Markets and malls and bazaars and finding bargains have always been part of the human experience. When my wife and I lived in North Africa, every expedition to the old city’s primary marketplace, the souk, was a treasure hunt: find what we wanted, haggle with the shop’s owner, and collect our prize – or not! Often, successful bargaining meant walking away multiple times.
When we got our prizes home, our friends and neighbors all wanted to know where we had purchased our goods, and how much we had paid. At first this seemed forward and rude, but then we realized they were just gathering information and adjusting their expectations for their next excursion. In an asymmetric situation, like bargaining for a new carpet, any additional data could be critical.
North African market. Photo: Aume Olle. Source: Wikimedia
In the Middle East, shopping is a social activity. All kinds of news is shared – personal, commercial, political, sports. People talk and haggle and drink tea and talk and haggle some more, leave and come back. The social side of shopping is a major part of life. But this applies in other arenas. when I worked as a bond trader for a bank, I lived on my dozen or so phone lines. The brokers and I talked and gossiped and traded stories and traded bonds and talked some more. Bond trading was a social activity. Now, with more commercial transactions moving online, posting reviews has become our social outlet. People gossip and tell stories and find reviews helpful or not and respond to reviews and comment on the responses. Sometimes they tell Instagram stories about their purchases. Shopping is still a social activity, even when it’s online.
The most successful sales outlets, whether online or in malls or on a commercial street, will use our natural instincts to gather and talk and share news and stories with friends. Today, folks don’t want to fight crowds and traffic to look at dusty inventory, they want to discover and enjoy the thrill of the hunt and share with their friends.
Photo: Routexl. Source: Flikr
Retail will survive, but it will change. We went from market-days to souks to malls to boxes. We’ll use likely apps and omni-channel and delivery-drones going forward. But we’ll always need places to buy, places to sell, and friends to share the experience.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”