For people who don't like to wander around a mall and shop -- and I realize I'm probably talking to mostly men -- shopping online is perfect.
No stores with salespeople asking you what you're looking for when you don't even know yourself. No driving or parking hassles or gas to buy. No crowds. And it's easy to compare prices online.
The downside is not having your purchase in your hands immediately. Even with overnight shipping, no one wants to wait for the nifty, must-have gadget or have to wonder if the shirt they bought will fit correctly.
Now comes a Web site that combines the best of both worlds -- browsing for the best deal online, and picking it up at your local store for instant gratification.
MIlo.com saves shoppers time and money by letting them compare local store prices at home. With more than 1 million products in more than 27,000 stores, Milo users can find products from cameras to books to clothes, and read reviews and compare prices before going to the store to buy them. Milo also lists if the product is in stock, so you won't go away empty handed when you arrive.
As someone who likes shopping online and getting my hands on a new purchase as soon as possible, I can see the appeal of finding the best price at one site, and then immediately seeing a map to the closest store the product in stock. Milo also includes detailed product descriptions and specs, so comparing products is easy.
It's funny that in an area that is perfect for shopping -- online -- people still want to touch and feel before they buy.
"Instant gratification is huge for people," said Jack Abraham, 23, CEO and founder of Milo, in a telephone interview. Paying $5 to $10 more to buy something at a local store instead of online is worth the cost to many people, he said
The online shoe store Zappos, recently purchased by Amazon, has an excellent return policy. Half of its buyers return shoes, showing that they want to hold them, try them on and see how they look in person before buying, Abraham said.
So far, consumer electronics and home and garden generate the most searches on Milo, he said.
Before Milo went live in December 2008, Abraham had worked on a browser add-on that automatically searches for lower prices when the user clicks on something to buy. He quickly discovered that while the plug-in was helpful, users wanted a local address where they could buy the item they found online.
With about 95% of purchases still made offline, he came across a very powerful shopping experience that's missing online, he said.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net
Web site helps you find product online, but buy it locally