What is a single window?
A one-stop shop is a business that offers a multitude of products or services to its customers, all under one roof, so to speak. A single window can refer to a literal roof, a specific physical location where all the business a customer has can be conducted, or it can refer to a company that handles a variety of goods or services.
For example, a bank may offer you not only accounts and loans, but also investment advice, as well as investment vehicles (such as certificates of deposit) and insurance policies. Compared to visiting a separate institution for each area of need, the one-stop shop saves the consumer a lot of time and effort.
The terms “full service”, as in the full service broker, and “turnkey operation” are sometimes synonymous with the term “one-stop shop”.
Understanding a single window
The concept of a one-stop shop dates back to the early 20th century in America, when a shopping trip could mean cruising around town to pick up meat from the butchers, vegetables from Haymarket, bread from the bakery, and that was just for food products. . Hardware supplies, cleaning supplies, and other household items required even more visits to more locations.
Then as now, people wanted to save time, so stores responded by stocking a wider range of products so that customers only had to go to their location to check off most of their shopping lists.
Piggly Wiggly, recognized as the first self-service store, opened in 1916. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, became common in American cities in the 1920s. King Kullen opened a 6,000-square-foot store in 1930, the first supermarket. Chain stores like Woolworth and JC Penney, which sold all kinds of everyday items, also multiplied.
The actual term “one-stop shop” may have first been in conjunction with the companies that did all the work for that new staple of American life, the automobile, from sales to repairs to parts. One such firm, Western Auto Supply Co., grew from three stores to 54 in the 1920s.
- A one-stop shop is a business or office that offers multiple services or products to customers.
- The business strategy behind the single window is to bring convenience and efficiency to customers, gaining loyalty and revenue.
- For the consumer, using a one-stop shop can be efficient and provide insight into one’s affairs, but it can also limit options and be more costly.
Over time, the one-stop shop concept expanded over time to include business services. The nuance also shifted from a broad product offering to capture more of the customer’s grocery shopping to one of offering all the complementary products and services to a customer in a particular area. For example, the 1980s saw the rise of “financial supermarkets,” brokers like Merrill Lynch that began to expand into retail banking, insurance products, credit cards, and even real estate services.
The business strategy behind the modernized concept of a single window is to provide a convenient and efficient service that will create the opportunity for the company to sell more to customers. In this way, a business can increase its revenue by selling more to existing customers in addition to growing new customers.
Pros and cons of a one-stop shop
There are some obvious advantages to a one-stop shop for consumers, as well as the businesses that operate them. As mentioned, convenience is very important. If the company doing your taxes can also help you with your investment strategy and estate planning, it will save you from having to deal with multiple companies. From a business perspective, looking at all of those aspects of your life also allows you to better tailor services in all areas for you. If the business sees that its tax bill is increasing, they can suggest strategies to minimize taxes on its investments.
A high level of trust grows over time as a consumer uses a particular business more and builds a personal connection with it. There may be loyalty benefits for the consumer and the company gains a greater degree of confidence that the customer will not fly to another provider based solely on price.
The downside of the one-stop shop is embodied in the saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” While multiple services and skills offered at a single institution are likely to be competent, they may not be as expert or inventive as those offered by professionals who specialize in different fields of tax, law, or investment.
A customer’s options and choices may be limited not only to certain people (the company’s employees) but also to its proprietary products and services. Dealing with a one-stop shop can save money, thanks to the company’s economies of scale, but again, it may not. One-stop-shop convenience usually comes at a cost.
From a store’s point of view, there are natural limitations on the amount of products and services that a business can offer a customer while maintaining superior quality. Some companies expand their suite of services too broadly, eroding the core services that made them outstanding to that customer in the first place.