Customer Interaction in Online and Physical Stores

With the popularity of smartphones and the web, selling online has increased drastically (Linsenmann, 2015). However, some customers still prefer brick-and-mortar stores because they like to go to a location to try the products before buying. Also, they would like to ask questions, compare similar merchandise, and even see what other people are buying to make a final decision (Linsenmann, 2015). Others don’t trust online reviews and prefer to test before buying.

The most significant difference between working as an online and a “brick and mortar” retailer is that most of the processes on the online store are done online without face-to-face interaction with customers. Face-to-face interaction could provide a customer experience that is not achieved with online retailers in customer service. For example, if the cashier and the bagger are friendly and try to help the customers with their groceries, it can create a comfortable feeling that makes the customers come back (DeHerder et al., 2013). Thus, a brick-and-mortar store would like a smooth interaction between the customers and employees for the customers to have a great customer experience. In contrast, online stores are built on “self-service” and “self-checkout” basics. So, interaction with online customer service is a sign of problems because it means that the customer could not finish the task on the website and needed help.

In an online retailer, you are hired to do a job while in the brick-and-mortar retailer, you are hired to do a job and have to deal directly with customers. Even if you are not part of customer service, just by passing by the customer, you are expected to be friendly and help customers to improve their experience.

Jobs Required by These Stores

Online and “brick and mortar” retail stores require the following personnel:

  • Management
  • Warehouse crew
  • Customer service
  • Marketing (Both stores do marketing. However, the online retailer targets a larger area because the sales are online)
  • Social Media Manager (Both can use it but the Online store depends more on it)
  • Security Guard
  • Custodian (Cleaning crew)
  • Human resources

The difference between both stores is at the moment they interact with current and potential customers. Online stores depend more on their online presence and their warehouses. Thus, they require specialized workers for managing their websites or mobile applications as database administrators, web developers, software developers, user interface designers, etc. On the other hand, as brick and mortar sell to customers that visit the stores, they need sales associates, product assembly crew, and stockers for example are needed to display the products and handle the customers.

*Some stores might have all of the jobs because they might be brick-and-mortar stores while also selling items online. In addition, online stores might not need warehouses if all the items for sale are digital like eBooks, software, music, etc.

Important Skills Needed for Retailing

The most important skills for retail stores are communication skills and technical skills (Behara, 2016). Communication and technical skills are required because the employees will have direct contact with the customers and must explain which product is better and why (Behara, 2016). Thus, the customers can decide on what product to buy. Other skills considered important are working with others and problem-solving (Bhatia, 2008).

In an online store, the employee might not directly contact the customers. However, communication and technical skills are still important because they need to communicate with other coworkers and management. Also, it has to be careful with netiquette because a misunderstanding on the internet could provide a bad experience to a customer. For example, all caps in a reply imply that the person is yelling which could end up in a bad customer experience. This could ruin the company on social media if the customer takes a screenshot and makes it public.


  • Linsenmann, C., Media, T. S. o. E. (2015). Start Your Own Retail Business and More: Brick-and-Mortar Stores Online Mail Order Kiosks. United States: Entrepreneur Press.
  • DeHerder, R., Hammond, R., Blatt, D. (2013). Learn Popular Retail Strategies (Collection). (n.p.): Pearson Education.
  • Behara, S. R. (2016). Retail Management. Laxmi Book Publication.
  • Bhatia, S. C. (2008). Retail management. New Delhi: Atlantic Publ. & Distrib.
Teylor Feliz
Teylor Feliz

Teylor is a seasoned generalist that enjoys learning new things. He has over 20 years of experience wearing different hats that include software engineer, UX designer, full-stack developer, web designer, data analyst, database administrator, and others. He is the founder of Haketi, a small firm that provides services in design, development, and consulting.

Over the last ten years, he has taught hundreds of students at an undergraduate and graduate levels. He loves teaching and mentoring new designers and developers to navigate the rapid changing field of UX design and engineering.

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