Nearly everyone reading this article has shopped online. Whether your objective was to secure a cheaper price, broader selection or simply for convenience, most of us turned to the online option as a way to improve the shopping experience.
Thousands of articles have been written on eCommerce and how it has changed retailing. Of course, most mention Amazon as the leader or at least the catalyst in transforming retailing across nearly all categories. Indeed, as an Prime member, I often turn to Amazon as a source for my shopping needs. Recently, I was thinking about how my shopping behavior has changed, especially over the last year and realized that my experience has transformed immensely over the last several years.
By way of background, I live in the heart of Silicon Valley with a wide selection of retailers including Costco, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, Whole Foods, Office Depot and others within a 10-minute drive. My suburban setting offers a different situation compared to others in a rural or urban setting, so my motivations and experiences may differ from yours.
One term that frequently appears in articles is “omni-channel” retailers. This refers to traditional brick and mortar retailers that have an online retailing presence. A well-executed omni-channel strategy can provide a satisfying customer experience and generate loyalty.
As an avid DIYer, I frequently find myself at Home Depot picking up supplies for projects. While it is a quick trip, depending on my purchase, I find time spent in the store can be lengthy locating materials and checking out. Certain purchases, like a recent project requiring 4 – 12’ lengths of roof flashing, I ordered online and picked up in the store. My order was ready in under an hour and pick up was a 3 minute “grab and go.” There are 2 Home Depots within a 15-minute drive so checking online to see if there is inventory in the store also can save significant time eliminating wasted trips.
Last week, my printer failed and I was in need of a replacement. After reading reviews on a number of websites, I settled on a model that would meet my needs. Checking with Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers, the prices were similar, so no retailer had a price advantage. Amazon could deliver to my door for free the next day which was good but Best Buy, 10 minutes from my house, had the printer in stock. Having bought on line and picked up in store from Best Buy previously, I decided to purchase there. However, in a surprising improvement, when I went to checkout expecting to select “pick up at store-free” I was offered another option “deliver today-free” which I quickly selected. In another example of sound omni-channel execution, it turns out that Best Buy has partnered up with Deliv to offer same day delivery of purchases. Obviously, this offer has some geographic restrictions but, in this case, provided an excellent customer experience and edged out Amazon as the retailer of choice.
Still, when it comes to specific products, low price and quick delivery, Amazon tends to be the most convenient choice. There are numerous situations where turning to Amazon, especially for lower priced items, makes shopping simple and quick. Their vast selection of products makes shopping for the desired items much easier than combing multiple websites or visiting numerous stores. Detailed product descriptions, multiple pictures with ability to zoom in for detail and extensive reviews gives the consumer confidence in selecting their purchase.
For many consumable household items, online retailers are offering replenishment services where purchases are discounted if the consumer registers for automatic replenishment. The aim here is to provide convenience to the shopper but also enables the retailer to satisfy the customers delivery needs at a lower cost through pre-planning.
The above instances are commonplace today based on how online shopping has recently evolved. In addition, mobile applications, which accounted for 34.5% of online purchases in 2017 and continue to grow, deliver added convenience to the shopping experience.
So, what is ahead in the world of online retailing? At GrandCanals, we know that there is a continued challenge to provide a highly satisfying customer experience, eliminate the current inefficiencies and build customer loyalty in online shopping. New approaches and technology applications are frequently appearing so we can bet that convenience will continue to improve.