I have officially changed the way I shop, permanently. No longer will I accept a retail experience that is underwhelming. There are too many alternatives now. As a matter of fact, not only am I voting with my dollar, I am voting with it while shopping in your store. Instead of paying $49.95 for a computer book in Borders or Barnes & Noble I am now thumbing through it in the store while purchasing it from the Amazon app on my iPhone for $26. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
This past weekend pushed me to what I now feel is my standard shopping methodology. I spent two hours in Babies R Us shopping from a list of items we needed. It was a horrible experience, horrible. With a new baby it takes planning to load the car, drive to the store, get the baby in and out of the car seat then complete your shopping. I don’t need the shopping experience adding stress to it. To start the aisles were cramped and only a single cart could fit at a time so it was almost impossible to get near the items you wanted to look at. Next, we needed a host of basic baby consumables and out of our list, most were out of stock. Seriously, it is a baby store, supposedly a super store and they are out of stock on popular consumable items? That is like the grocery store running out of ice, milk and eggs. Of course most of the items on our registry were out of stock so we substituted and they wouldn’t give us the 10% off of any non registry item. Then I realized, I don’t need to put up with any of this. I can buy stuff cheaper on Amazon or other online stores and it comes to me. No more fighting the crowds, no more out of stock issues, no more arguing over what qualifies for the discount, items come to me, easy. But what about the satisfaction of getting it now? Who cares, it isn’t worth it unless I really need it right this second.
For me, most retail stores have just become a place for me to touch and feel a product as part of my research prior to buying. Unless they give me a compelling price or reason or to buy from them I will order it from somewhere else while shopping in their store. One of my new best friends is the Red Laser app for iPhone. It locks the camera on the UPC of an item and spits out the price on several online sites immediately and allows me to purchase from any of them directly in the app. Awesome!
While I understand the state of the economy has been very damaging to retailers I think many are dying from additional self inflicted wounds. I simply don’t get why every retail chain or store isn’t delivering the best consumer experience possible. There is really no excuse for it. With so many high quality unemployed people available today not only should every store have top notch staff but they should be focusing all of their efforts on making the customer want to spend time and money in their environment. Yet, it doesn’t happen.
So what should they be doing? Simple, in a word, innovate. Not just technology, but the start to finish consumer experience. Companies need to realize that shopping doesn’t begin and end when a customer enters and leaves a store. There are too many competitive distractions, disruptive technologies and better experiences pulling on the consumer than ever before. And more important we have become aware of these choices. No longer can stores assume they are a destination when alternative distribution is only a mouse click or tap of a mobile screen away. Mass niche is here. I don’t need to experience a super store staffed with unknowledgeable and poorly managed teenagers when I have the collective wisdom of hundreds of thousands of parents online to inform me about the product I am interested in. Companies need to extend the tentacles of their reach through training, touch points, and consumer habit research to innovate in an age where consumer loyalty is dead along with customer service. They need to execute on so many more levels than the old school retail thinking predicts.
For now I am happy ruining all of the poorly executed and outdated retail models armed with technology and choice.