As online shopping has become more and more popular, there has remained a vocal minority of analysts who claim the movement is little more than a fad. So far, Internet shopping trends have illustrated well that consumers are willing to wait for their merchandise in order to get it less expensively. Consumers have also latched onto online companies like eBay and Amazon because their vast selection has no real-world equivalent in the marketplace. But outside cranky brick and mortar retail store owners and conservative commentators who fear change, there has been a consistent voice arguing that online shopping is not likely to endure. That voice has come from sociologists and the first real proof of their theories comes with a new deal reached by Nordstrom’s department stores and online retailer Bonobos.
Nordstrom is a brick-and-mortar retail clothing store that is usually an anchor store in many mall locations that have them. Up until recently, Bonobos has been an Internet-only clothing company for men. However, a new deal between Bonobos and Nordstrom will put key Bonobos fashions in both the Nordstrom stores and in the men’s section of Nordstrom’s online presence. While this might seem to be initially just a business move, it validates what many sociologists have been saying since the birth of the Internet.
Most sociologists agree that the human being is, largely, a social animal. So, while the initial convenience of being able to buy anything in the world from the comfort on one’s own home might be appealing, many sociologists have posited that it was not an ultimately satisfying way for humans to get what they want. Citing how mail-order catalogues were very popular, but did not significantly or permanently impact the population of people who went to shopping malls, sociologists have argued that people enjoy the process of going out to shop.
In other words, while there is a desire for consumers to get what they want inexpensively, there is a base need to commune. This, many argue, is why shopping at brick and mortar stores, grocery stores and malls, brings many people some sense of satisfaction or joy. It is not the act of shopping out in the world that people are actually enjoying; it is the opportunity to interact with other people that they crave on a subconscious level.
It is little surprise that an online clothing company is one of the first major retailers to transition from a virtual presence to a physical store. While some products are purchased just as easily virtually (like books and electronics) and others are impractical to buy on the Internet (like food), clothing shopping is usually a more social activity. In addition to more precisely checking the fit of a garment, without risking long transit delays if something does not fit well, clothing shopping affords consumers with an opportunity for immediate reinforcement and validation.
Bonobos styles sold well on the Internet, but with shelf space at Nordstrom’s, men will have both a fashion reason and a psychological justification for returning to the malls!
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