
Mobile phone applications make deals available to customers more quickly.
For example, Target’s ‘Cartwheel’ app allows customers to scan a barcode to see if there is a specific discount available for app users. Target spokesman Eddie Baeb says Target is also piloting a program whereby app-enabled shoppers are alerted when nearby items are trending on Pinterest.
Apps also make shopping easier around the store. Home Depot’s app helps users discover items they like, make a list and then locate the item in-store, according to Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes.
Some retailers, such as Nordstrom, use their inventory tracking systems to find merchandise in another store if it is out of stock in the store where customers are shopping. Having an item delivered from another store to your house or to the store you frequent is another way retailers are reaching out to customers and helping them get what they want in order to claim their business.
Online shopping saves time, most of the time
Although prices might be similar in most cases between brick-and-mortar stores and online, there are definitely instances when shopping online saves you time. However, when shopping for items such as clothing, it might make more sense to shop in-store to ensure the fit is right instead of having to re-order the item and pay extra shipping to send the ill-fitted item back.
Bottom line: Shopping online can definitely save you time, and it pays to double check prices online when shopping in store. You might just get a better deal!