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5 Ways Online Stores Have Raised Our In-Store Expectations

By December 5, 2013 No Comments

As we move from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday, my blog post today is about the intersection of online and in-store commerce.

Recently, I’ve noticed several local “brick-and-mortar” store experiences that for one reason or another didn’t quite meet my expectations. Looking back, I found a common theme: I hold stores to a new standard that’s been influenced by my online shopping experiences.

I’ve always equated online shopping with low prices, convenience (like shopping at 11pm), and wide selection. But consider these other areas where the online shopping experience has raised the bar in terms of what I expect from my in-store interactions:

1. Correct pricing. Online shopping carts deliver reliable pricing. Experience tells us the price we see while browsing is what we’ll be charged at checkout.

In-store, though, it’s a different story. Retailers must update signage and computer systems with every price change or print ad. Simply being charged the right price is setting the bar pretty low. Online stores have reminded us that we should be able to expect correct pricing. They have to get it right.

2. Product Knowledge. Online stores generally provide descriptions, detailed specs, and even reviews of the products they sell. Consumers have become accustomed to it. Why is one item 20% more expensive than another from the same manufacturer? Online shopping has trained consumers to expect that question to be answered, even at a local retailer.

3. A Friendly Smile. This one shouldn’t need to be on the list. Local stores should have every advantage here: make doing business with you pleasurable. It’s hard to project a smile over the phone, and even harder via LiveChat. But I’ve “seen” it, so I know it can be done. Local retailers should be able to do it better… and generally do. People are social by nature. Brick-and-mortar stores have a great advantage here, and should leverage it to the max.

And finally, here are a couple directed at retailers who supplement their in-store experience with an online presence:

4. Consistent pricing. Some retailers offer different pricing online and in store. That’s confusing. We expect to be able to go online and find a price before we drive to the store for my purchase. At a minimum, if in-store prices differ from those online, why not show the both?

5. Correct inventory. Amazon has great inventory systems. When Amazon tells us they have “only 1 left in stock”, we believe them. So we expect a brick-and-mortar retailer’s website to be just as accurate? No one wants customers walking out of their store disappointed and empty-handed.

Local retailers no longer compete only with businesses down the street – they compete globally. Many of them already do a great job in competing on the five points listed above… and I love giving them my business. Others have plenty of room to improve. Such competition encourages businesses to innovate and perform at the top of their game. There’s always a place for those who rise to the challenge!