Any “shopkeeper” (retailer) will be more than happy if we do no shopping at her store but do all the buying over there. That’s the basic difference between these two terms: shopping and buying.
Shopping is an experience. Speaking in terms of the culture code, the experience of reconnecting with the world. People love shopping. We often attach terms like doing research and evaluating options when we talk about shopping. On the other hand, buying is a task. There’s nothing fancy about it. It is something we do because we have to do it. Buying is in fact the end of shopping.
The advent of the World Wide Web has added a new element to the shopping and buying experience. Often times we do shopping on the web and buying at a store and vice versa. Several elements come into play in shopping and making the buying decision. While we go shopping where it’s most convenient for us, we buy from a store we trust. We look forward to enjoying the shopping experience and paying economically while buying.
Consider cars for example. When shopping for a car, online is a great place to start. We can find a lot about a car on various websites and evaluate our options even before physically seeing the car. Then of course (most of) us go to a dealership, take a test drive, haggle over price based on the online research and make a final decision. The shopping experience that starts online continues at a physical store and the buying is done at a physical store.
While there are cases when it is complete opposite, i.e. we start shopping in a physical store, continue it online and buy the product online. Electronic items and books fit this bill most of the time. But then there are somethings like grocery and airline tickets for which we do both shopping and buying at the same place (in case of grocery and airline tickets physical stores and online respectively).
To be a successful retailer, it is necessary to create a great shopping experience, but at the same time focus equally hard on being trustworthy and economical to make buying as easy and comfortable as possible.