Exploring Shopping Mode: Physical Vs Online Shopping


Advances in technology have had an effect on almost all sectors of human life. From social interactions to economic and political issues, technology has taken centre stage influencing and affecting the way we conduct business and social interactions. Shopping has also changed as a result of the influence of technology with most people preferring online shopping to the traditional physical store shopping. This trend took centre stage in the past decade with many retail giants integrating the two approaches to achieve maximum benefit. This proposal aims to understand the growing importance of online shopping and to examine the relationship that exists between online shopping and physical store shopping.

Background to the research

The 21st century has witnessed a surge in online shopping and a considerable drop in physical store shopping. The year 2012 was predicted by many major retailers as the year that would completely turn the face of shopping with many consumers predicted to engage more in online shopping than physical store shopping (Cao, Xu, & Douma, 2012). Changes were felt especially with the rise in online consumer spending and a drop in physical store spending in many countries. In the UK for example, the value of online retail sales increased by 14% in 2012 to hit £50bn. Online shoppers are estimated to have spent about £1,500 each on 39 items. The report also showed that the value of internet retail trade accounted for about 12% of the total retail spending. There is evidence of further growth in the coming years with estimations of growth rates of about 3% this year (Clifford, 2012).

Physical store shopping on the other hand has not been consumed by e-shopping but spending in such shops has decreased because customers prefer to shop conveniently and affordably (Childers, Carr, Peck, & Carson, 2001). Physical store shopping has been tied with increased costs of travel as well as shopping fees which discourage consumers. Flexibility of internet shopping has made it easy for consumers to easily adopt this mode of shopping as they can easily move about with their daily tasks instead of spending time on shopping trips (Comklin & Trudeau, 2000).

Retailers have not done away with physical store shopping but most of them have tried to integrate the two in order to get maximum results. Internet shopping has taken a new trend where consumers order online and products are delivered at home or picked from nearest delivery points bringing physical stores into use. The two still complement each other in a number of ways and thus it may not be possible to foresee a total elimination of physical stores in the future (Gilly & Wolfinbarger, 2001).

Aims and objectives

As already seen in the background, online shopping has grown tremendously in the past decade. Physical store shopping is becoming less and less a concern for shoppers with many of them preferring online shopping to physical store shopping. The main aim of this research is to find out how the shoppers make the choice between online shopping and physical store shopping. The following are the specific objectives of the study:

a)      To find out consumer motivations to engage in online shopping versus physical store shopping

b)      To find out the perceived benefits and drawbacks of internet shopping versus physical store shopping

c)      To understand the long term impacts of online shopping to physical store shopping

Scope and Limitations

Online shopping and physical shopping are modes of shopping chosen by consumers depending on a variety of factors. Therefore, the study will cover the shopping process and experience among consumers. It will also look at the general impact of online shopping on the traditional physical store shopping at the industrial level. This will help gauge the long term impacts of the mode of shopping to the industry. The paper will not look at companies or organization and the impact of online shopping and physical store shopping on them. The research is thus limited to the shopping process and how consumers make the decision concerning the mode of shopping and how these modes of shopping will impact the industry in the future.

Literature review

Shopping is a process, like the decision making model, comprising of a series of issues typically linked together. There are a number of elements of the shopping process which include: need, information gathering/receiving, trial, evaluation, selection, transaction, delivery and return. An individual’s choice of the mode of shopping plays a significant role in each of the elements of the shopping process (Comklin & Trudeau, 2000).

Online shopping has grown tremendously due to a number of benefits that users perceive the mode of shopping to have. Among them is the flexibility of purchase where the customer is able to find information as well as make a purchase any time anywhere. Another benefit is the cost benefit and this comes in because online products are perceived to be a lot cheaper than physical store products (Forsythe, Liu, Shannon, & Gardner, 2006). The cost aspect is due to the reduced overheads as well as the costs of maintaining the store fronts. Despite the fact that online products sometimes bear delivery costs onto the final price, the selling price of most of these products are cheaper than those of physical stores (Gilly & Wolfinbarger, 2001). The third benefit is that of convenience where individuals can do shopping anytime anywhere. The emergence of anytime internet enabled devices together with a variety of shopping applications for smartphones have encouraged people to conduct online shopping (Liu & Forsythe, 2010).

The above benefits come with other drawbacks which have actually held back the proliferation of online shopping. The first and major problem is that of internet security in terms of identity theft and credit card fraud. Many online transactions require use of credit cards or bank accounts and many shoppers are afraid of releasing such information online. Another disadvantage is that of waiting for delivery (Lokken, Cross, Halbert, Lindsey, Derby, & Stanford, 2003). There is a short span of time that is lost waiting for the product ordered to arrive. Depending on the type of product, this can be a problem for consumers and may influence choice of the mode of shopping.

There are different motivations for online versus physical store shopping. According to (Gilly & Wolfinbarger, 2001), consumers shop with utilitarian as well as goal driven agendas. These may include fun and entertainment. Consumers shop to meet certain needs which include the need to acquire products but also shop for the purpose of the fun of it. The choice of the mode of shopping is influenced by the ability of that particular mode to provide a given level of satisfaction to the user (Soopramanien, 2011). The evaluation of its ability to deliver satisfaction is measured on two dimensions which include: goal fulfilment and experience-related outcomes. Motivations that take the goal approach are more often fulfilled through online shopping while experiential motivations are most likely to be associated with physical store shopping (Childers, Carr, Peck, & Carson, 2001).

It is generally assumed that most consumers would stop offline shopping in favour of online shopping in the long term. This may not be true given the fact that internet penetration is still low especially in the developing world and that secondly different motivations guide the choice of the mode of shopping and most experiential shoppers will want to use physical store shopping because of the fun and entertainment it brings (Zentner, 2008). Another issue is that the security concerns related with online transactions make it difficult for consumers to embrace online shopping in totality. With reference to this, some huge retailers have resorted to providing online platforms for shopping but provide the option of paying and picking up merchandise at the nearest pickup locations or store. There has been an integration of both modes in order to help consumers enjoy benefits that come from both and thus it may be difficult to predict a total end to offline shopping (Clifford, 2012).


Research design

The research design adopted for use is the survey method. The rationale for selecting this kind of research design is because of its ability to help the researcher in collecting data that is difficult to observe. Understanding the motivations behind choice of mode of shopping and the perceived benefits of online shopping versus offline shopping will require collection of information of descriptive nature from the respondents. The advantage with this type of research design over other methods such as experimentation or observation is the ability to produce a wide range of information on opinions, attitudes and motives and this is why it becomes important in this study.

Target Population

The target population in this case are people between the ages of 20 and 50 who majorly engage in shopping. The target population will be about 1000 people from the university who will be surveyed.

Sampling and Sample Size

The type of sampling method that will be used in this study is the simple random sampling method. The advantage with this method is that each of the individuals has an equal opportunity to participate in the study. The sample size for this study will be selected based on the survey systems calculator. The confidence level required for the survey is 99% while the confidence interval required for purposes of accuracy is 2. Thus the sample size for the research will be 806 people from the population.


The data collection methods for this study will follow the survey method research design and thus questionnaires will be the primary data collection method that will be adopted.

Rational for choice of methodology

Surveys are very useful in collecting data relating to motivates, opinions and attitudes concerning socio economic issues. Shopping is a socio-economic issue and understanding motivations as well as perceived benefits requires a method that will collect a wide range of data from people in order to understand how they feel about the issue. The survey is thus selected together with the questionnaires because of their ability to provide the research with enough information to answer the research objectives.

Data analysis and Presentation

Data analysis for surveys can be a difficult task. However, the approach that will be used in this case will be a cautious and careful analysis in order to achieve the expected outcomes. One way tables will be significantly used, with graphical charts as well as descriptive narration. This will help bring out the themes and patterns in the data gathered.

Critical discussion

During the research process, a number of issues come up which may affect the research process leading to results being inconclusive or rather unreliable. It is very important for the researcher to wary of the limitations that may affect the research and in the process come up with ways in which such can be addressed to ensure validity of the results. The first problem could be the issue of getting the target population from which to select the sample size to be used in the study. It may not be possible to actually get the 806 people to participate as the sample size and a limited number may actually participate in the study affecting the outcome of the study. On the same issue of the people, they may provide inaccurate information and thus affect the reliability of the outcomes. Second is the methodology adopted for use; the survey method is useful in eliciting a wide range of information from people but is also dependent on how the questionnaires are structured and how the questions are framed. Poor framing of the questions as well as structuring will lead to unreliable results. Third, a careful interpretation of results is required in order to get the exact meaning of the data collected. Understanding the limitations of the collected data is necessary in order to understand what it actually represents. This will help ensure that wrong interpretations are not made.

This research will follow ethical guidelines in the process of conducting the research. It is not possible to foresee any issues of ethical concern that may arise because the data being collected is not of personal nature.

Conclusion and Recommendations

A discussion will follow the presented information and a conclusion will be drawn solely from the findings of the study. The recommendations will also come from the analysis and the findings established.

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