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Mumbrella Opinion Editorial: Online Shopping Will Never Truly Defeat In-Store

A recent study reported most Australians still prefer in-store purchasing compared to online. Rick Caballo details why this isn't as surprising as you might think.


It is the first thing we buy into when we admire, follow or purchase anything. Image is the essential factor that all good branding is based on. Whether you are a physical store or an online platform, your branding should be strong. However that does not seem to always be the case.

A recent Australian study revealed a fact many may find surprising: more people are choosing to go in-store to purchase items rather than online.

The people that created 90 million in-store visits in the 2015/16 year may not realise why they are choosing to travel to malls and shopping centres, but it is all about branding.

When we enter a storefront, we are hit with the scent of the candles that are lit throughout the shop, the sound of the music meant to entice us through the door, and the creative and interesting displays of products that we are able to touch and try on.

All of these factors are things that are unable to be recreated online. This is the primary reason why branding for an online store or company is so much more difficult. How do you separate yourself from the thousands of other platforms with similar layouts and styles, especially if your customers can’t touch and feel your products?

A company like Apple has branded their image as high-end, sophisticated, stylish and cutting edge. This attracts customers to not only their look, but their attitude, and even their stores. The Apple Store’s vibe reflects the look of their products, while the customer service utilises a new and different approach, even down to their Genius Bar.

Their image suits their brand, which then attracts their preferred customer and hopefully ensures continued success. Since customers have been to their physical stores, and thus have been able to view the true quality of the products, they may be more inclined to order via their online platform.

But not all brands are like Apple, with their consistent approach and streamlined style. So, how can other companies achieve their own level of success in this new landscape where consumers are less likely to add items to their virtual shopping cart, and more likely to show up to see it in person?

It seems that our branding culture is going through a cycle of sorts. Prior to the popularity of online shopping, we did not have a choice but to go to the mall and walk into a real store, talk to real people, and pick out real, physical products rather than a picture on a screen.

Then, with the rise of the internet, online shopping became popularised due to it’s large convenience factor. However, people seem to have begun realising the downfalls: out of stock items, incorrect sizing or descriptions, quality being hidden behind retouched photos. We seem to have come full circle.

Branding needs to focus on iconic imagery and style that is unique to a company. A brand needs a unique vibe and aesthetic that sets them apart from the rest. For physical stores, this process is much easier: find a personal style, hire employees who represent that, play the music you think your ideal customer would like, and hopefully they come flocking.

But online shops are a different story. They require an entirely new set of branding tactics in order to be successful, and it seems that many companies have no accomplished that yet.

So, the question becomes: how do we fix this? Is it even possible?

You need to be able to create an online shopping experience through strong branding. Your online store or website needs a story, a vibe and a style all its own.

Consumers must be able to view the homepage of your website and immediately know the type of platform that it is, who you are, and the type of shopper you are catering to.

Your logo, the colours you choose, products, and social media platforms that reflect the brand are all necessities in order to sustain a strong online platform and compete with the in-store experience that shoppers are currently leaning towards.


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