I always love visiting a science-y shop for the serendipitous experience of tripping over interesting little things, finding something I haven’t seen before, bumping into the unexpected.
Recently I’ve been taking a look at a few local geeky shops on the web, inspired by one of my favourite real-world stores finally getting its website up and running. And it’s struck me that retailing on the web faces a real challenge in retaining the real-world’s sense of fun and wonder.
The web is a great way of searching for a specific item and then simply comparing prices and buying it. Can’t go past that experience. But that’s a sterile sort of thing – fine for buying a bottle of my usual shampoo, but not the same as going into a cool geeky shop and browsing about. There’s a magic in the real-world experience that few, if any, manage to translate into the web.
Still and all, it’s good to see local shops making the effort to put this sort of thing up. But really they need to find a way to make the experience as entertaining, exciting and magical as popping into the real-world shop and wandering about.
The three I’ve been looking at are:
I guess one of the things that strikes me is that if you are a geeky-type there’s really no excuse for not having a good web site. Geeky does not always mean that someone will have a good sense of design, but in a web context they should be able to tell the difference between professional and amateurish. So little things like having your own favicon show up rather than that of the e-commerce software you’re using can make a difference. I’d also expect on the geeky-front that shop owners would have enough faith in the Internet these days to see it as worth investing in a professional design. Otherwise the danger is that failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your online store is going to be just about accessing stuff without any of the character and magic which characterises your real-world offering, then I might as well go to the supermarket of geekiness and head straight for Thinkgeek.
I’m not saying I have the answer to introducing magic and wonder into the online shopping experience. But I am saying that if anyone has an incentive to do so it’s the small, local geeky shops and it would be nice to see more evidence of them at least trying.
That said, all three stores are worth a visit if you’re looking for something interesting online from a local supplier. But, better yet, pop in and visit them in the real-world and see if you can bump into something unexpected.