On Your Side: The future of shopping

The future of shopping

LEEDS, AL (WBRC) - When you shop, what are you more likely to do? Swipe through Instagram, click buy on a Facebook marketplace ad, or drive to a store and touch the merchandise?

The Pants Store, based in Leeds, is happy with all three.

"I think online is so important now," says Michael Gee. "That's the way customers are shopping is online. Customers still enjoy coming in, touching and feeling product. But once they get to know what product they like, they know they're gonna shop online--it's convenience. They're gonna shop on their lunch break at work, so what we've tried to do is give access to everything we have at the store online as well."

Michael Gee is the second generation of ownership for this family business that has five locations in the state but is also adding staff to handle the growing volume of business through their social media channels and pantsstore.com.

"Instagram and Facebook are so important for us," Gee says. "In fact, we have a whole online platform where we sell on Facebook."

One thing he's learned? One picture can make or break an item.

"People are so color-focused on they like this color or that color and that color doesn't look right online, it's in the wrong light," Gee says. "It's hard to say what you're going to be doing in five years. I think you're just trying to satisfy your customer now and their needs now. To say we won't have any brick and mortar in 5 years? I don't believe that's the case. I still think people like to come in and shop and enjoy that experience, but do I think we'll be doing a lot more online business in five years? Absolutely."

And new research just out this week backs that up. A new survey of 5,000 shoppers between the ages of 14 and 24 published in AdWeek shows they do love the instant satisfaction of buying online and finding the item at their door within a day or two, but they're also willing to drive up to an hour to pick it up and save on shipping costs, and 75% still prefer shopping either exclusively in a store or making brick and mortar part of their shopping mix.

The Pants Store still does the lion's share of its business in stores, but Gee also realizes you have almost infinite options. So he thinks the chances for small businesses like his to survive is applying the same set of rules online as in his stores.

"You still have excellent customer service, you still have deals that are driving them into the store, you're giving them a reason to shop," Gee says. "You can't expect a customer to come in and shop with you at all anymore unless you give them a reason to."

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