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Almost everyday, I come across marvellous sounding articles detailing reasons why brick-and-mortar stores are as good as dead and buried. Those articles have good points, but clearly do not take into account a key factor about human nature.

Human nature is very physical. That means that no matter the convenience of an online store, there will always be times when the individual prefers to walk into a real store and touch, feel and investigate items for himself before making a purchase. Take a situation in which someone wants to make a phone purchase, for example. He has a number of phones in view and isn’t sure which one to zero in on. He has sifted things down to a handful of options that are similarly specified. Walking into a physical store and handling or seeing them for himself is a good way to make a final choice.

We also forget the leisure and social angles to shopping. Or window shopping. Sometimes, I walk into stores more as a leisure activity than as a chore. I go to feed my eyes and senses in the company of friends. And who doesn’t know that shopping is more fun when done as a group activity?

This whole e-commerce thing reminds me of the hilarious nature of the tons of virtual dating activities that go on everyday. While you are busy sexting and exchanging sweet things with that person via Twitter DM, WhatsApp or Facebook Chat, guess – at the end of the day, it is the person who has physical access to him/her that enjoys the warmth of hugs, kisses and the rest of the shebang. So much for virtual dating or whatever else we choose to call these things. They can only complement, but never will fully replace the real deal.

Yes; brick-and-mortar stores will be impacted by e-commerce, but no-one should make the mistake of thinking that some e-ice age event is about to happen to send them to the Jurrasic era. Human beings will ALWAYS need physical interactions. That is the way we are. While some corner shops and deparmental stores will close up, to be sure, there will be enough demand to keep a handful of others running profitably.

Current brick-and-mortar stores can position themselves by setting up an online presence from which their customers can make purchases when convenience is required. They may need to streamline their operations a bit, but they need not have to fear that their physical stores will be wiped out. At least, not all of them.

Even telecom operators, who are driving the ‘e’ and mobile commerce streams keep having to open brick-and-mortar stores and customer centres. That is a response to human nature – the need to walk into a location, sit, interact, and sift. That need will never die.

E-commerce will not wipe out physical stores, same way online dating will not wipe out nights out in the arms of a lover. At the end of the day, the ‘e’ is only a compliment to all that we do. It will never be a complete replacement.


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