We’ve witnessed the fall of a number of retail giants since the 2008 financial crisis. These include Circuit City, Sharper Image, Border’s UK (now the rest of them), and a number of other companies are on the brink; RadioShack, and Barnes and Noble will probably be next.
Each of these huge retailers has one thing in common: their core customer is nerdy.
Now look, I’m not trying to rail on the electronically inclined, nor the literate. I’m just going to rail on the companies that market to them. Selling to nerds via brick and mortar is dead. You can thank the internet.
There is a very good explanation for why nerds don’t buy stuff in stores: we already know what everything should cost. If we shop in your store for a particular product it’s because we want to hold it, feel it, or because we want to verify that what we read in Amazon’s review section is actually true before returning to our dark corner of the world and making a purchase, with confidence, over the internet.
We’re not much for paying for convenience, and frankly, having Amazon Prime enables us to get everything within the next two days without paying one red cent in shipping costs. Besides, I can shop the virtual aisles reaking of man-stench without making an ass of myself; how can you put a price on that? And what about the fuel efficiency of shopping online?
Mass market retailers shouldn’t worry just yet. Only the nerds know the better deals are online; everyone else is content to pay too much for what is essentially a commodity—and having it today, to many shoppers, is still worth paying a price multiples higher than the online price.
But times are changing. You see, we’re nerds, so we’re early adopters. We’ll still engage in a HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray debate if you’re so inclined. Being early adopters, we’re also early adopters in the “go shop for stuff offline and buy it online” method of making consumer purchases. But beware. I’m training my parents, and soon enough I’ll have converted my brother, pending I can get him out of the must-have-it-right-now mentality. These falling retail giants are just an indication of what is to come; and smaller stores simply won’t cut it.
There are very, very few things that I cannot buy without first seeing it, and a great deal of things that I can buy start to finish (research to purchase) completely online, with maybe the exception for food, some clothes, and services, of course.
Impulse buys? Forget it. According to several studies, 17-59% of shoppers used their cell phones to enhance their 2010 holiday shopping experience, according to the Star Tribune.
So, start a new business to sell to nerds at your own risk; we’re already going online. If you do happen to start a business then sell wheelchairs, canes, eyeglasses, or anything else grandpa would prefer to buy at “Sears Roebuck.” That’s the only way to enjoy at least some brick and mortar longevity. (Think of the up-sell potential in caskets and gravestones…!)