Online vs. In-store Experience
Aug 3, 2009
I used to like going into stores more — I felt I had a better chance of walking out with what I was looking for than shopping online. This was maybe five years ago. Ordering online, on the other hand, was somewhat of a gamble—you couldn’t get a good view of the product or ask questions (without waiting days for an email response) and on top of that, you’d have to wait (and pay) for delivery, only to be disappointed the product doesn’t live up to what you hoped.
It seems the tables have turned though. Lately, I’ll go out of my way not to go into a store because the online experience has evolved to a point where it’s much more pleasant and effective to shop online. It’s become convenient to casually browse sites, compare products from different retailers side-by-side, read customer reviews and instant chat with customer service reps (not to mention free shipping).
Somewhere between now and five years ago, the advantages of buying a product in-store seemed to have faded. A recent example, my husband joined our CENTERLINE roller hockey team and needed to buy an exorbitant amount of gear in two weeks and didn’t know where to start. After driving to three stores in the area, who had perfectly good merchandise to buy, he ended up buying 50 lbs of equipment (without the ability to try anything on) online. Either the sales people were less than helpful, selection was slim, or he couldn’t get everything he wanted in one place. So he left, only to find a myriad of useful videos, extremely detailed product (and sizing) information, a generous return policy and more from this site: Inline Warehouse. It goes to show that even a small company, with most likely a modest marketing budget, could provide such a great experience.
Netflix is an example of a well-known brand with excellent online customer service and being that they don’t have stores, it’s essential to their business. This article in PC Magazine tells the story of a Netflix customer having trouble streaming a movie via Netflix’s Instant Watching Service. Before the customer had a chance to call Netflix and complain, Netflix realized through a monitoring system that the customer was having difficulty and sent an email to the customer apologizing — they even gave the customer a discount on their bill. They took a situation that could have been extremely frustrating and corrected it, without having to be asked and without ruling out that it could have been a technology issue on the customer’s side. They also send emails asking how many days it took to receive your movie in the mail. Ok, maybe that information is more for their research but it shows that they’re proactively avoiding a customer having a bad experience.
For marketers, it’s all about providing the best experience and content for your customers, and the number of sites doing that today is growing drastically. With increased expectations of customers and a wide range of shopping options, brick-and-mortar stores have a run for their money with ecommerce sites today.
Do you have any favorite sites that provide great user experience that goes beyond the design of the site?