Shopping in store while comparing onlineShowrooming may be the perceived scourge of brick and mortar stores, as pseudo customers browse goods on the shelves to make their choices, then follow a second stage consumerism as they shop for the best price online.

Naturally this has a massive detriment to the bricks and mortar store, the higher costs are almost completely due to the costs of hosting a high street store and maintaing stocks within in that store. So any customer making use of that as a service without generating any revenue to fund it, it’s a recipe for closing down sale.

The customers perspective is that of a great solution, they get the tactile hands on inspection of the product and the freedom of advice in a natural discussion with a sales person, then the added benefit of a global price comparison check in seconds and he options to have the best price product delivered to their door the next day. Maybe this last aspect is the only down side of this two stage consumerism, it lacks the instant gratification of possession, a key consumer satisfaction, walking away with the prize.

So is this the end of the high street, will more stores go the way of Blockbuster, Woolworth’s, Comet, JJB Sports, Zavvi and Borders, to name some of those that have shut up shop. Will the buying public need to flock mall style oasis for an old school shopping experience?

There will clearly always be the need for instant purchase gratification or just a real need for an item immediately. But are shopping centres the final frontier, how can the high street find a purpose.

Bricks and mortar is expensive to supply and can’t compete on price, but provides an important consumer need. Online lacks the tactile choice process and requires delivery wait.

Maybe there’s a way to blend these pros and cons together. A store that can provide the hands on inspection of products for consumer satisfaction, but one that embraces the online benefits to the consumer, even assists with the search for the best price. Sales assistants that are search savvy and provide insight to assessing the best shop to buy. These stores will need their bulk supply chain to be online so at the point of the best prices search they have the ability to prices match and fulfil the sale online. The smaller stock levels in-store means less risk and cost to high street supply.

This may not be enough alone to keep a store costs against revenue in the positive, but there one consumer trait that exists on and offline that will support this model. The store will refer to it as loyalty, it’s more like familiarity, but really it’s more about lazy. Consumers go where they know, they like to know what the outcomes are likely to be, changing to a new store only happens if there is a clear and distinct benefit. Price is a key one, so if the store model above can match of offer a close comparison over the competition, and show the competition supporting the consumer choice, it makes the difference of having the option to view before you buy without a postal returns a real difference.

I guess the solution will be driven by consumer actions, if the shopper values the high street, they must use it, however it will gradually become the domain of Starbucks, Subway and convenience superstores.