Do you remember when we heard that the presence of Internet shops was the death knell for brick-and-mortar shops and that we had to use the physical shops to keep our art alive? Me too. But recent research shows that, increasingly, the needlework world has room for both.
Obviously if you don’t live near a shop or if you can’t visit them often, you’ll rely on technology to buy products. Although we may use a website or email is this much different from using the phone?
Needlepoint stores have never been thick on the ground and for years the have helped customers at a distance. This hasn’t changed although it might happen more because email is lots cheaper than long distance bills.
Stores have responded to this by making more robust websites. When I had a needlepoint shop near my home I often went there to buy thread, even though I didn’t like the owner or the shop. If my choice was to pop in and buy the thread or wait a couple of days to get it from a phone order, I’d pop in. That store never became my preferred store, but they did get business from me. Now my preferred store, even back then, gets lots of my thread business because I can order so easily by email. It’s so easy that I virtually “pop in” to buy just a skein or two of thread.
What’s new though is reverse showrooming, a kind of virtual kicking of the tires. You know how when you’re looking for a car you’ll go to the local dealers? That’s showrooming. You’ll look but you’ll buy, most likely, closer to home. In reverse showrooming, you do your looking virtually, then you’ll go into your brick-and-mortar shop to buy.
TNNA’s recent survey shows that this is increasingly a preferred method for needleworkers to shop. Clearly to make this work there have to be shops with extensive websites, in other words virtual showrooms. If I can only see a list of threads you carry or designers you’ve ordered from, I can’t look around. I’ll go to another site.
If I can poke around and easily see canvases, threads, and everything else you carry, I’ll stay awhile. Yes I might buy at my LNS but I might also buy from you because you have that goodie I have to have.
This raises an important question for shopowners: is it worth it to have that virtual showroom? The Internet might be free to us users, but the shop has fees associated with that site: hosting fees, software fees, and, perhaps, developers fees. These are some of the costs of keeping that virtual shop open.
For the shop the benefit for them is the business I give them on-line. If I buy through email or the website the cost to me to place the order is the same whether the shop is 5 or 1500 miles away. If my LNS makes it easy for me to buy from them by having a well-stocked showroom, I’ll buy from them. I know them, I trust them, they are my LNS. They will get more sales from me because of that robust site.
The shop has additional sales to offset the site’s cost. The visitor who is just looking benefits because there are these great showrooms.
In this way physical shops benefit because they get more, and probably bigger sales. Shops with great sites benefit because they get on-line sales and can in addition pick up some new customers.
It’s a big world and this is just one way to buy.