Last year I was in a bookstore and looking through some books with Andy Warren of End to End Training. I didn’t have the Kindle with me, and was waiting while Andy found a few books for his flight home. But I was still browsing since I hadn’t been in a bookstore in a long time and was enjoying the experience.
As I picked up a few books to glance through, I found a few that I wanted to buy later for the Kindle. It’s not that I don’t want to buy books, but the Kindle is very, very convenient for me. I had my phone, so I started to type in the title and author, but Andy suggested that I take a picture. So I did, actually a few pictures, and I ended up buying 3 of the books from Amazon later.
As we stood there, we talked about how if I had an iPhone, I would have just bought the books there with a very convenient and easy to use browser. I also mentioned that I saw an app for iPhones that would take a picture of the bar code and then search out pricing for you.
That’s cool, and I can see that it definitely makes things nice for bargain shoppers or those without much disposable income, but what if that practice and application became widespread? It’s an example of an idea that doesn’t scale.
If too many people were to “browse” for products, whether it’s books, toys, or auto parts, pretty soon the brick and mortar stores won’t be able to support themselves. If you go to a store, check out an item, and then decide you can save $10 or $20 by purchasing online, you are doing a dis-service to the store, and eventually you won’t be able to patronize or even check things out in the store.
I know I’m sounding more like a business person, but it’s also a common sense thing. The specialty stores, the local stores are dying out in many ways. They’ll never completely disappear, but even now there are many, many fewer of them. And it’s not just Wal-Mart, it’s also the pressures of purchases across the Internet. After all, how many of you can go to a store and check out music now? There’s some in Wal-Mart, and some in larger Barnes and Nobles or Borders, but I can see that disappearing. Browsing around, looking for music was something I used to really enjoy, just as I still do with books.
eCommerce can make things more efficient, but it can also get rid of some of the richness that we enjoy in this world. Browsing physical objects is still important in the world and I hope that businesses look to evolve to support both models.