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Are shops still viable for telecoms retailers?

The web has changed the way we shop, with many consumers choosing the convenience and efficiency of 24-hour shopping and next-day delivery to their door.

This is reflected in revenues from internet shopping, which are increasing year on year.

So is an internet-only offering the way forward for telecoms companies?

A solely internet-based route to market would bring about greater cost efficiencies, as in most cases it is cheaper to run a website than a store. These reductions in overheads enable businesses to increase profits and offer customers more competitive rates, which is clearly favourable for all considered. Websites also allow telecoms retailers to hold seemingly limitless information about phones and price plans, so customers can do their research before purchasing or upgrading their phone or changing their price plan.

Given all this, then why do all the major telecom retailers still have a presence on the high street? Fundamentally it is because people enjoy going to the shops. In many instances, for instance, when buying an iPhone, ordering online cannot be compared to the experience of spending time in the Apple Store handing products and speaking with the expert staff.

Consumer buying patterns also need to be taken into account. Every consumer goes through a number of psychological stages before committing to purchasing a product or service, and more expensive or significant purchases generally have more stages. While a mobile phone isn’t necessarily an expensive product, it does hold a lot of social weight with consumers, especially the young, fashion- or technology-conscious, who feel that their mobile phone makes a statement about who they are.

A shop endears itself to a number of these pre-purchase phases. Information can be gathered, opinions sought and alternatives compared, in one single location at one time. And although reading product information online is convenient, nothing can compare to handling the product and talking though technical specifications or detailed price plan information face-to-face.

Shopping isn’t just about making a purchase; it’s about the whole experience, which is something that internet shopping can never compete with. While buying groceries in your pyjamas at midnight might be exciting the first time, for many it will lose its appeal as the enjoyment of visiting real shops with real people is something that never diminishes.