Small vs. Big Box vs. Internet Retailers

The grocery store owner of a century ago knew his customer well enough to know whether or not to extend individual credit to him/her.  He could recommend items based upon previous purchases.  And he treated his customer like a person; asked about family and happenings in the customer’s life.

We as a society lost that when we started shopping at bigger and bigger stores.  We became A customer, not THE customer.  We as the customer were just an anonymous person picking up what we needed or wanted without (much) advice from the shop owner.  The independent shopkeeper started to disappear, replaced by the big box store.  Even many of the stores that appear to be small shops are actually owned by franchisees of a large retail chain.  And multiple store names are owned by the same small group of people.  If you live on either coast, look at your local supermarket chain.  Chances are there is at least one chain that has a store every four miles.  Look at the store where you buy your clothing.  Again, it is likely a member of a larger entity.  Do the clerks at these stores know you and your likes/dislikes?  Do they even treat you like an individual?  Or are you just another anonymous customer?

Now these big box and chain stores are facing competition from the internet.  The ‘internet’ can remember what you purchased last time you shopped at a particular store.  It can ‘see’ what you’ve been browsing on the web.  And using that information, determine what you are likely to prefer.

BUT, to the internet store, you are not an individual.  You are just a string of data.  A part of a larger machine.  Sure it has a good chance of recommending the right item at the right price to you.  But will it ask how your mom is after her illness?  Will it care about how your kids are doing in school?  Or even, how your day went at work?  No.

Who does care?  The individual with whom you’ve made a connection.  The independent shop owner.  The guy we thought we got rid of years ago because his prices were too high.  If we are not careful, we won’t have any of those people left.  Then if we want someone to care about us, we’ll have to hire someone or talk to the machines.


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