OPINION: Use online weaknesses to improve your bricks and mortar store

There are still many advantages to shopping on the High Street
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You can learn a lot about retail from your own experiences.

I’m an online shopping junkie, not because I don’t like the High Street, but simply because I get more time to ‘shop’ at night in my own home, than I do during the working day.

But while the convenience of online shopping draws me in, there are many pitfalls that send me back into the arms of my local retailers. While these tips may seem obvious, too many online retailers are ignoring these problems and not enough physical retailers are taking advantage.

Online hassles:

Delivery – purchase is instant, getting the item into your hot little hands isn’t. I recently paid for special delivery at two different etailers. Did the products come the next day? No! Did the retailers make up for it? Sort of. One refunded the extra cost. The other told me they would resend the somewhat expensive item. A generous offer on the surface, but when it eventually turned up, the packaging had the same tracking number as the ‘first’ one – they just didn’t get it out in time.

Dialogue – When you buy something online, there’s little to zero human interaction. Sure, you can research away to your heart’s content, comparing reviews from different websites, reading forums until your eyes bleed, but it’s not the same as talking to a real, breathing person who knows what they’re talking about.

Surprise! – Often what comes in the post proves to be a disappointment. The quality isn’t as good as you expected, or perhaps the product proves too big, too small, or the packaging is damaged and you have to send it back. 

Returns– Savvy etailers offer hassle-free returns. Postage labels, offers to drop in at corner shops, free postbags. But if you need the money back so you can buy another item, you might be in for a long wait. Plus it's all too easy to forget to obtain a receipt from the post office, and if the item goes missing with no tracking, the money and the goods can be gone forever.

What then can local bricks and mortar retailers offer to satisfy disappointed online shoppers?

  • Let consumers get hands-on with products so they know exactly what they’re getting.
  • Be the local expert – you know your products and your market. Be accessible and let people come to you for advice.
  • Make refunds simple. Don't give away money but make it easy for people to exchange or bring back faulty products.
  • Next time you’re annoyed by a shopping experience of any sort, tie it back into how your own shop works.
  •  And last but not least, consider going to PCR Boot Camp on Wednesday May 29th.

PCR Boot Camp, in association with Microsoft, is a conference and expo focused on connecting with customers, for the UK’s top tech retailers. You can attend for free, pick up useful advice, get hands-on with new products, and walk away with a goody bag including a Jabra Bluetooth Solemate speaker worth £150. You could read about it online, just as I sometimes shop online, but you won’t get the same benefits unless you plan on attending too. Read more and register at www.pcrbootcamp.com.

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